Monday 17 September 2007

Coal and nuclear options ‘must be looked at’

WESTERN countries face a politically and economically difficult future as governments are faced with finding alternatives to oil, according to a former US Secretary of Energy.

Nuclear energy and restarting coal mining are some of the realities that political parties will have to consider selling to voters, said Dr James Schlesinger.

He is in Cork today for the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil — of which the Irish Examiner is a media sponsor — being held at City Hall for the next two days.

“We are facing and have already started going through a substantial transition as we move from our reliance on oil. This transition will be politically and economically difficult and will reflect the fact that we can no longer depend on crude oil production,” he said.

The transition has started, he added, because of the recent acceleration in oil prices sparked by uncertainty in the Middle East.

“I believe that in the changing world that we are living in we will have to look at coal as an alternative energy source. We also have to look at nuclear.

“We have huge coal firing capacity and that could work along with carbon dioxide capturing, storage and sequestration.

“A focus has to be made on new technologies but they won’t be there for 30 or 40 years. That is our biggest priority.”

Former Shell chairman Lord Oxburgh will also speak at the event.

In an interview with this weekend, he warned that oil demand could outstrip supply in the next 20 years.

“How serious it will be will depend on how much progress has been made in the other direction I mentioned, namely finding substitutes for fossil mineral oil,” he said.

Irish Examiner

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