Rand Corp.: Cleaner Energy Growing

p>A leading American think tank today released a technical report on the impact of increasing renewable energy use in the United States over the next two decades. The study's conclusion is that, by the year 2025, renewable energy supplies could account for nearly a quarter of conventional energy consumption in the U.S. It also stated that as renewable energy supplants fossil fuels the prices of petroleum and natural gas should decline and that the decreasing use of these non-renewable forms of energy should provide increasing relief to the problem of carbon dioxide emissions, which adversely impact the global environment.

In a prepared statement, Rand's researchers said that meeting a goal known as the 25x'25 initiative, in which 25 percent of the energy used for electricity and motor vehicle fuel in the U.S. is supplied by renewable energy sources by the year 2025, would not increase total national energy spending if renewable energy production costs decline by at least 20 percent in the next 20 years, which is consistent with recent historical trends, as estimated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The Rand group used computer modeling, based on EIA standards, to assess 1500 scenarios in which supplies and prices of the various fuel sources rose and fell under a variety of technological and economic pressures, starting from the current standpoint in which renewable energy accounts for about 6 percent of domestic energy consumption.

"When talking about the impact of increasing use of renewable energy sources in our energy future, it's important to be clear about the assumptions being made about future energy prices and technological developments, not just for renewables but also for competing fossil energy sources," commented Michael Toman, director of the Rand Environment, Energy, and Economic Development program, which conducted the study for the Energy Future Coalition.

The Rand researchers said they assumed that implementation of increased renewable energy use would be carried out at a national level in the least costly manner, versus a more piecemeal approach. U.S. President George W. Bush has called for such a national approach to the nation's energy policy, and the incoming Democratic Party majority in the Congress is expected to support such long-range economic planning.

"We hope [this report] will help policy planners rethink the context," Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, a bipartisan foundation, told the Wall Street Journal.

The Rand study, entitled "Impacts on U.S. Energy Expenditures of Increasing Renewable Energy Use", also points to the beneficial environmental results that such a sustained transition to cleaner fuels could provide. Increased use of resources such as wind, solar, and biomass power should result in significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, amounting to 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2025 (or 15 percent of projected U.S. emissions), according to the study.

It is an impressive roadmap to the future, from one of America's most highly respected technology research organizations. We applaud its direction.

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