At the three-day Washington International Conference
on Renewable Energy (WIREC), participants from public,
corporate and private sectors repeatedly stressed
the importance of quickly harnessing the earth's
sustainable natural resources for energy.
Global warming is an increasing threat and its
effects will worsen if damaging greenhouse gas emissions
are not curbed. And, with oil hovering around $100
a barrel, there is even greater impetus for oil-dependent
nations such as the United States to go green.
When President Bush addressed delegates of more
than 100 nations on March 4, he picked up the theme,
saying developing clean technologies was vital for
security and environmental reasons.
"The United States is committed, and we're firm
in our commitments, to deal with energy problem
and to deal with global climate change," he said,
after enumerating renewable technologies being funded
by the U.S. government and businesses.
Besides federal funding, "There's a lot of smart
money heading into the private sector to help develop
these new technologies," Bush said.
The president said he aims "to reduce our dependence
on oil by investing in technologies that will produce
abundant supplies of clean and renewable energy
and at the same time show the world we are good
stewards of the environment."
First on his list were automobiles. He cited the
mandatory reductions in passenger vehicle emissions
of 20 percent over 10 years, a reduction mandated
by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
He said he sees biodiesel made from oil crops and
recycled waste as "the most promising" of clean
Production of corn ethanol has risen markedly,
which is good for corn growers, but has a downside:
rising prices of foods that depend on corn. It also
cuts into profit margins of livestock ranchers and
manufacturers of corn-based products. Acknowledging
the problem, Bush said, "The best thing to do is
not to retreat from our commitment to alternative
fuels but to spend research and development money
on alternatives to ethanol made from other materials."
Cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass and woodchips
was an example he gave, adding that the U.S. Department
of Energy is investing nearly $1 billion in this
research. Other technologies receiving Bush administration
support are hybrid vehicles, both electric plug-in
and hydrogen fuel cell-powered varieties.
Although Bush said his administration continues
to back nuclear energy as an electrical power source,
he also said that wind power is gaining traction
in America. "This is a new industry for us, and
it's beginning to grow." The solar energy industry
also is growing fast.
CONFRONTING CLIMATE CHANGE
"The United States is serious about confronting
climate change," he said, adding renewable energy
technologies "are an integral part of dealing with
climate change." He urged the major economies to
set clear goals and develop strategies to meet the
"It'll be different from country to country. We've
got a different energy mix than a lot of nations
do," he said.
One aim is to use clean-energy technology to help
developing countries improve their quality of life
and economies. Bush proposed an international clean-technology
fund that would provide money "from the wealthy
nations to help poorer nations clean up their environments."
The U.S. government is hosting WIREC 2008 to bring
together the many entities in the field of renewable
energy to evolve concrete strategies and make pledges
to implement practices that will reduce greenhouse
gas emissions and develop sustainable energy sources
in the short term. More than 100 nations are represented
at the conference.
A large trade show, co-located with the conference
in the Washington Convention Center, showcases technologies
now on the market, from photovoltaic film and solar
reflectors, to wind turbines, to a joint Volvo-Mack
truck diesel-electric hybrid that is currently on
the road and in use by the U.S. Air Force.
The conference runs from March 4-6. For more details
see the WIREC home page at http://www.wirec2008.gov/wps/portal/wirec2008#.
Additional information on the Bush administration's
energy initiatives is available in a White House
fact sheet on investment in renewable and alternative-energy