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Renewable Energy Has New Appeal in Bid to Slow Global Warming

Technology exists to curb the potentially harmful greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming. That is the major finding in the most recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in early May. Some of those technologies, including renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, geothermal and bio-diesel, are generating great interest among people looking for more environmentally friendly energy sources that can compete on the market with fossil fuels.

In his State of the Union Message in January, George Bush told Congress and the American people that it is in the vital interest of the country to diversify the nation's energy supply. He pledged his Administration to the goal of reducing gasoline consumption in the United States by 20 percent over the next decade. "To reach this goal," Bush said, "we must increase the supply of alternative fuels by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017, and that is nearly five times the current target."

Leaders in the field of renewable energy applaud the U.S. plan and also support a new report published by the American Council on Renewable Energy [ACORE]. Released at an ACORE sponsored meeting last week - the report describes how renewable energy sources can reduce America's oil appetite, supply jobs and protect the planet from the dangers of climate change.

Speaking to several hundred representatives of renewable energy companies and trade groups, ACORE's president Michael Eckhart said the report represents a hopeful vision. "This document is a statement that technically we believe that we can provide 25 to 35 percent of our nation's energy requirements in the next 20 to 30 years."

The report calls for greater commitment on Capitol Hill from leaders like Washington State congressman Jay Inslee. Inslee, who has written a forthcoming book on clean energy, has also proposed new legislation that would favor the renewable industry with long-term tax incentives, research and development support, and a means to tie their energy systems into existing electric power grids.

Inslee says the fossil fuel industry does not pay a penalty for emissions they put into the atmosphere. He is pushing for a carbon capture and trade system to govern those emissions. "When that happens renewable energy markets will become competitive in about seven days!"

Excluding large hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest renewables account for a scant two percent of America's energy supply. ACORE's Michael Eckhart says the potential is far greater. "We think in the long-term renewable energy can provide as much as 50 percent of our electricity needs and as much as 50 percent of all of our energy needs as we move on through this next century."

Eckhart says that future depends on getting consumers to change their habits to be more energy efficient. He expects Americans will turn in greater numbers to solar energy and buy green power from their utilities. He predicts there will be a greater shift to higher efficiency automobiles and ethanol and bio-diesel fuels. "It could be a better lifestyle."

Eckhart says as the market for renewables grows, so will competition among energy providers. And he believes that could level the playing field to make bio-fuels, for example, less costly than gasoline. "What we specifically what to do is simply allow the marketplace to benefit monetarily from these public benefits. If we generate electricity without polluting, who gets paid to do that versus making electricity that does pollute? Right now there is no penalty for the polluting and there is no reward for non-polluting."

Much like a football coach before a big game, Michael Eckhart rallies his supporters. He says it is within their power to turn the tide on global climate change. "We are now together in one renewable energy industry with a lot of industries in that. But we are acting together. We are talking together, and we are going to do politics together and policy together." And to a round of applause he says, "We are going to win and we are committed to it." Eckhart is optimistic that legislation supporting renewable energy development will reach the President's desk within the year.