Expert promotes renewable energy sources

ABy Adam Mayorga A solar energy expert warned at a University lecture Wednesday that if current energy consumption patterns continue, the Earth has 40 years worth of oil and 100 years worth of coal left.

“This is not a problem for only one country, but for all of civilization,” said Hermann Scheer during the speech at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. The lecture stressed the importance of research and encouraged use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydrogen.

Scheer, a member of the German Bundestag for the Social Democratic Party of Germany, said that the potential for renewable energy is infinite.

“Even in the two or three decades before energy resources are used up prices would go up leaving many countries unable to pay the energy bill,” Scheer said. This would result in rising tension between countries, he said.

“If there is not enough energy for all, the battle for survival will be very bloody,” he said.

One University group is already researching the possibilities of renewable energy. The University Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment’s mission is to promote national energy security by developing bio-based and other renewable energy resources.

The initiative draws scientists from the College of Biological Sciences, the Institute of Technology and College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences to work together on research and the market development of new energy sources. They work to support a goal of moving toward an economy based on hydrogen and other renewable energies.

“Minnesota has so many locally available resources. Why not utilize them?” said Dick Hemmingsen, a spokesman for the initiative. Using these resources would enhance the health and sustainability of the ecosystem, he said.

“There have been recent awesome efforts in the state and federal levels to put more funding and research into the possibilities of renewable energies.” Hemmingsen said. “But clearly we have to devote more attention to it.”

Dependence on fossil fuels began during the Industrial Revolution, Scheer said. Humans used twice as much energy between 1950 and 2000 as in all prior history of civilization.

Ignoring the possibilities of renewable energies was one of the greatest failures of the 20th century, Scheer said.

Although the United States has 4 percent of the world’s population, it consumes 25 percent of the energy used in the world, Scheer said.

Scheer is the author of a new book titled “A Solar Manifesto,” and received awards including the Alternative Nobel Prize in 1999 and the First David Hall World Prize for BioEnergy in 2000.

Adam Mayorga is a freelance writer.

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