IEA Urges Hasty Global Renewables Effort

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said yesterday that surging demand by China will drive the per-barrel price of oil from an average of $60 in 2009 to $113 in current dollars by 2035. Nevertheless, the agency’s rather pessimistic World Energy Outlook 2010 says “growing insensitivity of both demand and supply to price” mean that the invisible hand of the market won’t direct enough resources toward renewables to save the Earth from environmental calamity.

“Renewable energy can play a central role in reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and diversifying energy supplies, but only if strong and sustained support is made available,” IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka said. The agency said renewables would increase their share of world energy output from 7 percent to 14 percent, an amount it found “collectively inadequate to meet the Copenhagen Accord’s overall goal of holding the global temperature increase to below 2°C.”

World energy demand, International Energy Agency

image via International Energy Agency

The problem, as the IEA sees it, is that while governments talked a good game at Copenhagen they didn’t commit themselves to changes that can be counted on. And already time is being lost, making the cost of reaching the stated goals more expensive every day. “A lack of ambition in the Copenhagen Accord pledges has increased our estimated cost of reaching the 2°C goal by $1 trillion and undoubtedly made it less likely that the goal will actually be achieved,” the agency said. “Doing so would require a phenomenal policy push by governments around the world.”

In addition to supporting renewables, the agency urged governments to discontinue subsidies for fossil fuels, a move it said “would enhance energy security, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution and bring economic benefits.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.