21 January 2009

Obama Energy Goal Ambitious, Attainable: IEA Chief

By Osamu Tsukimori, Planet Ark, 19-Jan-09

Obama Energy Goal Ambitious, Attainable: IEA Chief Photo: Sergei Karpukhin

International Energy Agency Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka speaks at an energy conference in Moscow October 22, 2008. (Photo: Sergei Karpukhin)

TOKYO - President-elect Barack Obama's aim to greatly increase U.S. alternative energy production is ambitious but attainable, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Friday.

As part of his economic stimulus plan, Obama wants to double output of alternative energy over the next three years.

"It is very ambitious, but he certainly can do that," IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka told Reuters in an interview during a visit to Tokyo for a meeting of transport officials from 21 countries on fighting climate change.

Outgoing U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman had said on Wednesday that Obama's target would be very hard to achieve.

Tanaka, whose organization advises 28 industrialized countries on energy policy, said mobilizing private sector investment would be crucial.

"How to make the private sector to invest is a key issue. So providing a framework or incentives is very, very important. But we welcome the very strong initiatives of the U.S. administration toward decarbonizing the power sector."

Renewable energy sources, which include solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, biofuels and other biomass, accounted for 7 percent of U.S. energy supplies in 2007, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

Tanaka said he strongly supported Obama's stimulus package to invest $150 billion over 10 years on low-carbon energy sources that will create 5 million jobs.

He said he hoped Obama would pursue carbon capture and storage technology (CCS), nuclear power and more energy efficiency and conservation as some priority areas.

CCS, which has yet to be proved to work on a commercial scale, involves burying carbon emissions from such plants as coal-fired power stations underground, typically in depleted gas fields.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday unveiled an $825 billion economic stimulus package containing billions of dollars in tax breaks for renewable energy and spending for energy efficiency and transmission.

Asked whether he had high hopes for Obama's energy initiatives, Tanaka said: "Definitely. I think he will move strongly toward the stimulus package. What we need is for the global economy to recover. For that, Mr. Obama's initiatives of Green New Deal is a very good idea."

Concern Over Russia/Ukraine Gas Row

Tanaka criticized Russia and Ukraine for failing to reach agreement in a dispute that has cut gas supplies to 18 states in deep winter in Europe, forcing many factories to close and leaving householders shivering.

Europe normally gets about a fifth of its gas from Russia through pipelines across Ukraine.

A European Union brokered deal had been supposed to get supplies of Russian gas moving to Europe via Ukraine on Tuesday despite the pricing dispute. European energy firms were working on a plan on Friday to break the deadlock between Russia and Ukraine and restore flows.

"We are very much concerned about the developments of the Ukraine/Russian gas dispute. Because this is a dispute between the two countries, the innocent third party, the European users, should not be penalized because of this man-made crisis," he said.

"So it is not acceptable, totally not acceptable for them. We strongly hope for the supplies to resume as quickly as possible. This is a very good lesson that we have to enhance the security of gas supplies. Russia and Ukraine certainly risk their reputation as credible suppliers," he said.

(Editing by Anthony Barker)
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Copyright © 2009, Planet Ark

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