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Klimat

Bush has no choice

Publicerad: 12 Oktober 2006, 06:53

National security reasons have forced US President George W. Bush to deal with his country’s dependence on oil. To succeed he must work together with countries like Sweden, says Alexander Karsner, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the US Department of Energy.


Alexander Karsner is very optimistic when it comes to breaking the US's addiction to oil. And he believes that the key to success is increased collaboration with countries like Sweden: "Sweden and the US both have very aggressive self-imposed targets that require us to examine the same technology platforms. I haven't heard of anyone pressing as hard as Stockholm and Washington."
He gave this interview in connection with the initiation of a joint agreement on energy issues between the US and Sweden.

What can the US and Sweden learn from each other?
"We are planning to grow our cooperation specifically in the area of petroleum alternatives. We have broken it down in grlexander Karsner is very optimistic when it comes to breaking the US's addiction to oil. And he believes that the key to success is increased collaboration with countries like Sweden: "Sweden and the US both have very aggressive self-imposed targets that require us to examine the same technology platforms. I haven't heard of anyone pressing as hard as Stockholm and Washington."
He gave this interview in connection with the initiation of a joint agreement on energy issues between the US and Sweden.

Could you give examples of how this cooperation could be organized and what products it could result in?
"American scientists, researchers and business people are coming to Sweden every day and vice versa. Our governments' role is really to facilitate massive private sector links and growth and to be a catalyst in pushing new ideas that might be pre-market or require an extra effort."

In which specific areas can Swedish companies or researchers have importance for the US?
"You are catching me coming off a day full of meetings with Swedish business and government officials that have filled my head with ideas about biofuels. In the new energy economy all kinds of possibilities will emerge up and down the supply chain, whether you are a gas station owner, work for an automaker, whether you are a venture capitalist interested in investing in biorefineries, or a scientist interested in creating new enzymes to break down wood chips so that we can have improved efficiency in fuels used from domestic resources. To me, this is the beginning of something new, like the beginning of the IT era in early 1980 when Steve Jobs was creating an Apple computer in his garage. At that time nobody understood the possibilities."

Who could be the Steve Jobs of the new energy economy?
"There are hundreds of people eligible. In the US, biorefineries are growing at the fastest pace they have ever grown. There is more capital being attracted to domestic alternative fuel production than any time before. Thirty-nine new biorefineries are growing and Bill Gates is one of the investors creating a company in this area. The Steve Jobs will emerge, maybe with a new car design, a more efficient fuel source… maybe it is not even a new entrepreneur, maybe it's the new Einstein, the new Steve Hawkins. The new economy we are compelled to go to will yield all kinds of creativity, and I don't think they will belong exclusively to America or Sweden – it will happen everywhere."

What about energy efficiency? Have you found any leaders among Swedish companies?
"Efficiency is among our highest priorities. I have the task of implementing the president's energy initiative that will change the way we power our homes, offices, and vehicles, and change the way we lead our lives. Obviously integral to these goals is improving efficiency across the board, because the cheapest kWh is the one you save. Sweden has a long history of and very good standards on efficiency for appliances, buildings, and vehicle manufacturing. Those will certainly be topics for future rounds of discussions between our countries."

Do you see a parallel between President Bush's energy initiative and Sweden's energy commission?
"Yes, and I think it's part of the reason why we must have a dialog with Sweden; it is not really optional. Sweden is, of course, a much smaller country in terms of demand. We have 800,000 gas stations. Sweden has 3,500 but it is a useful microcosm of life in a western democracy where consumer choice and profitability of business ultimately dictates what gets implemented. We owe it to one another to help advance these goals. Energy independence is not just a badge of honor. It also carries implications for national security.

Are you optimistic about the possibilities of replacing oil?
"I am absolutely optimistic and my optimism is born out of facts. The pricing has been reached to where ethanol growth in the US has been massive. We have gone from 1% of our oil consumption to about 5% in a period of five years. We have an absolute boom in capital investment. Americans are investing their money in the Midwest instead of exporting their money to the Middle East. These are very positive trend lines. We are trying to stay ahead of that curve and help to set up transportation, terminal facilities, and delivery mechanisms. More and more flexible fuel vehicles are on the roads. We are working on lithium-ion batteries for hybrid vehicles that can run the first 50-60 miles using no fuel at all. We are hoping for a hydrogen economy, which is the ultimate energy destination. It's not a question of if; it's at question of when."
By Valter Bengtsson

(Artikeln publiceras även i Sustainability Sweden, ett nytt magasin om hållbar affärsutveckling som ges ut av Dagens Miljö, IDG.)

Miljöaktuellt, redaktionen

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