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Chemical & Engineering News, Aug. 28, 2006
By Jeff Johnson

If ever there was a time for renewable energy, today is it. Record-high oil, gasoline, and natural gas prices, coupled with a steady stream of blistering news accounts of real or possible global-warming emergencies, have driven even the most fossil-fuel-prone consumers and policymakers to take a hard look at new clean-energy technologies.

Toss in energy supply uncertainty driven by the chaos of the Middle East, the world’s chief producer of oil and natural gas, and by the U.S. government’s reluctance to address global warming through policy or action, and renewable energy looks even better.

Former oil man and President George W. Bush made a step to support renewables last January in his State of the Union address when he rolled out his Advanced Energy Initiative, a 22% increase in federal research spending for “clean-energy” research, which for him includes coal and nuclear power along with solar energy.

In his speech, Bush also made his now-famous “America is addicted to oil” statement, announcing a national drive for renewable ethanol as fuel. Ethanol, he continued, “not just made from corn, but from wood chips and stalks or switch grass.” He put the program on a fast track, aiming to have ethanol become cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012 and committing the nation to a target of replacing 75% of its oil imports from the Middle East by 2025 through research breakthroughs in ethanol and hydrogen. Middle Eastern suppliers export about 2.5 million barrels of crude oil per day to the U.S., which is about 23% of what the U.S imports currently.

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