In a Rush for Renewables: Energy
HOUSTON -- There's not much middle ground for Ted Turner when it comes to the future of energy in the United States.
"What we need is a moratorium on all new coal plants, on all new carbon-producing energy power technologies, and work on replacing them with renewable alternatives," the billionaire founder of CNN said Wednesday.
Turner also called for urgent action to address global climate change, which he referred to as the "single greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced."
"The biggest danger is we won't do enough soon enough," he said.
Turner was in Houston to speak before the Houston World Affairs Council, along with Timothy Wirth, a former U.S. senator from Colorado who now heads the United Nations Foundation, a charity to help support U.N. efforts formed by Turner in 1998.
He spoke with the Chronicle before the speech about his views on energy policy, his personal investment in DT Solar, a New Jersey company involved in large-scale solar power projects, and on a range of other topics.
And though he was in a city where the economy is powered by oil and natural gas, Turner pulled no punches.
"The days of fossil fuels as a fuel are over," he told a packed ballroom over lunch at the Hotel Intercontinental. "It's just a matter of how soon everybody recognizes it."
Call for widespread change
His speech, which was sponsored by British oil giant BP and Houston's Marathon Oil Corp., comes just days after a U.N. report was released that argued that climate science is getting more accurate and that there is "very high confidence" linking human activities to global warming.
But Turner said that in order to truly curb global warming in the long term, there needs to be a wholesale change in the way the world produces power, fuels its vehicles and heats its homes.
He said he favors nuclear power over coal, which should only have a future in the U.S. power industry if there's a way to safely get rid of the carbon dioxide emissions by sequestering it, or injecting it, deep into the ground. And he prefers wind and solar power to both.
He likes ethanol as an alternative to gasoline but sees more promise in making it from agricultural waste than from corn. Until the technology is widespread, however, he urges people to follow his example and buy gas-electric hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius, which get better mileage than most regular gasoline models.
If people aren't motivated by helping the Earth, they should be drawn by the financial opportunities in clean energy, Turner said.
"The greatest fortunes in the history of the world will be made in this new energy business," said Turner, who estimates his net worth at more than $1 billion.
Later, some doubts
Though the luncheon crowd gave Turner a standing ovation, reactions were more measured after he left the stage, especially to the idea that the era of fossil fuels is over.
"It's not,"said Sam Burkett, a partner in Vertex Green Energy, a Houston firm involved in alternative fuel production. Re-creating a new global infrastructure is not feasible without what could be trillions in investment, he said.
"A lot of the solutions have to use the current infrastructure as a backbone for change," he said.
'Energy mix is evolving'
Carol Battershell, a vice president with BP's alternative energy division, said while her company began embracing clean energy solutions and reacting to global climate change about a decade ago, it's a gradual process.
"I think we see that the energy mix is evolving," she said. "But I think many people may be underestimating the time needed for the transition."
Copyright © 2007, Houston Chronicle
Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services