From: Paul Schaefer, ENN
Published December 19, 2007 03:02 PM

Experts: Pricy Oil Will Push Renewable Fuels Development

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL - researchers at the University of Minnesota has discovered a silver lining in the increasing cost of oil. Midwest experts in research, government, business and nonprofit sectors who attended the university’s E3 conference last month were surveyed on what they think will promote sustainable energy research within their geographic domain. Forty percent of the respondents said the cost of oil is the primary driver.

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In other words, the majority believe rising oil costs will jump start renewable fuels and electricity research more than any other potential factor. Respondents were almost evenly split on two additional drivers: Government mandates (36 percent) and profitability of alternative/renewable energy production (35 percent). Rounding out the data, 29 percent think government incentives and public demand for renewable energy sources will be the main driver.

Of the 400-plus people who attended E3, approximately 43 percent completed the survey. Those surveyed were asked to select up to three factors from a list of several possibilities. The percentages above reflect which factors they selected the most.

“Once again, we’re finding that economics will be a major driver of future developments in the renewable energy sector,” said Richard Hemmingsen, director of the University of Minnesota’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE), the host of the conference. “With all the bad news recently about rising oil prices, maybe we finally have something to look forward to.”

The survey results also showed that nearly one-quarter of respondents think cellulosic biofuels will be the next big development in sustainable energy, while an additional 16 percent believe that solar technology has the most potential. One in ten think sustainable energy will become more efficient to produce, and 8 percent believe that algae-to-energy has the most potential for reducing fossil fuel consumption.

E3 2007, the Midwest’s premier energy, economic and environmental conference, was held Nov. 27. Since its inception in 2003, IREE has supported 135 renewable energy projects.

The on-site survey was conducted by Millennium Research, Inc., a marketing research and consulting company that specializes in agriculture and other outdoor industries.

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