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Securing Europe's Energy Future - the Experts' view

The Commission has recently published a Green Paper on the security of Europe's energy supplies recommending that the EU should rebalance its supply policy, deploy taxation measures and give priority to the fight against global warming. The Green Paper makes sober reading. Eu...

The Commission has recently published a Green Paper on the security of Europe's energy supplies recommending that the EU should rebalance its supply policy, deploy taxation measures and give priority to the fight against global warming. The Green Paper makes sober reading. Europe is consuming more and more energy and importing most of it. If no measures are taken, by 2020 the EU will import 70% of its energy compared to the current 50%. Worse still, this supply will be dominated by fossil fuels, with the concomitant problems of international price fluctuations and pollution. Before drafting a response to the Green paper, the European parliament organised a public hearing to allow energy producers to put their view and be questioned about the opportunities and dangers that lie ahead President of the Confederation of United Kingdom Coal Producers, Mr R. J. Budge, told the hearing about the benefits of clean coal. By turning towards clean coal power stations the EU would have a chance of reaching its Kyoto targets. The Vice-President for Research and Development at COGEMA, Mr Bertrand Barre, stressed that energy from nuclear fission releases practically no carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and therefore also helps the EU to reach the Kyoto targets. He said that even though it is politically almost taboo, it would be better to create an international underground waste dump instead of each country having its own such dump. Vice-President of FEDARENE and Energy Commissioner to the Government of Upper Austria, Dr Gerhard Dell, pointed out that renewable energy sources (RES) could significantly reduce European dependence on energy imports and even contribute to finding new opportunities for European agriculture and regional cohesion. The questions put to him focused on the realistic proportion of total energy demand that RES could meet. Chairman of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers, Dr Wolfgang Schollnberger, stressed at the hearing the importance of the security of oil and gas supplies and the positive environmental aspects of gas. However, he refused to comment on a question on decoupling the prices of the two products. Currently the proportion of European energy demand covered by oil is 41%, gas 22%, coal 16% (hard coal, lignite and peat), nuclear energy 15% and renewables 6%. The contribution by renewables is accelerating thanks to wind-power programmes particularly. However, if Europe is to free itself from dependence on fossil fuels, RES programmes will have to be expanded hugely over the coming years.