Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

The ballooning price tag for energy

A huge chunk of world wealth goes to its unquenchable energy thirst, but an expert says not enough money is invested in newer, cleaner energy solutions.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By Steve Hargreaves, CNNMoney.com staff writer

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) -- As the world spends more to meet growing energy needs, nations seeking cleaner alternatives to fuel their expanding economies will have to spend much more.

Even though the world will spend over $1 trillion a year on energy projects over the next two decades, governments and industry will have to dig deeper to switch to newer, cleaner energy if the worst effects of global warming are to be avoided, according to one expert.

"Current federal energy R&D programs are not commensurate in scope and scale with the energy challenges and opportunities the 21st century will present," John Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at Harvard University, said Wednesday at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference.

President Bush and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman touted the administration's efforts to advance renewable energy earlier in the conference. Bush said his administration has spent $12 billion on renewable energy research since he's been in office, and Bodman said the private sector invested over $2 billion in clean technology in 2007 alone.

While research spending has increased slightly over the last few years, Holdren said the government is still spending about the same amount as it did in the early 1980s, despite a much larger economy and energy footprint.

Holdren said worldwide, both public and private spending on energy research totals about $30 billion a year, a minuscule fraction of the world's total annual economic output of about $60 trillion. This is despite the fact that the world spends about $5 trillion a year buying energy - 10% of its total economic output.

"Any assertion that we can't afford to increase research and development is simply wrong," he said. 'We can easily afford it."

Chevron (CVX, Fortune 500) Vice Chairman Peter Robertson, also speaking at the conference, said that investment should come in the form of more education to grow talent.

"I don't think we're raising enough people to do the R&D," said Robertson. "In the U.S., science and engineering grads are pathetically low."

Robertson said the world is at a crucial juncture right now, where much of the energy infrastructure it needs to build to meet a projected 50 percent increase in power over the next two decades has yet to be constructed.

"Energy infrastructure, once built, is incredibly long-lived, lasting generations or even centuries," he said.

But be it renewables like wind and solar or conventional fuels like coal and oil, Robertson said the world will need all the energy it can get.

"None of them is a solution in it's own right," he said. "We'll need all available sources." To top of page

They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
Best business class airline lounges around the world Between August 2015 and May 2016, Skytrax surveyed over 19.2 million customers to find the best airline lounges. Here is what they found. More
What Boeing's new 737 Max 9 has under the hood Boeing unveiled its new, longer 737 Max 9 airliner earlier this month, the second member of the updated single-aisle jet family. The first aircraft will deliver to airlines starting in 2018. More
Toy Fair surfaces holograms, robotic animals, dolls for boys The Toy Industry Association's annual fair revealed countless tech-enabled toys -- and some fresh takes on old classics. More