ad info

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards




Alarm sounded over energy research cuts

Research in energy-related technologies is suffering.   

August 2, 1999
Web posted at: 2:29 p.m. EDT (1829 GMT)


(ENN) --Industrialized nations, including the United States, have dramatically reduced their research into energy technology, researchers say, and the reduction is jeopardizing the world's ability to cope with environmental problems and the growing demand for energy.

Robert Margolis, a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University, and Daniel Kammen, a professor of Energy and Society at the University of California Berkeley, warn that the cutbacks in energy research and development funding should sound an alarm. "The wholesale dismantling of large portions of the industrial world's energy research and development infrastructure could seriously impair our ability to envision and develop new technologies to meet emerging challenges," said the researchers.

According to the researchers, while investments in other types of research have soared over the past 20 years, money spent on improving the use of energy resources has dropped to a 20-year low. The number of patents being issued for new technologies, a key indicator of innovation in a particular field, has undergone a similar decline in energy-related technologies.

The researchers reached their conclusions two ways. First, they looked at the number of patents issued. Patents rose from 102 issued in 1976 to a high of 228 in 1981, then declined to a low of 54 in 1994.

"The trend is clearly going in the wrong direction and there appears to be a strong connection between the inputs and the payoffs," Margolis said.

In general, the number of new patents in the U.S. has risen. Considering all industries, such as medicine, industrial chemicals and transportation, research and development spending rose from $100 billion to $200 billion between 1976 and 1996. The number of patents also increased, going from 70,000 to 110,000 annually over the same period.

Margolis and Kammen also compared the degree to which various industries reinvest their revenues in research and development. For energy companies, that figure is less than one percent. By contrast, the drug and medical industry spends more than 10 percent of its sales on research and development.

Since 1980, spending on energy-related research and development among the 10 nations that conduct a significant amount of that research declined 39 percent. U.S. energy research and development rose from $7.6 billion in 1976 to a high of $11.9 billion three years later. Investments in energy-related research then started a long decline, bottoming out at $4.3 billion in 1996, the last year figures were available.

These cutbacks come at a particularly unfortunate time, according to the researchers. Increasing evidence shows that the environmental costs of relying on old technologies, especially the burning of coal, are extremely high. Even the small reduction of carbon emissions outlined in the recent Kyoto accord requires more aggressive measures than are currently available, said the researchers.

"My personal view is that if we don't increase the funds for energy technology R&D, then we will be heading down a dark path," said Margolis. "The threats are serious."

The research was conducted through the Science, Technology and Environmental Policy Program at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and published in the July 30 issue of Science.

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

Future energy shortages predicted
July 28, 1999
U.S. official plugs alternative energy
July 28, 1999
Energy Department debuts portal for environmental data
July 21, 1999

Power of fossil fuel producers exposed
Stellar power rebates
Smog in the summer
U.S. official plugs alternative energy
Renewable energy a-buzz on Capitol Hill
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Princeton University
Energy Effeciency and Renewable Energy Network
Department of Energy
Energy Information Administration
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.