Study: Renewable Energy Will Require Higher Tech

Dramatic progress in renewable energy technology is needed if the United States desires to produce 25 percent of its electricity and motor vehicle fuel from renewable sources by 2025 without significantly increasing consumer costs, according to a RAND Corp. study issued recently.

Produced by the RAND Environment, Energy, and Economic Development Program, the study provides a "snapshot" of the nation's potential energy expenditures if a requirement was imposed that 25 percent of electricity and motor vehicle fuels used in the United States by 2025 would come from renewable resources (a goal activists have described as "25 x '25").

The study finds that biomass resources and wind power have the greatest potential to contribute toward reaching the 25 x '25 goal.

The study replaces a report withdrawn by RAND in 2006 because of errors RAND identified in the computer model and numerical assumptions on which the findings were based. The new report finds that meeting the goals would be more challenging than outlined in the earlier version of the report. RAND is a nonprofit research organization.

Currently, renewable energy provides 9.5 percent of total U.S. electricity supply, mostly hydroelectric power, and 1.6 percent of motor vehicle fuel.

"Expanding the use of renewable fuels will lower the long-term price of crude oil and reduce carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to global warming," said lead author Michael Toman. "However, to reap these benefits will require a major investment in improving and increasing the use of renewable energy technology."

"Without increased biomass availability, expanded renewable energy use could impose economic burdens and result in environmental setbacks due to land conversion," Toman said.

The report is available at www.rand.org.

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