The Economist hosts a debate on whether existing technologies can solve our energy problems

Moderator’s opening statement:

Screenhunter_12_aug_23_1033The formal proposition put forward for debate is this:

“This house believes that we can solve our energy problems with existing technologies today, without the need for breakthrough innovations.”

Joseph Romm lays out the argument in favour of the proposition forcefully. He points to various evidence, including the work of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to conclude that a climate crisis is looming. This, he argues, means the world “must deploy staggering amounts of low-carbon energy technology as rapidly as possible.” This means government policy must not be distracted by the slow, if sexy, process of technology development. He insists that policy must focus on the speedy deployment of the many clean technologies we already have ready or close to commercialisation.

Taken at face value, the Con side does not disagree with the notion that a great deal of low-carbon technology needs to be deployed. Peter Meisen opens his argument by invoking President George Bush’s famous line about the world being “addicted to oil” and acknowledging the climate problem, and goes on to cite various forms of renewable energy that can help. He even appears to agree with the side opposite that the key is “scale and speed.” However, he goes on to cite examples ranging from Iceland’s embrace of geothermal over coal generation to rural villages leapfrogging to micro-wind and solar that make clear he believes in the need for entirely new innovations. A “design science revolution” is required, he insists, but it is possible now because “emergencies help us focus.”

More here.