While the world has “plenty” of energy reserves to meet its needs over the next two decades, supply is not guaranteed, and “massive” investments will be required in both infrastructure and technology to solve the problem, according to a study by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The French organization released its “World Energy Outlook 2001 Insights: Assessing Today’s Supplies to Fuel Tomorrow’s Growth,” which offers conclusions by 15 analysts from around the world.

Among its findings is how the past decade has been impacted by the “explosion in the discovery and use of natural gas.” IEA said competitive prices and “heightened ecological concerns have made gas more desirable as a power generation source.” However, the study notes that “gas reservoirs are often situated thousands of miles from markets, as in Latin America, requiring the construction of very long pipelines or the development of other transportation methods, such as liquefied natural gas.”

According to the newest IEA study, the major problems with energy supply in the next 20 years will come because of the following reasons:

Prepared by a team of analysts from “every part of IEA” and peer reviewed, the 421-page study considers all forms of energy, from biomass made of corn stubble to nuclear fission and fusion. It projects developments in each fuel under varying price and cost scenarios and looks at new technologies that will help to discover more reserves, render energy use more efficient and reduce energy-related damage to the world environment. No one energy source is recommended over another.

“We have absolutely no reason to worry about ‘running out of energy’ in the coming decades,” said Robert Priddle, IEA’s executive director. “But all of us, producers and consumers alike, face some daunting short-term challenges. The energy resources to fuel the world’s economy are in place, but to exploit them efficiently and sustainably, vast amounts of capital must be mobilized to locate, develop and deliver energy to the markets where it is needed.”

The study estimates that “huge sums” will be required to develop energy supplies in places with little infrastructure, such as the Soviet Union. However, IEA notes that “in each case, foreign investment will be forthcoming only if the business climate in the host countries is congenial and only if oil prices guarantee investors a fair return on their money. Much the same is true of the earth’s vast reserves of ‘unconventional oil’ in Venezuela, Canada and elsewhere, which bid fair to supplement conventional oil in some energy services.”

IEA’s analysts paid particular attention to renewable energy sources, including hydropower, wind and solar power, biomass, photovoltaic and hydrogen cells and tidal power. “Several renewable energies are on the verge of becoming commercially competitive. Others have the potential to do so.” IEA calls for increased public and private support for renewables research and development and for their wider use.

IEA also considers energy supply development past 202, offering a look at coming technologies and new infrastructure that will transform the energy world “into something quite unrecognizable today.” For information on ordering the study, visit IEA’s web site at www.iea.org/books.

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