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Energy Experts Gather At Duke To Promote Switch To Alternative Fuels

Posted March 9, 2004

— Gas prices are soaring to an all-time high. According to the

American Automobile Association,

the average cost of a gallon of regular gas is more than $1.65.

By summer, people could be paying more than $2 a gallon, the price being paid in California, Nevada and Hawaii. The increasing cost of crude oil is to blame.

People are getting fed up with the soaring prices.

For years, experts have talked about alternatives, but that is a hard sell. So, energy leaders gathered Tuesday at Duke to discuss ways to move in that direction.

America thrives on fossil fuels: oil, coal, and natural gas. But although those fuels are less expensive and more convenient than alternative fuels, experts worry about their effect on health and the environment.

"It's not as if industry or big oil or utilities are bad," retired energy executive Simon Rich said. "It's that we want electricity services. We want mobility in our cars, and the only way we get it today is using cheap fossil fuels."

Those attending Tuesday's Duke discussion said they are fighting an uphill battle. Even when gas prices go up, they still are cheaper in the United States than anywhere else in the world outside the Middle East.

"Industry will follow what the consumer demands are," Rich said. "Right now, the consumer's demanding cheap energy."

Most of the experts said they prefer "renewable" energy sources -- like wind, solar power, and hydrogen. Their next move involves getting the public also to prefer those sources.

"Wind works," said Matt Simmons, a financial advisor for the energy industry. "Solar works. But neither one of them dispatches. What does that mean? That means: 'I want it now.' They work if the wind's blowing, and they work if the sun's shining."

The experts said there are two important steps toward change: informing the public and encouraging different laws. They want to see the public make the switch to cleaner energy sources, and they hope their move sparks others.

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