Executive Business Briefing

Here are more of Thursday's top business stories:

US study urges alternative fuel sources


NEW YORK, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- No viable alternatives are available to replace fossil fuels, and environmental regulations won't be enough to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming, researchers said Thursday. That puts pressure on scientists to find new, less toxic energy sources, they said.

A research team comprised of government, energy industry and academic representatives examined several alternative energy sources to determine if any were viable replacements for fossil fuels.

The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, appears in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

Fossil fuels, such as oil, coal, and natural gas, make up 85 percent of global energy sources. The remaining 15 percent comes from hydropower, nuclear power and even firewood.

There is no current alternative to fossil fuels that would maintain world economic growth while generating fewer environmental toxins, the team found.


"We don't have those energy sources off the shelf right now, but we have some time to develop them," the report's lead author, Martin Hoffert, a professor of physics at New York University in New York City, told United Press International.

"We have about 50 years. However, 50 years is not a long time."

Carbon dioxide emissions have contributed to global warming by trapping energy in the atmosphere. This energy, which would usually be sent from Earth back into space, is blocked and has been slowly heating the planet.

Latest projections show temperatures rising over the coming century by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Population growth and industrialization have increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 275 parts per million to 370 ppm over the past century, Hoffert explained. That figure is expected to surpass 550 ppm in this century.

"The point of our paper is not to say it's not impossible," he said. These alternative energy sources are "all promising and they all have very big defects."

Some of the technologies the team studied included wind power, nuclear fission and fusion, and fossil fuels from which carbon had been removed. They also considered solar power satellites, which involve collecting power in outer space via satellite and beaming it to countries lacking power, such as developing nations.


Another intriguing technology examined was geo-engineering, which would have mirrors in space deflect solar radiation to prevent Earth from getting too warm.

But many of these technologies, especially wind power, solar power and nuclear fission, were found to be more expensive than fossil fuels -- especially if being implemented on a large scale.

Another avenue, called carbon capture and sequestration, involves trapping carbon dioxide and storing it elsewhere, such as in trees, oceans or reservoirs. The team found, however, that this technology is still in its infancy and researchers are unclear if it is viable.

Susanne Mosier, a staff scientist of climate change for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Mass., said while she supports the paper's call for a renewed research commitment to curb global warming, the solution could be right under our noses.

"There's not any one technology that's going to solve this daunting problem," Mosier told UPI. "Any one (technology) may not do it, but a combination may and they don't discuss that. There's no silver bullet here."

Although debate continues on the best technology to replace fossil fuels and stabilize -- and perhaps even minimize -- carbon dioxide emissions, scientists applauded the paper for sounding an alarm.


US group: Scrap industrial tariffs in WTO

GENEVA, Switzerland, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Senior business executives from America's powerful National Foreign Trade Council said Wednesday countries in the global trade talks should strive to scrap all industrial tariffs, which impose an annual cost of $190 billion on the international economy. The council also called for the 145 member countries in the World Trade Organization-sponsored talks to lower market barriers to trade in commercial services such as banking, insurance and asset management. The talks -- launched last November in Doha, Qatar -- face a Jan. 1, 2005, deadline.

Consumer E-Commerce reaches record

RESTON, Va., Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Consumer confidence in e-commerce continues to rise.

Online analyst company, comScore Networks, which tracks online traffic and usage, is out with its quarterly report on e-commerce, showing total consumer online sales for the third quarter reached $17.9 billion, up 2 percent from the previous quarter and 35 percent higher than the same period a year ago.

"While the third quarter opened sluggishly, sales in August and September climbed strongly, reflecting continued strength in consumer spending," said Michelle David Adams, comScore Networks vice president.

Online travel sales continued to increase vs. a year ago, but growth rates are slipping, the survey found. In 2002, year-over-year quarterly sales growth decreased from 87 percent in the first quarter to 40 percent in the third quarter.


Still, with growth rates outpacing those in the non-travel sector, travel continues to gain an increasing share of total online dollars: 43 percent in the first three quarters of the year, up from 39 percent during the same period last year.

However, the survey found although more shoppers are buying online, spending per buyer has declined somewhat while new online buyers build confidence in the medium. "While the third quarter brought relatively positive results, all attention is now focused on the make-it-or-break-it fourth quarter," said Adams.

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