DETROIT, May 2 (UPI) -- Seeing clean and economical energy as a key to keeping the industrialized world humming and improving the lot of developing nations, G8 energy officials indicated Thursday they were prepared to cooperate among themselves to speed up advances in technology that will make energy easier to produce and move while not harming the environment.
The two-day conference of energy ministers from the major industrialized nations was to conclude Friday with an agreement to promote the kind of technological innovations that the Bush administration and the other governments see as a cornerstone of the global energy market in the 21st Century.
"These are enormous political and technical challenges," U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said in a speech to an international audience of government and industry officials. "Yet, we must meet the challenge of securing energy supply and a capable infrastructure, and we must do it in an environmentally responsible manner."
To that end, Abraham said that the G8's goal was to pave the way for the development of basically any and all kinds of technologies that will boost energy efficiency worldwide while also streamlining regulations to make it easier to buy and sell energy in the industrial world.
Areas ranging from the development of low-tech vehicles for crowded Third World cities to designing a better and safer nuclear reactor will be brought to Friday's formal ministerial-level meeting. Abraham indicated that the Bush administration is also enthusiastic about the development of hydrogen fuel cells and is even considering another look at the largely stalled development of fusion energy, which theorists believe could mean unlimited production of cheap, clean power.
"On specific issues, it goes without saying that what the United States needs to do to resolve individual energy issues may be different from what Russia or Japan need to do," Abraham said. "But, it strikes me as obvious that there are broad areas where working together will accelerate our progress in overcoming our energy challenges."
The reasoning behind the broad approach is that the G8 alone has the financial and research-and-development capabilities to handle the task. The G8 is comprised of the United States, Canada, Russia, Japan, Great Britain, Germany, Italy and France, which already conduct about 70 percent of the world's energy R&D.
Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, Herb Dhaliwal, told the audience that while industrial nations will have more secure energy supplies, developing nations would reap substantial benefits as well by, in many cases, building efficient and environmentally sound energy infrastructures "from the ground up."
"It's a very exciting time to be involved in energy policy and the energy industry," Dhaliwal said.
The plan could have consequences for the oil-and-gas industry advances in energy conservation are enough to cut into the projected growth in consumption during the coming decades.
"Experience tells us that that we tend to underestimate the effects of technology," said BP Chief Economist Peter Davies.
Some analysts, however, pointed out that nations that see their per capita income climb above $3,000 also see a significant jump in energy consumption.
There are also potential political obstacles in nations where energy projects stumble or have unexpected consequences like California's recent bout with rolling blackouts and skyrocketing prices.
"If things go wrong, it is the state and the politicians who have to solve the problem," said Shell International analyst Ged Davis. "And governments still have the monopoly on taxation and the use of violence.
Minister for Energy Brian Wilson of Great Britain agreed that many developing nations have serious social and political ills to solve on their own, but helping increase their access to energy would be a major step toward improving living standards.
"The only people who think the provision of electricity is not a priority in poverty alleviation are those who have never been without it," Wilson said. "There is no single long-term change in living conditions which is more beneficial than the arrival of electricity, yet 1.7 billion people are without it."
The plan could have consequences for the oil-and-gas industry advances in energy conservation are enough to cut into
Environmentalists and members of the anti-globalization movement were not so sure about the pledges to help the downtrodden while being kind to the planet.
"We'd like to judge that for ourselves," scoffed Steve Shallhort, a Greenpeace organizer in town from Toronto.
As with most meetings of international bodies like the G8, a protest rally was staged near the site of the conference. A crowd of around 100 gathered in Hart Plaza to demonstrate against the G8's supposed refusal to put enough effort into developing renewable energy sources.