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Climate change: Get used to it

2007-01-27T00:00:00Z Climate change: Get used to itJOE MENDEN - IR Staff Writer - 01/27/07 Helena Independent Record
January 27, 2007 12:00 am  • 

Scott Tinker has a sobering message for those who want quick solutions to climate change issues.

According to Tinker, the state geologist of Texas, the reality is that major reductions in greenhouse gases won't happen in the next decade.

Tinker, who will be speaking in Helena Tuesday as part of the Helena Education Foundation's Energy Summit, said the immense costs of change are the major reason -- costs he said would not just lead to recession but major worldwide economic depression.

He will speak at the daylong event and also give a separate talk Tuesday evening at 7. All events are at the Great Northern Hotel.

Tinker sees a slow transition from fossil fuels to cleaner-burning synthetic fuels over the next 25 years.

The following 25 years, he thinks, will see a transition to hydrogen power, which will be the next big break away from fuels that contribute to climate change.

It will be another 50 years before the major breakthroughs in storage and transmission technology that will allow for solar energy to be the dominant source for power, he said.

"It's a pretty complicated topic which is frustrating to consumers and those of us who work with the environment," Tinker said. "We have energy systems in place that are still 80 percent dependent on fossil fuels. The cost of transition is tremendous. It's in the trillions and trillions of dollars. (Price) kind of drives the pace that that can happen."

Tinker's presentation, "The Waltz of the Three E's: Energy Efficiency, Economics and the Environment," will look at what he calls the intricate balance between those three forces, which are all dependent on one another.

Tinker's is one of five presentations that will be given during the summit. Other speeches include a talk by Gov. Brian Schweitzer on natural resources and fuel availabilty; and a panel discussion featuring Tinker, members of the energy industry, Public Service Commissioner Ken Toole and alternative energy advocates.

Two of the talks at the summit will focus on cleaner, greener energy.

Randy Udall, director of the Community Office of Resource Efficiency, will give a talk entitled "Charting a Smarter Energy Future: Meeting Our Needs, Protecting Our Environment and Growing Our Economy."

Van Jamison, president of POWAIR Inc., will give a talk on how people personally can become more energy efficient titled "Reducing Energy Consumption: Personal Goals.

Lisa Cordingley of the Helena Education Foundation said the event is part of the foundation's mission of providing learning opportunities not just for teachers and students but on topical issues that are important to all citizens on an everyday basis.

"Energy is certainly one of those issues, and the governor has brought that to the forefront in Montana," Cordingley said.

Cordingley said the day's speakers were put together with balance in mind.

"We try very hard to look at the issues outside of the frame of what their political nature is," she said. "We have to present all sides."

But the options available now, he says, all have problems.

Hybrid cars still depend on gasoline. And if you go to an electric car, he said, it's like running your car on coal instead of gas.

Wind power is clean, but the number of turbines it would take to have a great impact is in the millions.

The drawback with solar power is finding a way to store and transmit it effectively, which he says we just aren't good at yet. At the same time, we are at a point where the world has an insatiable appetite for energy.

"The scale of demand is so high there aren't many things that can satisfy the demands," he said. Despite the economic and technological hurdles that need to be cleared, he thinks a solution can and must be found.

"I'm an optimist," Tinker said. "We weren't very smart 50 years ago but we've gotten a heck of a lot smarter now. And I think we can do it without hurting the economy.

"Eventually, hopefully, we can find technology that can make use of the sun, which is really the only renewable energy.

To register

The HEF energy summit is free and open to everyone, but the foundation asks attendees to register by calling 443-2545 or sending an e-mail to hef@mt.net.

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