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Club of Rome wants deserts to become source of renewable energy

Jun 14, 2006 - Refocus Weekly

HANNOVER, Germany: The world’s deserts could serve as an “overabundant source of clean energy through solar thermal power plants,” according to the president of the Club of Rome.

“With the accelerating energy demands of China, India, Brazil and elsewhere, a huge demand for energy will be unleashed which simply cannot be met by gas and oil,” says Jordanian prince El Hassan bin Talal. “Reserves of these fuels are limited, while its accessibility is threatened by social and political risks” and the risks to climate demand reduction in the use of fossil fuels.

“We need a concerted effort to increase energy-efficiency, and we must move our dependency to renewable energy sources,” he said in his welcoming address to the ‘World Energy Dialogue’ in Germany. “It is ironic that people around the world impose on themselves low-carbo-hydrate fat-free diets for their health but the environment also needs a low-carbon emissions-free diet to recuperate its supporting capacity.”

“In our part of the world, we look around us and we see deserts drenched in sunlight,” he said. “Can the sun-belt, in tandem with the technology belt, make solar energy the fuel of our civilization and the basis for a secure, affordable and attainable energy system?”

Every day, deserts in North Africa and the Middle East / North Africa (MENA) receive 2,000 times more energy than is needed by the global population, and technologies can convert “at least 10% of solar light into useful energy such as electricity,” he explained. “It is astounding that a desert area as small as the total area of Hamburg and Berlin would be sufficient to generate enough electricity for all of Germany; it is also reassuring that the sun-belt and the technology belt, when coupled together, can turn deserts into clean and inexhaustible powerhouses for the world.”

“Clean power for Europe and fresh water for MENA; wouldn’t that be a win-win situation and a solution for us all?,” he asked. “Or would we have to wait until the utility companies solve the technical problem of how to run a sunbeam through a meter?”

The U.S. Apollo space program was launched four decades ago to fulfill a dream, but “today we have a bigger dream, to restore the balance between man and his home planet, Earth,” he said. “I challenge you to put technology (the work of man) and deserts (the work of God), to the service of mankind and nature,” and he proposed that Europe, Middle East and North Africa launch a EUMENA Apollo Desert Program.

“The export of clean and affordable power from the excellent solar fields in MENA to the huge power markets in Europe would support global climate stabilisation, the technological and economic development in MENA, and could establish an economic and political partnership for sustainability between the two regions, Europe and MENA,” he explained. “The project also proposes desalination for MENA as a sustainable and unlimited source of fresh water to facilitate the establishment of a ‘Community of Water & Energy in the Arc of Crisis.’

During its 2003 meeting in Amman, the Club of Rome formed the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) to exploit the potential of solar energy in the MENA region. The project will develop a master plan for the “rapid and large-scale introduction of solar energy as a clean energy source with permanently sinking costs, unlimited and inexhaustible reserves and significant benefits for the MENA countries.”

The Club of Rome produced the report, ‘The Limits to Growth,’ which sold 12 million copies and warned that unlimited economic growth would lead to destruction of the biosphere and exhaust energy resources.

“As president of the Club of Rome, I would like to say that it is with some sadness that the ‘Limits to Growth’ study produced in 1972 should be so dire in its predictions and so accurate even to the present day,” said the Jordanian prince. “In the past three decades, this sombre warning has been ignored.”


Updated: 2003/07/28