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US energy secretary lauds India's efforts

By Krishnakumar P
November 14, 2009 01:32 IST
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India is on the cusp of rapid growth and this is a great reason for the country to be at the forefront of promoting clean energy, United States energy secretary Steven Chu said on Friday.

"80 per cent of the India we will see in 2030 is yet to be built. And India, with its world-class scientists and information technology industry, is poised to make enormous contribution towards a clean energy revolution," Chu, also a Physics Nobel laureate, said while addressing Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi students. 

Pointing to India's "two recent success stories" – the leapfrogging of the number of fixed line users by cellphone users and the world-class IT industry – Chu said Indians need not fear that a move towards clean energy would hamper its economic development.

On the contrary, he said, it would only open up new opportunities and create more jobs.

Chu, who is in New Delhi as part of an ongoing expansion of US-India cooperation in the fields of clean energy and environmentally sustainable development, is the 1997 Nobel laureate for physics and has of late focused on the search for new solutions to energy challenges and stopping global climate change.

Lauding India, Chu said: "India is reducing energy intensity of key industries and becoming more co-operative."

Mixing facts with interesting parallels and observations, Chu detailed how climate change can be combated by various means ranging from simply painting rooftops white to complex things like using artificial intelligence to design buildings in the future.

He appreciated the governments of New Delhi (for already painting all government roof-tops white) and Tamil Nadu (for converting biomass to methane).

Chu also had a word of warning to India, which he said will be the three biggest energy consumer in the near future after US and China.

"India will become the third-largest consumer in the world. The demand for coal would be 60 per cent more than the domestic supply. And that for oil would be 10 times more than its domestic supply. But India has the plans to tackle this, like generating 100,000 MW by solar power. Likewise, the US also must reduce its emissions by more than 80 per cent before 2050," he said.

To combat climate change will require a second industrial revolution of sorts, he said. "The first industrial revolution showed us that prosperity is not a zero-sum game. We need another industrial revolution with clean energy as the focus," he said.

He also said that the US intended to be a technology partner to India as there was a need for the two countries to come together on clean energy technology.

He also warned about the adverse effects of climate change. In the course of his lecture, Chu casually dropped this figure: "If the global warming goes on at the current rate, in the next decade, the low-lying areas of Bangladesh would be submerged. This might lead to about 10 million Bangladeshis moving into India."

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Krishnakumar P in New Delhi