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The role of oil prices in renewable energy

From eNews, January 10, 2008

The University of Minnesota has discovered a silver lining in the increasing cost of oil.

In November business leaders, government officials, and researchers who attended the U's E3 Conference on renewable energy were surveyed on what they think will promote sustainable energy research within their geographic domain. About 40 percent of the respondents said the cost of oil is the primary driver.

In other words, the majority of the conference participants believe rising oil costs will jump start renewable fuels and electricity research more than any other potential factor. Respondents were almost evenly split on two additional factors: government mandates (36 percent) and profitability of alternative/renewable energy production (35 percent). Rounding out the data, 29 percent think government incentives and public demand for renewable energy sources will be the main driver.

Of the 400-plus people who attended E3, approximately 43 percent completed the survey. Those surveyed were asked to select up to three factors from a list of several possibilities. The percentages above reflect which factors they selected the most.

Biofuel research moves forward

Biofuel research at the University of Minnesota continues to grow; watch the News Service video to learn more or read "Ethanol fuel presents a corn-undrum" and "Back to the future: Prairie grasses emerge as rich energy source".

"Once again, we're finding that economics will be a major driver of future developments in the renewable energy sector," says Richard Hemmingsen, director of the University of Minnesota's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE), which hosted the conference. "With all the bad news recently about rising oil prices, maybe we finally have something to look forward to."

The survey results also showed that nearly one-quarter of respondents think cellulosic biofuels will be the next big development in sustainable energy, while an additional 16 percent believe that solar technology has the most potential. One in 10 think sustainable energy will become more efficient to produce, and 8 percent believe that algae-to-energy has the most potential for reducing fossil fuel consumption.

This year all proceeds, including admission, from the conference went to the creation of the University of Minnesota's first endowed scholarship to support students interested in pursuing a career in renewable energy and the environment.

Millennium Research Inc. conducted the survey. The marketing-research and consulting company specializes in agriculture and outdoor industries.