During the week when world leaders were debating how to solve global warming at the Copenhagen climate summit, the world’s largest power generation exposition and conference (known as Power-Gen International)was held at the opposite end of the globe, at viva Las Vegas.
This wasa huge conference with over 18,000 delegates from more than 25countries. Attendees to this event were mostly professionals in thepower generation eco system: from engineering and constructioncontactors to companies that sell valves and tools, from steam turbinemanufacturers to nuclear equipment suppliers. The event’s main theme,not surprisingly, is about continuing to provide the most efficient andclean source of power to support the growing energy demand. However,with the majority of the world’s power still sourced from fossil basedfuels, many of the Power-Gen participants were from the fossil fuelindustry. In fact, on the show floor, the only renewable energy playerI saw was Vestas, a wind turbinecompany. At the conference session, the agenda was aligned with theshow theme, but still dominated by fossil fuel related topics such ascarbon capture, gas turbine optimizations, modern coal plant designsetc. Renewable energy did make it to the agenda with a dedicated twohour session on wind, solar, and smart grid.
But, what surprised me the most was what happened in one of the keynote presentations. During opening remarks a natural gas companyCEO rejected the notion of global warming and that green house gasesdon’t have any affect on the environment. He claimed that the sciencebehind global warming is questionable (and indeed it could be asclimate prediction is difficult, just think about the accuracy of theweekly weather forecasts we hear on the news). And, when he denouncedglobal warming, half of the auditorium clapped and cheered to signalagreement! This CEO went on to say that the U.S. needs to accelerateour fossil fuel deployment in order not to deprive our futuregeneration from their prosperity. What unimpressed me was when hestarted to use out-dated statistics on the cost of renewable energy toprove his point that renewables are never going to be mainstream. Thisgot me thinking: often times we hang around people who are alreadysupporters of clean tech and we think that’s the norm. But the realityis that there are plenty of people out there who are pro-fossil fuels,and, intentionally or unintentionally, are unaware of the latest factson solar, wind, and other clean technology. And, these people are alsotrying to influence policy makers to ensure optimal business conditionsfor their companies. I also feel that we should not be pointing toglobal warming as the main reason for the call for more renewableenergy sources; rather it should be about sustainability and energysecurity. Everyone wants to ensure we have enough fuels to last anothermillennium, and every one wants to be less dependent on the oil in theMiddle East. Maybe these are stronger arguments than global warming anda better, less contentious common goal for the whole power generationindustry.