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Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2002

'NUCLEAR POWER UNAVOIDABLE'

EU energy chief details plan to keep oil reserves


Staff writer

OSAKA -- The ideal price for oil is just over $20 a barrel, or $8 less than the current price, the European Union's commissioner of energy and transport said Monday, indicating an EU plan to stockpile oil is in response to unforeseen emergencies.

In an interview with The Japan Times, Loyola de Palacio, who represented the EU at the Eighth International Energy Forum in Osaka that concluded Monday, said nuclear power and alternate energy sources such as wind and solar power will play an important part in the future energy mix of the EU, and that nuclear power in particular is necessary to meet Kyoto Protocol commitments.

While OPEC has set the desired range of oil prices at $22 to $28 per barrel, uncertainty over a possible U.S. attack on Iraq has led to oil jumping from $18 a barrel to nearly $30 a barrel nearly two weeks ago. The price of oil eased back under $28 a barrel after Iraq agreed to allow United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country.

But de Palacio said that while the oil producing nations may be satisfied with the current price, the EU is not.

"Based on our analysis, and as long as there is a stable, balanced situation, the best price over the next few years is just over $20 per barrel," she said.

"It's true that there were reports of different uses of stocks. But it has nothing to do with price volatility.

"It is just a safeguard against supply disruption. For this reason, the EU wants to guarantee 60 days of oil provisions."

While most of the three-day conference was wrapped up in discussions on the future of fossil fuels like crude oil and natural gas, the EU pushed for more attention to increased energy efficiency through the introduction of new technologies, and for alternate energy sources such as wind and solar power to become economically viable.

"In some developing countries especially, these alternate energy sources can be an answer to electricity supply problems," de Palacio said. "In the European Union, we want to eventually double the share of renewable energy sources from 5.75 percent to 12 percent."

However, alternate energy sources will not replace fossil fuels as the predominant energy forms anytime soon, she said.

"For the next 30 to 50 years, oil and gas will be the primary forms."

Besides fossil fuels, de Palacio said nuclear power will remain important to nations within the EU, especially for environmental reasons.

"Renewable energy forms like wind and solar power are not enough," she said. "A diverse energy mix is needed. Nuclear power is unavoidable in Europe if we wish to fulfill our commitments to the Kyoto Protocol."



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