U.S., other rich countries balk at widening solar, wind power

The United States, Saudi Arabia, and other wealthy nations at a U.N. summit worked Tuesday to water down proposals to rapidly expand the use of clean, renewable energy technologies around the globe.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - The United States, Saudi Arabia, and other wealthy nations at a U.N. summit worked Tuesday to water down proposals to rapidly expand the use of clean, renewable energy technologies around the globe.


Renewable energy sources like wind power and solar energy produce smaller and more expensive amounts of electricity than a traditional power plant. But the technologies generate a tiny fraction of the smog that comes from burning oil, coal, and other fossil fuels, as well as carbon dioxide and other gases believed to accelerate global warming.

A proposal for the World Summit on Sustainable Development's action plan calls for the use of the technologies to be increased to account for 15 percent of the world's total energy production by 2010.

Sources sitting in on the negotiations said delegates from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and other industrialized and oil states were lobbying to eliminate the provision and set no specific goals.

Even the European Union - some members of which, like Germany, strongly embrace renewable energy sources - wavered on the agreement.

"We may have to bend if we can't convince all of our partners," said EU official Christine Day. "It's early in the negotiations."

The moves by the industrialized countries angered environmental groups, which are demanding stiffer anti-pollution measures.

The 10-day summit, which began Monday, is focused on uplifting the world's poor and protecting the global environment. The United Nations expects it to be the largest summit in its history. More than 100 heads of state are scheduled to attend.

During Tuesday's open session, delegates called for increased global efforts to bring new agricultural technologies to poor farmers and railed against European and American agricultural subsidies, saying they made it difficult for poor farmers to compete on the world market.

Developing countries are hoping the summit's action plan will call for the reduction or elimination of subsidies, a provision opposed by wealthy countries. The summit was unlikely to resolve the issue. "No country can realistically be expected to make a major commitment here on those matters," South African Trade Minister Alec Erwin said.

Also Tuesday, non-governmental groups complained they were being sidelined at the summit, saying they had trouble getting seats at the main event in a building that can't hold all the accredited delegates. The United Nations said later it would try to accommodate them.


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