|LONDON - US President George W. Bush has urged increased investment in energy alternatives to reduce the world's dependence on oil and gas, helping curb global warming.|
Washington has been focusing its efforts in alternative energy on biofuels that use sugar cane, vegetable oils or grain oils to produce green transport fuels ethanol and biodiesel.
Other options include expanding other renewable electricity generation sources and investing in technology to develop hydrogen-fuelled cars.
The United States is the second-largest biofuel producer after Brazil.
The Senate Energy Committee voted in April to require US output of ethanol, distilled from corn and wood biomass materials, to reach at least 8 billion gallons a year by 2012, doubling the current output of the gasoline additive.
About 12 percent of the US corn crop is projected to be used for ethanol in the coming year.
The United States is the world's third largest wind power producer thanks to tax credits to promote renewable energy.
Capacity is expected to rise to 9,000 megawatts this year, representing about one percent of US electricity generation.
Renewable energy accounts for 6.5 percent of US energy demand, mainly due to hydropower and biofuels, including wood and waste.
US renewable power production is expected to grow by 1.5 percent a year between 2003 and 2020, the fastest rate of growth of any domestic energy source.
California's new energy plan calls for renewable sources to provide 20 percent of the state's electricity by 2017, partly through a massive increase in solar power.
President Bush has promised "strong" funding in his 2006 budget for developing hydrogen-fuelled cars.
But analysts say astronomical costs for delivering hydrogen-powered cars and the network to run them mean clean vehicles are years away from competing against today's polluting rivals, even if oil prices stay at record highs.
Proponents of the technology still insist that 5 million to 10 million cars running on hydrogen-fed fuel cells and emitting only water vapour could be on the road within 15 years, with the number ballooning to 350 million by 2050.
But the dream will only come true if the companies driving the change can make fuel cells better and cheaper, while securing the billions of dollars needed to finance comprehensive hydrogen infrastructure at a time of stretched public coffers.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE