Published on Thursday, April 27, 2006 by Agence France Presse
Gorbachev Urges G8 to Back Solar Power, Not Oil or Nuclear
by Philip Thornton
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev urged the world's biggest industrialized nations to set up a 50-billion-dollar (44-billion-euro) fund to support solar power, warning that oil or nuclear energy were not viable energy sources for the future.
Gorbachev -- who chairs an environmental thinktank, Green Cross International -- called on leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations to invest in renewable energy sources, in a statement marking the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
As leader of the Soviet Union in 1986, Gorbachev led the immediate response to the world's worst nuclear disaster, which led to at least 4,000 deaths and sent a radioactive cloud over parts of Europe.
The Green Cross proposals were contained in a letter sent to the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations who are due to meet in Russia in July. Some of the proposals were reported last week in the Financial Times.
"This idea reflects our vision of a way of helping the energy-impoverished in the developing world, while creating concentrations of solar energy in cities that could be used to prevent blackouts," Gorbachev said.
Solar energy would also "lower electricity bills, and would provide a source in the future for generating renewable hydrogen fuels," he added.
"The fund could easily be raised by cutting subsidies for fossil fuels like oil and coal."
Rising oil prices and supply concerns, as well as the growing need to combat global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions, have raised the profile and economic viability of some renewable energy sources.
Those concerns have also sparked renewed interest in nuclear power as a source of climate-friendly energy.
The debate has been amplified by the need for some European countries to plan soon for the replacement of earlier generations of nuclear power stations that are due to come to the end of their lifespan in the next two decades.
But Gorbachev has said that nuclear power "doesn't add up economically, environmentally or socially".
"Nuclear power is neither the answer to modern energy problems nor a panacea for climate change challenges," he claimed.
Green Cross said nuclear technology requires huge amounts of initial capital, while decommissioning plants is hugely expensive and costs continue to be incurred long after a nuclear power station is closed.
Direct subsidies to nuclear energy in the United States totalled 115 billion dollars between 1947 and 1999 with a further 145 billion dollars in indirect subsidies, according to the non-governmental agency.
It said they dwarfed those spent on solar or wind power.
The G8 brings together Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.
Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse