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Earth, Environment and Energy

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Summer School on Global Sustainability

Carlo Rubbia
CIEMAT, Madrid, Spain
CERN, Geneva, Switzerland

Global warming and pollution are direct consequences of our growing population and economies. Investing in devices that conserve energy is worthwhile, but also new alternatives must be vigorously pursued. These lectures will describe some of the most relevant aspects of the European programmes (EU27) aiming at a vast, innovative development of new, environmentally acceptable energies.

There are today only few possible alternatives to the dramatic “business as usual approach”, all requiring a great R&D effort and a consequent industrial response:

  • An inevitable, continued use of fossils, but mitigating the global warming of the atmosphere. In particular I will describe (i) conversion of Natural Gas (NG) to Hydrogen with no CO2 emissions and (ii) Methanol, Ethanol or dimethyl-ether as liquid substitutes to gas in all distant transport applications, starting from NG conversion into Hydrogen and from concentrated CO2 waste, already “paid for” by the savings due to the CO2 conversion of the previous application (2 for 1).


  • New energies from the Sun: Solar energy may be either used directly as heat, hydrogen or PV or indirectly through hydro, wind, bio-mass and so on. Particular attention is given to the projects on Concentrating Solar Power in Spain where are under active development about 14.3 GigaWatt for electricity production and in the EU27 where promising R&D projects for direct production of solar hydrogen are under experimentation in Almeria and elsewhere. On a longer timetable, the feasibility of so-called “Desertec” — namely the utilization of the vast Sahara desert — will be mentioned.


  • Alternate Nuclear Energies, but on a longer timetable and with due consideration for its problems. Practical examples are natural Uranium (U-238) or Thorium (fission) and Lithium (fusion) all adequate for many thousand of years at several times the present energy consumption.