ArticlesInteraction of Science and Technology with Societal Problems

Energy Dilemmas in Asia: The Needs for Research and Development

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Science  04 Jul 1980:
Vol. 209, Issue 4452, pp. 164-174
DOI: 10.1126/science.209.4452.164


Outside of China, the countries of southern and eastern Asia contain 30 percent of the world's population but only 2 percent of the known fossil fuel resources. Economic growth has resulted in increasing imports of petroleum and petroleum products. Because of the tenfold rise in oil prices since 1972, several of these countries are faced with two dilemmas—one short range and one long range. Unless they can discover more fossil fuel resources within their own borders, they must either incur dangerously growing foreign exchange deficits or drastically slow their economic growth. Research and development in energy production, conversion, and conservation should eventually allow local energy sources, of which the most promising is biomass energy, to be substituted for imported fuels. But diverting scarce land and water to plantations of fast-growing trees or other kinds of biomass may seriously limit food production in these crowded countries.