STANFORD — Tired of $3.60 gasoline? Danish Crown Prince Joachim has some advice:

Sacrifice, save, and sweat the small stuff.

After the 1973 Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries oil embargo, the Danes — 99 percent dependent on imported energy at the time — set out to free themselves from foreign oil.

Today the country is the only exporter of energy in Europe, producing 55 percent more power than it needs. Renewable fuels — wind, solar, waste — generates 15 percent of that, and the country is almost completely energy independent.

Thursday Prince Joachim and his delegation toured Stanford University, meeting with scientists working on ways to solve the worlds daunting energy needs in the next century.

Those scientists, affiliated with the universitys Global Climate and Energy Project, spent the morning tutoring the Prince, 36, on ways society might someday warm the home, power the TV and ward off global warming.

It was a dazzling display of American ingenuity: Nanoprobe arrays that pluck off the extra electron or two cells generate during photosynthesis, advance membrane reactions to produce carbon-free hydrogen, genetically engineered cellulose to increase biomass yield.

There are some hitches, however. None of that works on a commercial scale. And Denmark didnt use any of it en route to energy independence.


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Rather, said Danish officials accompanying the prince, such freedom came from small things: toilets with two buttons — one for a big flush, one for a little; highly insulated houses; a switch years ago to compact fluorescent bulbs; high energy taxes; wind.

America has always been a leader, the Prince said. Now were reaching a point where comfort has allowed America to not develop.

But need and competition has brought change to Europe.

Of course, 85 percent of Denmarks power still comes from oil and natural gas. But the trend is steadily — if slowly — moving away from that.

In 1979, when Three Mile Island almost lost its nuclear core and much of the world turned from nuclear power, Denmark turned to wind, said Danish Ambassador Friis Arne Petersen, who accompanied the Prince.

Today Denmark is a global leader in wind turbines.

But big breakthroughs didnt turn Denmark into an energy exporter, said Petersen.

You want that big breakthrough. Thats wonderful if it succeeds, he said. But sometimes lots of small steps need to be taken.

Lynn Orr, director of Stanfords climate and energy project, brooks no qualm over wind power. Or conservation. Americans certainly have plenty to conserve, and can even make money doing so, he said.

Yet when you look globally, when you follow trendlines out 50 years, Orr said, you quickly realize the numbers are far too huge for any one approach.

Two billion people on the planet today are just trying to get energy, let alone conserve it, he said. China, to meet energy needs, is adding 1,000 megawatts of new coal-fired generation a week.

Worldwide people derive the same amount of energy by burning wood — five zeta-joules, or power enough to keep the city of Berkeley lit until the sun burns out — as by burning oil.

And in 50 years, the energy needs of humans on this planet are expected to double.

Theres no silver bullet here, Orr said of the high-tech solutions his group is exploring. We need all of these things plus probably 20 more.

But if its such a pressing problem, asked Petersen, why did Stanford University — one of the nations premier research institutions — only start the Global Climate and Energy Project three years ago?

Orr didnt have an answer to that.

Contact reporter Douglas Fischer at dfischer@angnewspapers.com