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High Oil Costs May Advance Conservation Research

Car owners have been wincing in recent months as the price of oil has shot up well over the once-unimaginable $100-per-barrel mark. But an economist at Carnegie Mellon University believes that skyrocketing oil prices are a good thing, and will lead to necessary innovations in conservation and green technologies.

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  • DEBORAH LANGE, engineer:

    I told you these things weren't meant to be on the road.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Late 2004, at conservation conscious Carnegie Mellon University, where they looked at the giddy-high oil price of $40 a barrel as a positive.

  • DEBORAH LANGE:

    It's great news, because that's the catalyst that you need for us to put more investment into environmentally friendly solutions.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    At CMU, they were already fielding a fleet of electric and natural gas vehicles, campus power provided by windmills, green roof on a classroom building. Some faculty members had taken their own initiatives, as well, like the economist we dubbed the "Prince of Darkness."

  • LESTER LAVE, economist:

    I usually don't turn the lights on in my office because there's quite adequate daylight outside to do everything. I don't feel I'm deprived in any way.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    At the time, CMU's efforts were still new enough to be news.

    AL GORE, former vice president of the United States: The scientific consensus is that we are causing global warming.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    But that was before Al Gore's film, his Oscar or Nobel, long before oil prices hit triple digits.

  • LESTER LAVE:

    When we talked three years ago, people thought they could go about their lives the way it is. When oil hits $115 a barrel and natural gas is going up very fast, then everybody understands that we're going to need to do something.

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