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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.


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


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


    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.


    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.


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


    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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