By Gayathri Vaidyanathan

Nations will not wean themselves off fossil fuels in the next century unless there are aggressive government policies to prod them, according to a new study.

The world would not by itself run out of fossil fuels, and alternative energy sources would not become cheap enough to replace fossil fuels in electricity generation and transportation, the study finds. It was published yesterday in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

The study urges policymakers to price carbon emissions associated with fossil fuels and to invest in research and development of alternative energies.

“Counting on the fickle finger of fate to point the way to cheaper low-carbon energy sources, without market and policy forces pushing us there, mistakes hope for a strategy,” said Michael Greenstone, a co-author of the study and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, in a statement.

The study was prompted by the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which would reduce coal in electricity generation, said Thomas Covert, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago…

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