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 RIDGEFIELD, Conn. March 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Technology breakthroughs in East Asia stand to doom coal and oil as dominant energy sources, as well as assure global roles for China and Japan.
 Perception International, a forecasting firm that predicted Communism's fall three years before it happened in 1989, believes that three seemingly unconnected events comprise an early warning of a revolutionary shift in energy technology.
 The shift centers on the potential development at China's Beijing University of a cheap method of converting water into a virtually unlimited supply of combustible hydrogen.
 "The significance of this development is remarkable because the creation of a process to produce hydrogen cheaply and easily may portend a major shift in energy production and use away from fossil fuels," the firm said in a recent report.
 Perception International is a corporate consulting organization headed by Andre W. Alkiewicz, former head of the second-oldest brokerage firm on Wall Street. He and his associates look for anomalies, events in various disciplines that counter prevailing norms. It was such an anomaly that led them to forsee the end of totalitarianism in the Soviet Bloc.
 The new East Asia developments come on the heels of recent moves by Japan and Great Britain to pull the plug on hydrocarbon industries -- oil in Japan and coal and Britain.
 The first event concerns the Beijing University researchers, whose methods of converting water into hydrogen depends on a catalyst based on the element neodymium, a metal oxide known as a "rare earth."
 The researchers are still secretive about their work, and have not yet published details of their experiments. But evidence indicates that the sunlight alone is used to trigger the action of the catalyst in splitting the water into hydrogen and oxygen.
 The process "is revolutionary in that it combines water, which is plentiful, solar power, which is free, and rare earths, of which China has a near-monopoly," the Perception report states.
 The Chinese developments explain the other two events, including the increasing interest of Japanese corporations in securing patents in rare earth research and technology. That interest would otherwise be puzzling since there are few commercial applications for rare earth deposits, 80 percent of which are in China.
 Likewise, events at Beijing University also explain the Chinese government's decision to downsize its coal industry, laying off 400,000 workers throughout 1995, as part of an effort to modernize its energy industry. That action would also be puzzling in normal circumstances, since coal is one of China's major industries, and communist governments don't like to risk public unrest by creating unemployment.
 The significance of the new technology can be seen by the decision of the Chinese government's combined executive authority and cabinet, known as the Supreme Council, to establish a Rare Earth Leading Group to promote the research that is now being performed by a special unit at Beijing University.
 Perception International believes that China is downsizing its coal industry because it has concluded that coal has declining value as an energy source. Instead, China seems to be aiming at global preeminence by its near monopoly of the rare earths needed to produce hydrogen at a cost-effective level.
 Should the rare earths technology for hydrogen production prove successful, the report states, "not only would it mark the end of coal as an energy source, it would also mark the end of oil. An energy source that is readily available, inexpensive to produce, and non- polluting would be irresistible."
 "Second, the geopolitical focus of the world would shift from the oil-producing Middle East to East Asia."
 The Japanese corporate activity appears to be coinciding with the government's decision to stop protecting the country's oil industry. Now, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry stresses "hydrogen production."
 -0- 3/3/93
 /CONTACT: Andre W. Alkiewicz, managing director, 203-431-6000; David N. Giguere, communications director, both of Perception International, 413-532-6953/

CO: Perception International ST: IN: SU:

CH -- NE001 -- 2266 03/03/93 08:01 EST
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Date:Mar 3, 1993

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