Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Is a sustainable future possible?

Well, I have thought so for a long time.  The possibility of a sustainable future is what caused me to write Elegant Technology.  But by 1985 when I had become reasonably certain that a planet powered by its solar income was quite possible as an engineering matter, I also became certain that a capitalism organized by liars and thieves could not nor would not finance such a project.

So I quite happy that two very serious young men wrote a piece entitled A Plan for a Sustainable Future. How to get all energy from wind, water and solar power by 2030  It first appeared in the November 2009 Scientific American and is available in a nice .pdf from the Stanford University web site.  The guys who wrote are identified as follows:

Mark Z. Jacobson is professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University and director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program there. He develops computer models to study the effects of energy technologies and their emissions on climate and air pollution.

Mark A. Delucchi is a research scientist at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. He focuses on energy, environmental and economic analyses of advanced, sustainable transportation fuels, vehicles and systems.

I highly recommend this piece with a few provisos.  These are academics, not folks who have built things.  I believe they are grotesquely underestimating what their project will cost and how long it will take to get it working properly.  And because they are lowballing the costs for whatever reasons, I think they will ultimately undermine the credibility of their findings.  I think its time for folks who talk about building a sustainable future to stand up and say as loudly as possible--this project will be VERY difficult, it will be hideously expensive, and it will require years of hard work.

But hey, Jacobson was interviewed for the Financial Times so maybe lowballing is not SUCH a bad idea. (sigh)
Q&A: Mark Jacobson on 100% renewable energy
May 12, 2010 2:01pm
by Kate Mackenzie  
Mark Jacobson, a Stanford professor of engineering, has drawn a lot of attention with the article he wrote together with Mark Delucchi for Scientific American last year, about how the world could move to 100 per cent renewable power.
He spoke to FT Energy Source about the political, financial and other barriers to a mass transition to renewable power — and whether there is a role for carbon pricing.
Jacobson and Delucchi’s outline focuses on wind and solar — supplemented by smaller amounts of geothermal and marine energy. It’s not the first to look at making a big switch to low-carbon energy; a recent study co-authored by McKinsey for example found the cost of Europe reducing CO2 emissions by 80 per cent would cost no more than business-as-usual; while a paper by PriceWaterhouseCoopers on100 per cent renewables for Europe and North Africa was also reasonably optimistic on costs. German physicist Gregor Czisch is an early advocate of 100 per cent renewables. more

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