Denying the Truth Doesn’t Change the Facts

12/01/2017 01:53 am ET Updated Dec 01, 2017

Try as they may, clean energy innovation naysayers can’t change a simple truth: the cost of wind and solar power electrical power generation is plummeting and renewable energy is now cheaper than operating old coal and nuclear power plants. It’s happening fast and there’s no stopping it.

Professor Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University
Professor Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University

Mark Z. Jacobson, a pioneering Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor at Stanford University, has charted a path for a national—and even global—transition to clean power adoption. Jacobson’s models map 50 U.S. states and 139 countries for massive build-outs of wind, solar and water-powered electrical power. The cost of conversion to a 100% electrical powered planet is largely offset by the decrease in premature deaths caused each year by air pollution related to fossil fuel combustion.

The maps are pretty fun.

Below is quick-facts pop-up when clicking on Texas (my home). Note that by 2050, a whopping 63.9% of the electricity required by the nation’s second largest state could come from a combination of wind and solar power.

Not surprisingly, Jacobson’s breakthrough blueprints have come under some scrutiny because to put them into action would mean an epic and permanent shift in the way power is generated, distributed and consumed. It means that the majority of fossil fuel reserves in the ground will likely remain in the ground.

That’s a lot of natural gas reserves that would no longer need to be fracked and burned to make electricity. It’s a lot of coal as well. And though the value of that buried power will one day be largely diminished as renewables continue to gain significant market share, its perceived value today is still compelling, owing to the market’s failure to calculate its myriad external costs—costs that include over 1.5 million premature deaths worldwide, annually.

Jacobson has garnered attention of late for his filing of a lawsuit against the peer-reviewed scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) for publishing a study of his work that include errors that he spent weeks trying to correct.

Several news and opinion articles have been written mischaracterizing the case as an effort to litigate the science. These are naysayers that don’t want to see Jacobson’s plans become part of the national dialogue, so they have rallied together to obstruct Jacobson’s scientific/economic findings by accusing Jacobson of suing the PNAS because his ego is offended by the PNAS report.

But Jacobson’s lawsuit is about correcting the factual scientific record—it’s about ensuring that the process and rules that govern science are protected.

The PNAS report states that Jacobson made incorrect assumptions in order to show that U.S. energy demand could be met entirely by wind, water and solar power. The fact is, though, that after Jacobson’s repeated requests of the PNAS’s lead author to correct errors that they, together, had discussed by phone and by email, Jacobson’s changes were ignored. Jacobson’s view is that he had no other appropriate recourse than to retract the paper and file for defamation and breach of contract.

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