Reading back the last few paragraphs, I realize that I sound a lot less like a wet blanket and a lot more like the voice of doom suggesting we all abandon ship or die. The truth is that while the 100% WWS by 2050 plan is clearly not possible that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work hard to achieve its underlying goal of low or no carbon energy with a strong renewable component. The problem with the 100% WWS proposal is that it is hobbled by some of the personal views of its creators. It omits some pretty obvious energy solutions like further large-reservoir hydro in Quebec, Labrador, Ontario and BC, run-of-the-river hydro across Canada and, of course, further nuclear power. A country like Canada that is blessed with an abundance of hydropower opportunities should not ignore those opportunities because one engineer from California doesn’t particularly like that technology. A fear of the risk of nuclear proliferation should not hinder nuclear savvy countries like the US, Canada, France and China from making use of nuclear power in their energy mix. It is not as if we have to worry that Iowa may get the bomb if the US builds a nuclear plant in Idaho.
As I have said more times that I would care to admit in this blog: I am a pragmatist. As a pragmatist I tend to live by the credo “moderation in all things”. The 100% WWS model fails because it does not believe in
moderation. It places tight, and poorly supported, restrictions on a number of important baseline clean energy technologies and in doing so results in a proposal that is ruinously expensive. Looking at the numbers above, the costs would be prohibitive for Canada consuming over half our national GDP over the 34 year time frame proposed. While ruinously expensive is technically “doable”, the same can’t be said for countries like Zimbabwe or Ethiopia where the anticipated costs exceed GDP by orders of magnitude. Alternatively, Ethiopia could build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project which would provide it with ample, essentially carbon-free, electricity and raise its citizens out of abject energy poverty.
Let’s be clear here, I believe strongly in renewable energy, but as I have written before I believe in regionally-appropriate renewables. I also believe that we cannot ignore the potential of nuclear and hydro energy in a post-fossil fuel energy mix. To summarize what I have written above: when an apparently innumerate representative from the Council of Canadians assures you that 100% WWS is “doable” the correct response is: “only in your dreams…only in your dreams”.There are more protests aginst Jacobson's arbitrary and ruinous 100% renewables energy program. Olen Jani-Petri Martikainen, a phyicist who is a native of Finland, looked at Mark Z. Jacobson's treatment of Finland and asks, Why does Mark Z. Jacobson hate Finland?
Not onlydoes Martikainen ask this question in a post on his blog , but he justifies the question by pointing to some unplesant consequences for the finish people if they were to adopt Professor Jacobson's 100% plan for Finland. Here is the money quote:
In Jacobson’s vision employment in our energy sector grows from about 38000 to 130000. Doesn’t this mean massive productivity reduction in our energy sector? Isn’t that a bad thing? In the topsy-turvy world of 100% RES discussions this is of course not so. Jacobson instead talks as if we are winning by spending more. By inverting the logic of productivity increases that I suspect pretty much all economists (whether on the left or right) agree on, he talks of our $8.15 billion/year “earnings due to jobs” as if we are winning. Sweden would end up employing only about half what our energy sector would do (quarter on per capita basis) and they would get just 0.96 billion in earnings due to jobs. Take that Sweden!
How does Jacobson actually end up with the claim that his vision would make any economic sense? He gets this basically by estimating body counts from PM 2.5 emissions and then multiplying this by “the statistical value of life”. In this way he claims that in 2050 Finland emissions would kill 600-6000 people and cost us maybe more than $100 billion or about 30% of our GDP every year. Wow! This is crazy on steroids. First of all I think this is inappropriate use of the concept “statistical value of life” and 2nd it doesn’t pass the sanity check. Here PM emissions have declined drastically in past decades thanks to cleaner fuels, filters, centralized power plants replacing small scale burning etc. What am I supposed to learn from Jacobson’s figures? That in 80s when emissions were much higher, we lost basically all our GDP because of pollution? Also, is there someone who has a life insurance for 17 million. Isn’t maybe 100000-200000 more typical…1% of their claim? Jacobson and his friends assign pollution problems to the energy system as a whole and ignore that lot of it here is actually caused by small scale burning of bioenergy. They also deny the existence of alternative ways to address pollution concerns. History already tells they are incorrect in this assumption.
So much for Finland. Lets now look at 's treatment of Jacobson on Ethiopia. The title of Part II on Jacobson alleges that Jacobson hates Ethiopia too!We find the following argument:
Ethiopian energy “efficiency” today is poor presumably because of all that small scale burning, but by 2050 they will be among the most efficient ones. An improvement by a factor of 12. Since efficiency improvements typically require more capital, it is great that poor have loads of money.How do capital requirements compare with todays GDP? Next figure shows that while Jacobson surely hates Finland more than Sweden, it could have been worse.
. . . we get to the important stuff, namely how he feels about Finns relative to others. Based on Jacobson’s figures we can compare how much energy a Finn uses compared to foreigners. Below I show it today and at 2050. Blue bar is the reality today and the red bar is what Jacobson has in mind. If red bar is lower than the blue bar, then he wants to improve the lot of that country relative to Finns (in terms of energy access).
Thus by arguing that the Ethiopian economy will be among the most energy efficient in the world by 2050, Professor Jacobson, feel free to subjuct the poor Ethiopians with great energy poverty. It stands clear that JHacobson and his friends at Greenpeace and in Germany, stand firmly aginst the cause of Energy Justice, and are all in favor of imposing extreme energy poverty on the global poor. Thus Mark Z. Jacobson who pretends that by adding nuclear power into the post carbon energy mix we would with absolute cirtainty creat conditions that would lead to a nuclear war every 30 years, in
fact will contribut to circumstances that might brinbg such a a war about.
Thus we see that Professor Jacobson has allowed his personal prejudice to eliminate valuable carbon free technological solutions, while suggesting that impoverished, energy poor countries get by by generating huge ammounts of energy out of nothing more than Energy Efficiency. This is the reductio ad absurdum of the Jacobson - Lovins ant-nuclear energy power approach, !00% renewables lead to circumstances in which monumental energy poverty and injustice is to be covered with nothing more than the bandade of energy efficiency, unsupported by dispatchabel energy. If we are going to bring the Anthropogenic Global warming monster under control, we must start thinking about dispatchabel rather that intermittent electrical sources. Among dispatch able sources we must start thinking aboutr nuclear power as a probably indispensable resource.