November 02, 2009

Critique of the Path to Sustainable Energy 2030

Brave New Climate reviews the work of Mark Z. Jacobson (Professor, Stanford) and Mark A. Delucchi (researcher, UC Davis) entitled “A path to sustainable energy by 2030” (p 58 – 65 Scientific American Nov 2009; they call it WWS: wind, water or sunlight).

Jacobson and Delucchi argue that, by the year 2030:
Wind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy, eliminating all fossil fuels.


Carbon Emissions from Expected Wars Based on Militarization of Technology Similar to Energy Sources

They also state:
Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered.


From Brave New Climate:
They achieve this result by positing that nuclear power means nuclear proliferation, nuclear proliferation leads to nuclear weapons, and this chain of events lead to nuclear war, so they calculate the carbon footprint of a nuclear war.


This issue was noted before on this site when commenting on Mark Jacobson's previous ranking of energy sources.

Jacobson and Delucchi do not apply their inclusion of war effects on a consistent basis. They need to look at oil based weapons.
Napalm is the generic name denoting several flammable liquids used in warfare, often jellied gasoline.

So according to Jacobson then jungle, forests and cities that were set aflame by napalm, fuel air explosions and other oil based weapons should be apportioned as carbon emissions for oil.

* The US air force bombed cities in Japan with napalm, killing 80,000 civilians and making 1,000,000 homeless during world war 2.

* Operation rolling thunder in the Vietnam war dropped over one million tons of bombs on Vietnam. The United States dropped 8 million tons of bombs on Vietnam between 1965 and 1973.

So a historical analysis using the Jacobson/Delucchi method should include the larger amount of carbon emission from the effects of more fossil fuel based weapons used.

Also, the sun and wind are drivers for wildfires in forests. Wildfires burn an average of about 7 million acres each year in the USA.

Wildfires, which release about 90 Tg CO2 annually into the atmosphere over the continuous U.S., are an important factor for the carbon cycle in this region.


Torching oil wells and blowing up hydro dams should also have their effects included. Broken dams can flood areas where plants are growing and release the carbon in the plants.



Fundamental Cost Errors
Brave new climate points out the fundamental cost errors (aka lies) of Jacobson and Delucchi:

They make a token attempt to price in storage (e.g., compressed air for solar PV, hot salts for CSP). But tellingly, they never say HOW MUCH storage they are costing in this analysis (see table 6 of tech paper), nor how much extra peak generating capacity these energy stores will require in order to be recharged, especially on low yield days (cloudy, calm, etc). Yet, this is an absolutely critical consideration for large-scale intermittent technologies, as Peter Lang has clearly demonstrated here. Without factoring in these sort of fundamental ‘details’ — and in the absence of crunching any actual numbers in regards to the total amount of storage/backup/overbuild required to make WWS 24/365 — the whole economic and logistical foundation of the grand WWS scheme crumbles to dust. It sum, the WWS 100% renewables by 2030 vision is nothing more than an illusory fantasy. It is not a feasible, real-world energy plan.

Jacobson and Delucchi are willing to forecast such optimistically low costs for future solar, then we can be quite comfortable doing the same for IFR (Integral Fast Reactors) and LFTR (Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors), the Gen IV nuclear


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