Use Of Renewable Energy – In the future, we will need fossil fuels like oil and gas. So the choice (search) is really small. We should push natural gas. We have to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to get Canadian oil. This mantra, repeated in television commercials and political debates, is tinged with a hint of inevitability and regret. But more and more scientific research and the experience of other countries force us to ask: How much fossil fuel do we really “need” in the coming years? To what extent is it a choice?
This is one of the few times I’ve seen the mainstream media take the climate hawks’ wishes seriously enough to consider the possibility of a clean energy system.
. In doing so, he appeals to the failed conventional wisdom propagated by his colleague Joe Nocera and dozens of other journalists and pundits. So woe to him!
To support our non-profit environmental journal, please consider disabling your ad blocker to allow ads. Here’s how
This may seem like a small thing, but it is not. The most powerful weapon in the hands of status quo advocates is a glimmer of inevitability: whether we like it or not, we’re stuck with fossil fuels for the rest of this century; A faster change is not possible. That light is a great advantage, but it is also very fragile. When rapid, positive change becomes a tangible possibility (or seen), the question becomes “Can we do it?” Changes from “Should we do this?” “We can’t do it” – always delivered in a tone of world-weary realism – “we shouldn’t do it”, is harder to defend. When people feel that a better future for their children is possible, real, and attainable, they are willing to fight and sacrifice for a lost cause that few would.
So Rosenthal broke down the door. It hardly matters what’s in the rest of his piece (although you should read it). All he had to do was open the conventional wisdom to challenge.
Both sides of the argument in Rosenthal’s piece will be familiar to those who follow the piece. On the “we can do it” side, Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University and Mark A. There are people like Delucchi, who recently published a study [PDF] showing that New York can run as fully on renewable energy as possible. By 2030. On the other hand, a consultant (seriously – kill me) points out that “the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow” and an economist warns against a rapid transition to renewables energy. “Complicated and expensive” (like getting
To avoid specific misunderstandings, I want to make a larger point. I was surprised – not for the first time – that people who disagree on whether the transition to renewable energy can happen quickly, do not disagree about the technology, although the arguments are often in those terms spoken.
Think of it this way. If you want to change America’s energy system, there are many levers you can pull. You can improve clean energy technology and make it cheaper. You can change people’s behaviors and expectations. You can change laws and regulations. Or change the cost estimation method. So, using acronyms, it is technological, behavioral, political and economic change.
Achieving a fully renewable energy system will require some of each of these. Much of the controversy in this area revolves around how viable these different types of change are.
Statements like Jacobson’s and Delucchi’s show that a fully renewable system can be realized without significant technological change.
. In other words, they show how you can hold one lever firmly and achieve your goals by pulling the other one harder.
As Jacobsen told Rosenthal: “You can power America with renewable energy from a technical and economic standpoint. The biggest hurdles are social and political — all you need is the will to do it. (About ‘ and economic’ part of it in my ugly addendum below.)
This kind of talk drives some people crazy. They feel this underestimates the sheer scale of the challenge. They think it lulls people into a false sense of security and especially about the (bad) state of clean energy innovation. “Wake up! We really need better technology!” They cried.
Which is good. But let’s be clear: the whole controversy here is not technical. United States.
We can move to 100 percent renewable energy relatively quickly if we’re willing to make a big spending spree. Imagine a WWII-scale mobilization, or larger, lasting a decade or two.
. Human innovation disputes that. They see other levers – behavioral, political, economic – as inflexible compared to the technological lever. They do not believe that large-scale, rapid changes in social institutions and practices are possible. However, they believe that technological progress can be accelerated and that cheap technology will eventually break down social barriers. So they focus on technology.
That’s good. If your assessment of social and political change is weak, it makes sense to focus on technology.
Others have an optimistic assessment of the potential for behavioral, political and economic change. Part of the motivation for such change, they say, is that technology isn’t a deal breaker—change is possible with today’s technology.
1. First, I want our discussions about what kind of change is possible (what levers produce action) to be better informed by historical understanding and empirical research. There are a lot of competing gut instincts around here.
2. Second, I want both sides to work together instead of talking to each other, or at least stop talking to each other. “Not this!” Instead of saying that, when Jacobson says it’s technically possible, maybe the other way around, he says, “Yes, that’s true, but that’s not realistic based on the level and pace of social change.” If innovators say, “We need better technology,” the other side might say, “That’s true, but in the meantime, we can make radical, rapid changes in society.”
The scale of the challenge is enormous. We must pull all available levers. We may not know in advance which lever will produce the most change or which combination is the most strategic. But be sure to challenge
. Let us unite to shed the inevitable unwanted light through the treacherous, dirty, unjust situation.
Hidden in all this is a good lesson about the economics of clean energy. Jacobson says the economy isn’t an obstacle — all of the clean energy investments his report recommends make economic sense.
Well, the thing to remember is that there is no single thing called “economics” that measures the objective characteristics of the world. There are many, many different ways of doing economics, which means different ways of estimating value.
Delucchi, Jacobson’s co-author, tells Andy Revkin that the investments they recommend make sense when evaluated “through a full societal cost-benefit analysis over the entire physical lifespan, at a rate of discount close to zero.”
Yes, clean energy investments always make sense when they are valued this way. But they are not rated as such! This style of economic analysis is outside the current economic mainstream. This is not the way any business or government currently evaluates investments. Doing the economy this way would involve a major shift in social/political practice. (See my post on discount rates for more on this.)
Whether investments in clean energy are “expensive” is a social question, not just a technological one. It’s about how we estimate social costs and what discount rates we use.
Innovators argue – they told me frankly – that it is impossible to change such an economic industry, so they have no choice but to fight renewable energies on a fundamentally tilted playing field.
I’m not sure I agree. But still, it’s good to clarify what we’re talking about. When we talk about making renewable energy “cheaper”, it is partly about improving technology. It’s about preparation
A newsroom dedicated to exploring solutions at the intersection of climate and justice. Our in-depth approach to solution-based journalism requires time and proactive planning, which is why we rely on reader support. Your gifts keep our unbiased, non-profit news site free. Donate today and your gift will be matched dollar for dollar. Help us raise $15,000 by September 30th.
A newsroom dedicated to exploring solutions at the intersection of climate and justice. Your support keeps our unbiased, non-profit news free. Donate today and your gift will be matched dollar for dollar.
Next article Ducks, His Father A new hope for extinct species or end-time jumps
Use of renewable energy resources, why use renewable energy, future of renewable energy, use renewable energy, pros of renewable energy, the use of renewable energy sources, use of renewable energy sources, use renewable energy sources, the use of renewable energy, benefits of renewable energy use, cost of renewable energy, reliability of renewable energy
How To Recondition A Deep Cycle Battery – Car maintenance is no joke. Apart from cleaning and other aspects, there are some technical issues... Read More
How Much Epsom Salts For A Bath – Dr. Debra Rose Wilson, MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT – Clinical review conducted by Lana Barhum... Read More
How To Fix A Dead Motorcycle Battery – The Motor Vehicle Maintenance and Repair Exchange is a question and answer website for DIY enthusiast... Read More