In my note on climate change risk, I characterized the views of those who think a near-term transition to renewable "clean" energy is hard but achievable as ludicrous. These are the "have your cake and eat it too" people who believe the economy can grow and grow without pause as we replace all (or most) of our fossil energy with "wind, water and sun" (WWS). Stanford's Mark Jacobson and his colleagues espouse this view.
Three times now, Mark Jacobson has gone out on the same limb. In 2009 he and co-author Mark Delucchi published a cover story in Scientific American that showed how the entire world could get all of its energy—fuel as well as electricity—from wind, water and solar sources by 2030. No coal or oil, no nuclear or natural gas. The tale sounded infeasible—except that Jacobson, from Stanford University, and Delucchi, from the University of California, Davis, calculated just how many hydroelectric dams, wave-energy systems, wind turbines, solar power plants and rooftop photovoltaic installations the world would need to run itself completely on renewable energy.
The article sparked a spirited debate on our Web site, and it also sparked a larger debate between forward-looking energy planners and those who would rather preserve the status quo. The duo went on to publish a detailed study in the journal Energy Policy that also called out numbers for a U.S. strategy.
This elaborate fantasy comes with many specific details.