Think big: Ned Hodgman at Understanding Government points us toward a Nov. 2009 Scientific American article that lays out a plan to power the planet entirely with renewable energy and eliminate fossil fuels by 2030.
Authors Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi aren't talking about just meeting new energy demand with renewables and forestalling the construction of new coal plants. They're talking about replacing and shuttering every fossil-fuel plant on the planet and pumping out every erg the whole planet needs with 3.8 million big wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and all sorts of geothermal and tidal energy.
I don't have a SciAm subscription (trip to library today!), but Hodgman notes that this plan still focuses more on centralized power production rather than Dusty's and my favorite distributed power generation. But contrary to the grumbling of the power co-ops' propaganda campaign, Jacobson and Delucchi say that an all-renewable world energy supply would be not just affordable, but cheaper than "the projected cost per kilowatt-hour for fossil-fuel and nuclear power." The real barriers are short supply of some specialty materials and political will.
Read more online:
- Rare Metal Blog notes the five main materials we might be short on for building worldwide renewable energy tech are neodymium, indium, lithium, silver, and platinum (invest now). RMB also notes Jacobson and Delucchi's projected cost: $100 trillion over 20 years. Let's see... $5 trillion a year... heck, that's less than 9% of annual global GDP. Small price to pay for investment in clean future energy... not to mention a heck of a lot of manufacturing and construction jobs.
- Some naysayers say, "Gee, that's a lot!" but advance no argument that it can't be done. Again, the issue is political will, not physics or technology.
- Ah, found a copy! Jacobson and Delucchi's plan includes no ethanol, no carbon sequestration, and no nukes. Why?
...when burned in vehicles, even the most ecologically acceptable sources of ethanol create air pollution that will cause the same mortality level as when gasoline is burned. Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered. Carbon capture and sequestration technology can reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants but will increase air pollutants and will extend all the other deleterious effects of coal mining, transport and processing, because more coal must be burned to power the capture and storage steps. Similarly, we consider only technologies that do not present significant waste disposal or terrorism risks [Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, "A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030," Scientific American, Nov. 2009, pp. 58–65].