‘How a Plan to Save the Power System Disappeared’

Peter Fairley reports in The Atlantic:

A federal lab found a way to modernize the grid, reduce reliance on coal, and save consumers billions. Then Trump appointees blocked it.

“This article is a collaboration between The Atlantic and InvestigateWest.”

But a transformation of the world’s energy system to zero Carbon sources will come, whether the processes blessed by the Constitution of the United States want it to or not:

What the world needs:

(From M.Z.Jacobson, M.A.Delucchi, M.A.Cameron, et al)


The Earth is approaching 1.5°C global warming, air pollution kills over 7 million people yearly, and limited fossil fuel resources portend social instability. Rapid solutions are needed. We provide Green New Deal roadmaps for all three problems for 143 countries, representing 99.7% of world’s CO2 emissions. The roadmaps call for countries to move all energy to 100% clean, renewable wind-water-solar (WWS) energy, efficiency, and storage no later than 2050 with at least 80% by 2030. We find that countries and regions avoid blackouts despite WWS variability. Worldwide, WWS reduces energy needs by 57.1%, energy costs from $17.7 to $6.8 trillion/year (61%), and social (private plus health plus climate) costs from $76.1 to $6.8 trillion/year (91%) at a capital cost of ∼$73 trillion. WWS creates 28.6 million more long-term, full-time jobs than are lost and needs only 0.17% and 0.48% of land for footprint and space, respectively. Thus, WWS needs less energy, costs less, and creates more jobs than current energy.

Regarding the implied and possible inability of the Constitution of the United States being able to deal with this problem, here is an excerpt from my welcome at the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston, celebrating the judicial action and trial Juliana v United States:

For should the plaintiffs of Juliana fail, the last government branch, the judiciary, abdicates responsibility for solving this urgent problem. And so the Constitution will have failed one of its existential requirements: To provide for the common defense. For Nature has laws, too, and we have been breaking them for a long time, ever more intensely. But Nature does not have courts of grievance or redress. Nature just acts. In a catastrophic sea level rise, perhaps triggered by a collapse of a distant ice sheet, Moakley Courthouse itself, the land you stand on would be lost, and all that there [gesturing towards Boston inner harbor].

While disappointing, were Juliana to be overturned, this should not be a reason for despair. It would not mean the Constitution should be replaced. It would just mean it is useless for solving certain kinds of critically important problems. Its failure would imply the Constitution is becoming a dusty, old thing, irrelevant, like the Articles of Confederation are to us, a ceremonial relic. Let’s hope not.

There will be solutions for solving climate in any case, Constitution or not. They may well be horrifically expensive. And, while there’s no solution without first zeroing emissions, solutions will exist. These will lie beyond the Constitution, I hope Chief Justice Roberts and his colleagues understand the import of that.

About ecoquant

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This entry was posted in Green New Deal, InvestigateWest, investment in wind and solar energy, Joseph Schumpeter, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, Mark Jacobson, Peter Fairley, The Atlantic and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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