Last month, the Washington Post ran an article that bizarrely posited that the blackouts in Texas last winter could be avoided in the future with a switch to 100% renewable energy from wind, solar …
Last month, the Washington Post ran an article that bizarrely posited that the blackouts in Texas last winter could be avoided in the future with a switch to 100% renewable energy from wind, solar and hydroelectric. The article was widely shared on social media.
The article, written by climate writer Kasha Patel, illustrates how committed the renewable energy movement is to an “at any cost” mindset. Due to the enormous amounts of land it will require to achieve its vision, it should greatly concern people in rural communities who will bear the brunt of this push to eliminate nuclear and fossil fuel energy.
The Post article pointed to a study published in the journal Renewable Energy. Speaking about his study, the lead author, Mark Jacobson, told the Post, “Technically and economically, we have 95% of the technologies we need to transition everything today.”
Jacobson is a celebrity in the renewable energy movement, and became one of its primary heroes when he published a study in 2015 that determined the nation could be entirely powered with a mix of wind, solar and hydroelectric. Thus, the study concluded, we could rid the U.S. of all nuclear and fossil fuel energy.
Jacobson’s 2015 study was thoroughly debunked by a 2017 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That contrary study, with lead author Christopher Clack, found numerous shortcomings and errors in Jacobson’s research. The PNAS researchers wrote that Jacobson had used “invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.”
By a factor of 10, the academy paper found, Jacobson and his co-authors overstated the ability of the United States to increase its hydropower output. Clack et al. also found that Jacobson had underestimated the amount of land all that wind and solar would require by a factor of 15. While Jacobson’s study claimed only 6% of the country would be needed for all those windmills and solar panels, the academy study found it would require an area roughly twice the size of California.
Not surprisingly, Jacobson disputed the academy study’s findings and stood by his research. Did he author a followup study and engage in the academic spirit of scientific discourse and inquiry? No, he filed a $10 million defamation suit against Clack and NAS.
In early 2018, Jacobson withdrew his suit. He’s since been hit with legal action under Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation laws. These SLAPP laws are meant to protect free speech by allowing defendants to recoup attorney’s fees when a judge determines that a plaintiff launched unsubstantiated suits that could silence critics.
Jacobson lost that fight and was forced to pay Clack $75,000, which the judge in the case said was less than Clack’s total costs. The academy has also filed a SLAPP suit against Jacobson for over a half-million dollars in legal fees.
Any researcher who sues his or her critics, especially when those suits are determined later to lack any merits, should render any future research by the same author automatically suspect. Jacobson’s latest research could be riddled with errors, but what researcher would risk a lawsuit to publish anything critical of it?
The original Post article, however, made no mention of the suits. It was later updated to link to the Post’s own reporting on the suit, but the update contained no mention of the successful SLAPP suits against Jacobson.
The renewable energy movement continues to use Jacobson’s research to prop up their fantasy that we can eliminate fossil fuels and nuclear energy with weather-dependent energy sources, without some unrealized technological breakthroughs.
Europe is much further along in this pursuit, and countries like Germany are seeing energy shortages, skyrocketing energy prices, and little in the way of CO2 emission reductions — and they’re nowhere close to achieving 100% renewable energy.
Besides the high energy costs and destabilized grid, what should concern rural Americans is the amount of land it would truly take, as calculated by objective researchers. These millions of acres of windmills and panels are not going to spring up on Long Island, the Hollywood Hills or off the shores of Martha’s Vineyard. They’re going to be built in sparsely populated areas — in other words, rural America.
Author Robert Bryce has documented dozens of efforts in rural communities to push back against the encroachment of wind projects, which many residents claim impact their quality of life and health. Some of these fights have been quite bitter, and if the dreams of 100% renewable energy are to be realized, rural residents will need to lose far more often than they win.
The movement’s blind commitment to its goals will likely brush aside the objections of rural communities if they stand in the way of what the movement considers to be a greater good.