The notion that it’s possible for the U.S. economy to run on 100% renewable energy by 2030 has been widely debunked by the scientific community, yet remains a common talking point repeated by prominent far-Left politicians and activists. The claim is based on faulty science put forth in a 2015 paper by Mark Jacobson, a Stanford engineering professor who received fame and accolades for his novel idea.
In 2017, the National Academy of Sciences published a paper by a group of 20 U.S. scientists who concluded that paper contained “numerous shortcomings and errors.”
Robert Bryce summarized those errors in National Review:
“The paper used ‘invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.’ Those errors ‘render it unreliable as a guide about the likely cost, technical reliability, or feasibility of a 100 percent wind, solar, and hydroelectric power system.’”
“Among the biggest errors — and one that should force the Academy to withdraw Jacobson’s 2015 paper — is that Jacobson and Delucchi [his co-author] overstated by roughly a factor of ten the ability of the United States to increase its hydropower output. Furthermore, the paper ignores two key issues: electricity storage and land use. Jacobson claimed that the U.S. can store energy underground or store it in the form of hydrogen. Clack and his co-authors wrote that ‘there are no electric storage systems available today that can affordably and dependably store the vast amounts of energy needed over weeks to reliably satisfy demand using expanded wind and solar power generation alone.’”
“But the most obvious flaw in Jacobson’s scheme involves his years-long refusal to admit the massive amount of land his proposal would require; his myriad acolytes have repeated his nonsensical claims. For instance, last year, Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org and one of America’s highest-profile climate activists, wrote an August 2016 cover story for The New Republic in which he lauded Jacobson’s work and repeated Jacobson’s erroneous claim that his all-renewable program would need only ‘about four-tenths of one percent of America’s landmass.’”
Perhaps the most unfortunate consequence of this claim is that it leads people to believe that renewable energy is the only path to combating climate change. This is false. Clean energy means more than wind and solar. Though they don’t qualify as “renewable” sources of energy, hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants produced 70% of America’s zero-emission electricity in 2018, and to this day, remain the most promising sources of zero-emission energy.
— AOC and Bernie Sanders
Selectively true. True only in context. Partly make believe.
Natural gas power plants are another source of non-renewable energy that produce fewer carbon emissions than traditional sources. According to the Energy Information Administration, the official energy statistics from the U.S. government, natural gas drove more emission reductions than wind and solar combined.
Last but not least, carbon capture is a promising technology that allows new or existing coal- or gas-fired power plants to produce cleaner energy. Again, carbon capture technologies are not a “renewable” source of energy, however, they provide the opportunity to transform “dirty” energy to zero-emission energy sources.