An Engineer from Stanford University has discovered that the U.S. could be 100% renewably powered by 2050; using existing technologies and sources exclusively.
Mark Z. Jacobson has devised a state by state plan to eradicate the reliance on traditional fossil fuels and convert the country to wind, tidal, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric sources.
The report was published in the Energy and Environmental Sciences Journal and outlined an ‘aggressive’ yet accomplished strategy to go sustainable. The likelihood of this plan being rolled out across the country is very small but they evidence that it could happen has given another arm to the argument of renewable over fossil fuels. More accurately, it will have solidified the place of renewables alongside fossil fuel sources in the U.S. There are cities in America that already run a 100% renewable energy system. The likelihood of an increase in this number is undeniable but to estimate it will be every single city in the country is just not currently feasible.
Start-up capital required to execute a plan of this ilk would be inevitably substantial. It’s argued that conversion to renewables would actually save the U.S. government money. Over the next 30 years, Jacobson estimates, that $3.3 trillion could be saved.
Jacobson makes two interesting arguments regarding the impact of conversion on public health and the economy. Both are arguments relate to American people more than the long term consequences that are often cited. The former argument states that a move to renewables would result in a cut spending on treating pollution-related illness and health scares.
The latter argument regarding the economy is mostly undiscussed, but a conversion to renewable sources would create jobs in a growing industry. One significant counter point is that the conversion to renewable power would result in a loss of jobs in the current energy market. There would be an increase in jobs during a conversion but eventually going 100% renewable would mean a huge loss in jobs from the current energy sector. An estimated 570,000 people work in the energy industry in the U.S., a new renewable industry would employ a similar amount of people in time which all but renders the job creation argument a moot point.
Despite that, what we really have here is a bold statement from an American academic. The U.S. could go sustainable with current technology.
“There is very little downside to a conversion, at least based on this science.” – Mark Z. Jacobson
The practicality of the strategy, however, is most definitely a very different question.