How we deal with climate change will either speed up or slow down the energy transition that began more or less in the 1970s, which saw both the OPEC embargo and the arrival at market of photovoltaic solar arrays.
In 1974 the EPA mandated the conversion of many power generating plants to coal, the better to conserve precious oil. That is not their current policy. They now intend to get coal out of the generating market, and they look ready to succeed.
A key to saving tens of millions of lives is helping the developing world leapfrog one step on the energy ladder, just as they did with telecommunications. If they electrify without coal, lives are saved. But they must electrify, or lives are lost to dung fires indoors.
If we adopt the ideas of Marc Jacobson, we will spend upwards of $30 trillion converting the worlds’ power to sun, wind, water and air–but it will still leave the developing world short of the energy they need. That $30 trillion is in part because of the artificial deadline imposed by Mr. Jacobson, inspired no doubt by the hyperventilations of climate activists.
A saner approach would save almost half of that amount, with the quick replacement of coal with natural gas while we follow China’s lead and France’s example and move towards nuclear–hopefully safer, newer nuclear, but nuclear nonetheless.
Solar could be left to develop at its natural rate, which would see it contribute about 30% of electricity generation in developed countries by 2050. It still requires modest subsidies, but those subsidies are well spent–nothing like the subsidies Venezuela and Iran put on petroleum for their citizens.
We have undergone several energy transformations, from wood to coal, coal to oil, oil to the strange portfolio we have today. The only thing they all have in common is they take time.
If we have the time, the natural path I describe above will be cheaper, more effective and less painful.
If we don’t have the time we should quit messing around, put nuclear up in a forced march and take the financial hit that involves. It would be $23 trillion, still less than Jacobson’s approach, but it’s expensive, even if spread out over 30 years.
Those saying we don’t have time have yet to convince me–there are times it looks as though they are seeking to convince each other.
But I could be convinced. If the climate establishment could successfully answer the questions involved in Recognition, Attribution, Mitigation and Adaptation, I would come on board.
But they can’t even tell me what the sensitivity of the atmosphere is to a doubling of CO2 concentrations.
After almost 30 years of the climate debate, you would think we would be a bit further ahead.
When did this fight really start?