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COLUMN: Pie in the sky from Jared Polis

By: Scott Weiser
August 1, 2017 Updated: August 9, 2017 at 5:19 pm
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photo - Scott Weiser
Scott Weiser 

Gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis is obsessed with making Colorado rely on "100 percent renewable energy by 2040." But as his obsession grows, the science behind the push for renewables falls apart.

Stanford University engineering professor Mark Jacobson published a paper in 2015, "Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100 percent wind, water, and solar" in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claiming that between wind, hydro, solar and hydrogen the country could run on renewables alone by 2040. Congresspersons, mayors, governors, actors and even the National Academy of Science swallowed his pie-in-the-sky propaganda hook, line and sinker. Worse, the press pandered to Jacobson without an iota of journalistic scrutiny.

Skeptical of the claims, former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Chris Clack and 20 other scientists peer-reviewed Jacobson's work. On June 27, their critique was published in the same publication, saying Jacobson's paper does "not show the technical, practical, or economic feasibility of a 100 percent wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy vision.[It] contains modeling errors; incorrect, implausible, and/or inadequately supported assumptions. In short, [it] does not support the claim that such a system would perform at reasonable cost and provide reliable power."

Clack goes on to say, "Given unlimited resources to build variable energy production facilities. one would eventually be able to meet any conceivable load." The key words are "unlimited resources," something neither ratepayers nor the U.S. have.

Jacobson also falsely assumes that heavy industry will be able to turn itself on and off on short notice to compensate for variability in delivering peak-load electricity. The problem is industry can't do that. Nor can the economy be brought to a dead stop just because the wind isn't blowing. We need reliable electricity available 100 percent of the time, no matter what.

Clack addresses Jacobson's windmill advocacy by calculating that "roughly 6 percent of the continental United States" would have to be festooned with windmills. Jacobson proposes that nearly 490,000 individual wind turbines would be required to meet his wind energy goal alone.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there are 7,658 electrical generating plants over 1 megawatt in size in the U.S. Jacobson's idea therefore requires 64 times the number of generator repair and maintenance technicians, 64 times the number of spare parts and 64 times the amount of labor simply to maintain those windmills. Who is going to pay for all those unnecessary parts and mechanics? Ratepayers, of course.

But eco-activists don't care how much people have to pay for their electricity, they have an agenda that doesn't include compassion for poor people like the ones in Pueblo who are being victimized by high energy prices brought on by Gov. John Hickenlooper's obsession with renewable energy, which would be exacerbated by Polis' ridiculous and cost-prohibitive fantasy.

Polis' agenda is right in line with ex-President Barack Obama's attempt to destroy fossil-fuel energy generation though. In a 2012 article in Politico, writer Erica Martinson wrote "Here's one line that President Barack Obama might want to rewind: 'Under my plan . electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.' That quip from a January 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.is making the rounds...and it likely won't go away anytime soon. 'If somebody wants to build a coal-fired power plant, they can. It's just that it will bankrupt them,' Obama said, responding to a question about his cap-and-trade plan."

Clack and his co-authors politely pointed out the egregious errors in Jacobson's paper that make it eco-propaganda rather than useful science.

Jacobson's response to Clack's criticism? National Review's Robert Bryce wrote on July 18, 2017, "Jacobson responded with tirades on Twitter, Eco-Watch, and elsewhere. He claimed that his work doesn't contain a single error, that all of his critics are whores for hydrocarbons, and that, well, dammit, he's right." Jacobson says he's "hired an attorney to address the falsification of claims about our work in the Clack article."

Not "I'm going to review my work and address the issues raised by my colleagues," which is what real scientists do. His threats are becoming a typical response by eco-zealots who have been debunked.

More on that in my next column.

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