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100% Renewable Energy Plan: Junk Science at Its Best

FractivistsK.J. Rodgers
Crownsville, Maryland  


A new retort to a 100% renewable energy plan exposes all of the flaws with the assumptions the author made to prevent ill-advised legislation.

Politicians, like all actors, thrive to be center stage and maintain their celebrity status on key issues. They’ll disregard the facts with abandon to secure an audience and hype up pretty much any situation. Opportunism is their stock-in-trade. Any topic can be hijacked with complete disregard for the truth at any time and faster than a speeding bullet. Successful activist groups grasp this better than most and exploit politicos and other actors at will. Such has been the case several times with fracking and most recently with Mark Jacobson’s ridiculous renewables plan.

Fractivists, of course, love studies — any studies — purporting to show natural gas development in a poor light. When they find anything whatsoever, they run with it to favorite politicos in hopes the latter will seize the demagoguery initiative and start spreading the misinformation as widely as possible.

One of my favorite examples is the “study” Brian Schwartz of the Post Carbon Institute released claiming fracking causes asthma. It’s pure fractivist junk science, but Food and Water Watch, of course, seized on it to create a petition urging Maryland Senator Joan Conway to ban fracking. Thankfully, Sen. Conway refused the bait and supported fracking in Maryland (although we eventually lost this battle anyway, I’m sad to say, due to such tactics).

50 States 50 Plans with Mark RuffaloBack in 2015, another report was hailed by environmentalist groups. The “50 States 50 Plans” report authored by  Mark Jacobson, the director of the Atmosphere and Energy Program at Stanford, claimed the United States could, for all purposes, be at 100 percent renewable energy by 2055. The plan was even touted by Mark Ruffalo on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (an unfunny comedy show is the first place to look for serious science discussion, of course). The study, in short, claims there is a step-by-step process for each state to wean off all fossil fuels – a Jan Matthys version of the “Keep it in the Ground” movement.

Like all of these junk science studies, it was riddled with so much information, that 21 researchers from across academia published a retort of the 50/50 plan in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The abstract of this retort describes the Jacobson plan as:

“work used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions”

Inadequately supported assumptions is surely an appropriate characterization, if not a sugar coated one. I never thought I would agree with a Berkeley professor on anything, but Daniel Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, says this about the plan from Jacobson and friends:

“They do bizarre things. They treat U.S. hydropower as an entirely fungible resource. Like the amount [of power] coming from a river in Washington state is available in Georgia, instantaneously.”

A great article at The Reason Foundation list the myriad faulty assumptions employed by Jacobson. They range from thermal energy storage systems that will be deployed in nearly every community to the total of 2,604 GW of storage charging capacity, which is more the double the capacity of all power plants in the country. The article also identifies the ridiculous mandates the Jacobson plan implies. It would require installation of:

“…335,000 onshore wind turbines; 154,000 offshore wind turbines; 75 million residential photovoltaic systems; 2.75 commercial photovoltaic systems; 46,000 utility-scale photovoltaic facilities; 3,600 concentrated solar power facilities with onsite heat storage; and an extensive array of underground thermal storage facilities.”

100% RenewablesThese scholars’ biggest fear? According to David Victor, an energy policy researcher at the University of California, San Diego, and coauthor of the critique, it is that Jacobson’s plan. left unchallenged, would drive legislation mandating policies that cannot be implemented with available technologies and resources. He should understand this more than most living in California where closed-door meetings with sue-happy special interest groups also close the door to any rational alternatives to their impractical ideology.

Jacobson stands by his paper and thinks the 21 researchers who challenged his fact-less wild-assed assumptions are just advocates of nuclear, fossil fuels, or carbon sequestration. “They don’t like the fact that we’re getting a lot of attention, so they’re trying to diminish our work,” he protests. But, isn’t peer review always a good thing? If Jacobson truly believed the 50/50 plan was the right path forward, he should welcome it, shouldn’t he? This would seem to me to be the best way to improve the plan if I were the author.

These lackadaisical ideological studies are creating more problems than they can solve, so they are naturally hailed as proof in the political spectrum. My Congressman, Chris Van Hollen, is the kind of politician who operates in just this fashion. He is opposed to fracking. His climate policies are backed by the Sierra Club and he was “honored” as a Climate Champion by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Both groups are well known to us as charlatans. Relying upon junks science such as the Jacobson plan, he introduced a Healthy Climate and Family Security Act in 2015 that would have imposed a carbon cap and trade program to be added to the Internal Revenue Code for only crude oil refineries, petroleum importers, coal mines, coal importers, and natural gas suppliers or processors.

This is just one example of many demonstrating how misinformation gets internalized by the political system. Perhaps, if more regulation is what the politicians believe will help, they should be regulating themselves and setting standards to ensure research isn’t used to set policy until it’s been peer reviewed by others of appropriate skepticism. It seems Jacobson’s plan never got that kind of attention — until now.

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15 thoughts on “100% Renewable Energy Plan: Junk Science at Its Best

  1. Only a fraudster would acknowledge Josh Fox and Mark Ruffalo as Jacobsen did in the 2013 report that said NY could be 100% renewable by 2030. Only a fraudster would make the assumption that EVERY SINGLE FOSSIL FUELED VEHICLE would be off the road in NY. What about trucks, trains, airplanes etc. entering from other state? Who was going to pay me to replace my car? The so-called ‘economist’ on the project did not report what Bloomberg did – the cost in real dollars to implement this foolish scheme. And why would a ‘scientist’ from Stanford even care about what happened in NY?

    Read carefully, the paper is the usual socialist manifesto calling for more government, more taxes, more regulation and fewer freedoms. It is full of ‘should’s, ‘could’s and other speculative language, NOT the language of science.

  2. Jacobson has been criticized not just for his shoddy work but by his arrogance (ooh the only reason I am being criticized is because everyone is jealous of me) for a while that I have seen, especially by those who support or like nuclear energy.

    You should see the write-up by the dingaling Joe romm over at think progress where apparently it is no big whoop that Jacobson’s paper is for the birds at all because everyone is on the same team according to Joe. Details and facts mean poop for Joe over at think progress. And not just Joe either. For most of the “reporters” over at think progress who seem to be under the impression that there is something called progressive news? They are similar to some folks on the other side of the political spectrum who i guess think that there are conservative facts or news too?

    How come no reporters are writing about how Jacobson is an activist and part of the antifracking movement? He works directly with Josh fox and mark ruffalo. And in NY State the empire State of ban fracking his report is like gospel to those in the church of ban fracking. And those people as everyone should know by now are ones that policymakers and legislators listen to.

    Maryland’s ban on fracking should be repealed just like the ban on alcohol was back in the day when “progressives” got out of control much like they are today.


  3. Also you should go to solutions project , which is Jacobson’s org run with the antifracking movement and see if any groups are being funded by Mark and the antifracking movement in Maryland.

  4. I’ll just list all the words you used in this article to describe the other side, the side of citizens that don’t agree with you, that Shale and Gas Drilling is good for us and safe and worthy of pursuit.

    Here are your descriptions of those who disagree :
    “disregard the facts”, “hype up”, “opportunism”, “complete disregard for truth”, “exploit politicos”, “ridiculous renewables plant”, “spreading misinformation”, “junk science”, “implausible”, “faulty assumptions”, “ridiculous mandates”, “special interest groups”, “sue-happy”, “impractical ideology”, “fact-less, wild-assed assumptions”, “lackadaisical”, “charlatans” and
    you probably restrained yourself in your descriptions…as you state:
    “Inadequately supported assumptions is surely an appropriate characterization, if not a sugar coated one.”
    of course, we, the opposing side, could not have anything right, can’t have any facts, and can’t have any pure motives or good intentions..

    well, the Truth and Good Intentions will prevail and we will continue to do all we can legally to protect our lives and land ….
    when you live next to a fracking site and compressor station and have your children there and next to your schools and I mean next door, not a mile away ….
    then come to us and tell us how wonderful this is for your health and well-being and for the land…

    We have over 1,000 DEP Violations in our county just from the Shale Industry and counting…

    And Cabot is still banned from 9 sq. miles in my county from doing any fracking/drilling because of serious impacts to our aquifer…

    • The truth is Vera your friends created a conspiracy theory about export on the port Ambrose lng import project which they willingly dispersed to the public, reporters , agencies, politicians and each other. The truth is Vera your movement attacks people like me who speak out. The truth is Vera that the federal energy regulatory commission is not a rogue agency as Robert Kennedy jr called it. The truth is that it is the present where natural gas has surpassed coal, though only slightly, in producing electricty in the united States of America, a historic moment. The truth is that you are wrong Vera. The truth is mark Jacobson works directly with the antifracking movement and is currently funding groups in NY State and elsewhere.

      • Karen,
        Vera and her ilk would even attack their own selves individually or collectively as long as it generated the most important thing in their lives ….It brought adoring attention to themselves.

    • It’s time we call the CO2 witch hunt for what it is – a complete and utter fraud, forced upon us all by well intentioned yet hysterical groups. Sorry, but the descriptions used in this article you find so offensive have been well earned and simply describe the as-is state of the anti-CO2 cabal.

      The Scientific Method is brutal, no holds barred. That’s why it works. Any theory postulated has to endure through the fire of hard debate and facts/questions from all perspectives. No ‘consensus’ is allowed. The theory either survives the debate intact, or dies a hideous death at the hands of ALL facts and data available. Opinions based on emotion will not survive.

      Can you imagine hundreds of thousands of gigantic bird choppers positioned like massive tombstones all across our beautiful country? Huge solar arrays consuming miles and miles of land? In the end, all this would have absolutely ZERO impact on our global climate anyway, which is governed by dozens of other drivers far more potent than CO2, or methane for that matter.

      We need common sense discussions devoid of hysteria for addressing our resource, human population, waste, pollution etc. issues. All this mis-direction towards carbon based energy via the mythical CO2 boogy man is massively hurting our collective ability to focus on real issues. Those who just want to get rich trading carbon credits on the back of the CO2 mania can stick it where the sun never shines, IMHO.

      • Mr. Blake, I am open to a “non-hysterical , non-naming calling, common sense” discussion addressing energy, waste, pollution issues….
        Would you like to have a one-on-one discussion with me or with a small group ?
        I’ve been asking for this the past several years and have no takers so far.
        and when you tell others “to stick it where the sun never shines”, consider telling them to “stick it where the sun always shines…”…..
        we’re into the sun….

        thanks, for your consideration….and have a good day…

        • Vera your movement is founded on hysteria. Please see the radon pipeline bill hearing in NYC as just one example of that.. Search for a video where Sandra steingraber makes out like there was no way to introduce lng regs in NY,no way no how, because there was no science in the whole process. None. And of course all the facilities would be unsafe. Meanwhile there are a few grandfathered lng peak shaving facilities downstate including in NYc. And I believe long island.

          That was in 2013 Vera. Hard to comprehend how the NY DEC doesn’t know she’s not to believed.

        • Hmm! Ms (Mrs.) Scroggins, your offer sounds quite intriguing! What would happen if you and I openly, congenially, respectfully provided our views to this venue? I’m certainly not an expert in this field, and I do happen to work for an O&G firm as an equipment integrity engineer. But I have to say I’ve also yet to see an actual open discussion take place anywhere. It’s always a one-sided argument slanted in a means to demonize the other. An actual open and honest discussion w/o the grade school attacks – brilliant! What do ya say? Would you like to give it a whirl? We could contact these folks who run this site to see if they’d be open to such a thing. I bet it’d be a hit!

      • I would hope Mr. Ruffalo and his entertainment compadres have either gone to college, taken classes and successfully graduated with degrees in the various fields of environmental sciences and/or at least grew up promoting environmental stewardship at the “school of hard knocks”. If not, then I have here a number of geological formations in a box that are certainly more intelligent than he and all of his collective ilk.

      • Well you are a terrific example of how people use non facts and gibberish about co2. By the way you are commenting on a site called natural gas now and one selling point of natural gas now and it isn’t a small one is that it releases less co2 when combusted than other fossil fuels.

  5. Pingback: 100% Renewable is the a Realistic Goal or a No Pipe Dream : Keystone Clean Water Team (CCGG)

  6. Two things that are missing from getting a really good understanding of this topic are: 1. Realistic Sources of Energy and 2. Realistic Economics.

    The MARKETPLACE is the ultimate judge of what works or doesn’t, and so far the ‘sun and wind’ don’t fill the societal needs nor compete well economically.

    And look to Germany, with some of the best technical people on earth, to see what the silly pursuit of ‘sun and wind’ has done to them.

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