Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Renewable Energy and Orthodoxy

"A Plan for a Sustainable Future" (PDF) by Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi is an excellent overview on renewable energy and what's needed to make a 100% conversion. It was the cover story of the November 2009 issue of Scientific American. Jacobson also discussed the article with Financial Times this past May. While there are some practical problems, such as the scarcity of some key materials, overall the major obstacle is political will. Jacobson and Delucchi calculate that wind, water and sunlight (WWS for short) could provide all of our energy by 2030 (although they think that realistically, it will take longer due to political resistance). In any case, I found the article educational and encouraging.

Both these links come from Jonathan Schwarz' piece "Robert J. Samuelson: Why Is He So Incredibly Awful?" which is well worth a read on its own. Samuelson has often attacked Social Security, as well as health care and decent wages for the working class (follow the links in this long post for examples). Here's an excerpt from Schwarz' post:

I don't think Samuelson is literally in the pay of the oil and coal industries (at least not directly). Yet without addressing any of the many serious people who've studied this, he simply pronounces that significant change isn't possible. Why?

The reason, I'm certain, is he's just the kind of person who in every situation has a deep emotional attachment to the status quo. Everything is already the best it can be. If he'd been alive in 1870, he would have been writing about how we could never switch off of a whale blubber-powered economy. If we followed Mark Jacobson's recommendations, in 40 years Samuelson would be writing about how we could never switch from solar and wind power.

Samuelson's op-ed at least supports research and development, and gradual taxes on coal and oil, even if - predictably - he also urges "major spending cuts." But I agree that a great deal of conservatism, and establishment thinking in general, is fundamentally irrational. It's based on consensus views in a particular circle, emotional attachments and cognitive resistances. For months now, Paul Krugman has been detailing how world leaders' reactions to current global economic woes run against all logic. It's not hard to think of other examples where the Conventional Wisdom has been dead wrong (the Beltway crowd on Iraq). We'll continue to delve into this issue...

1 comment:

libhom said...

How come the right's calls for major spending cuts don't involve ending the Iraq War?