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Fossil Fuels are Dead, Long Live Fossil Fuels

With new carbon capture and sequestration technologies, can fossil fuels be part of the zero-carbon solution?

The start of a new year – and decade – is a good time to revisit how new technologies are impacting the electricity sector. In the electricity generation space, the hottest technologies seem to be wind turbines and solar panels. Visions of producing 100% renewable electricity are dancing through lots of heads, including Bernie Sanders’ and the proponents of the Green New Deal.

I’ve also come across a couple of new technologies that seem poised to pump life into older fossil-fuel-based technologies. For example, colleagues of mine in the chemistry department at UC Berkeley have founded a company, Mosaic Materials, based on a chemical that works as a low-cost CO2  sponge and can be used to support carbon capture and sequestration from fossil-fuel-based power plant emissions.


What are the prospects for technologies that seek to decarbonize fossil-fuel electricity generation? Can they make economic sense, and, if so, are they getting any support in policy circles? In short, the answers seem to be that there are good prospects, but limited policy support.

Deep Decarbonization Appears Cheaper with at Least Some Fossil Fuel Use

Electricity generation is projected to play a central role in global decarbonization efforts. On the one hand, electricity generation is supposed to scale up rapidly, as we use electricity to replace fossil fuels in everything from powering vehicles to heating buildings and cooking food. At the same time, decarbonization necessitates a radical transformation in the way we produce electricity, since worldwide, over 60% of electricity is currently produced using fossil fuel technologies.

A number of researchers have sought to model decarbonized electricity systems. For example, several MIT researchers published a paper that modeled low- and zero-carbon systems for a northern electricity system, loosely based on New England’s electricity grid, and a southern electricity system, loosely based on Texas’ electricity grid.

In a nutshell, studies like this one make a range of different assumptions about the costs and efficiency of different low- or zero-carbon technologies and they simulate future electricity demand. They then try to find the least cost way of using the technologies to meet that demand under the different assumptions about, say, the cost and efficiency of solar electricity and the costs and efficiency of storage.

One general finding of these studies is that systems based entirely on renewables plus storage involve a whole lot of wasted solar and wind. In order to have enough electricity during periods when its cloudy or the wind isn’t blowing – or worse, when it’s cloudy AND the wind isn’t blowing, the models design electricity systems that vastly overproduce during periods when it’s sunny and windy. This paper cites studies that find we would need to build generating capacity equal to anywhere from 3 to 8 times peak demand to meet demand with renewables. These results hold even with relatively cheap battery storage, mainly due to the multi-day periods of low renewable generation which are particularly likely to occur in the winter when loads are projected to grow disproportionately due to the electrification of heating and other end uses.

By contrast, if you allow the models to use some fossil fuels to generate electricity, and make the fossil-fuel-based electricity low-carbon with carbon capture and sequestration, the costs of eking out the last little bit of carbon from the electricity system are a lot lower – less than half the cost in some of the MIT researchers’ simulations.

Economic Prospects for Carbon Capture and Sequestration

So, what are the economic prospects for carbon capture and sequestration? Mosaic Materials claims that a carbon capture system based on its materials can cost $40 per metric ton of removed CO2 in some applications. I don’t think this includes transportation and storage costs, though. More generally, a report from the  Clean Air Task Force suggests that the current incentives of less than $50 per ton of removed CO2in the Federal tax code (under Section 45Q) could lead to a significant economic expansion of carbon capture and sequestration in some context, like enhanced oil recovery.

How should we think about these costs? One way is to compare $40-50 per ton of CO2 removed to the social cost of carbon, which is currently estimated to be around $50 per ton of CO2. In other words, if the government were to impose the economically correct tax on CO2 emissions, a lot of carbon capture and sequestration projects could be viable. Of course, it’s early days for carbon capture and sequestration, and the cost estimates seem pretty speculative, but costs for a lot of things go down with scale.

Policy Support

Unfortunately, the policy support for carbon capture and sequestration seems lukewarm. In California, state agencies are considering it (and other technologies such as hydrogen) as part of the periodic review of the feasibility of the 100% carbon-free electricity goal required by the law that established the goal, but there has been limited investment in carbon capture and sequestration relative to renewables and storage. Congress passed a law in early 2018 that provides a tax credit for industrial facilities or power plants that remove CO2 (Section 45Q), but it seems the IRS is dragging its feet developing regulations with some crucial implementation details.

At a high level, I see two fundamental arguments for fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration. First, we need all the help we can get. The best way to invest in the stock market is to hold a diversified portfolio. Similarly, I suspect that the best way to invest in decarbonizing the electricity system is to support a diverse portfolio of technologies. Second, there are huge amounts of existing infrastructure that rely on fossil fuels. I know fossil fuels are a dirty word in a lot of environmental circles, but they are ubiquitous worldwide for two fundamental reasons: they’re cheap and energy-dense. If we can work on ways to also make them environmentally benign, that could be huge.

Keep up with Energy Institute blogs, research, and events on Twitter @energyathaas.

Suggested citation: Wolfram, Catherine. “Fossil Fuels are Dead, Long Live Fossil Fuels” Energy Institute Blog, UC Berkeley, January 6, 2020,




Catherine Wolfram View All

Catherine Wolfram is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. ​She is the Program Director of the National Bureau of Economic Research's Environment and Energy Economics Program, Faculty Director of The E2e Project, a research organization focused on energy efficiency and a research affiliate at the Energy Institute at Haas. She is also an affiliated faculty member of in the Agriculture and Resource Economics department and the Energy and Resources Group at Berkeley.

Wolfram has published extensively on the economics of energy markets. Her work has analyzed rural electrification programs in the developing world, energy efficiency programs in the US, the effects of environmental regulation on energy markets and the impact of privatization and restructuring in the US and UK. She is currently implementing several randomized controlled trials to evaluate energy programs in the U.S., Ghana, and Kenya.

She received a PhD in Economics from MIT in 1996 and an AB from Harvard in 1989. Before joining the faculty at UC Berkeley, she was an Assistant Professor of Economics at Harvard.

62 thoughts on “Fossil Fuels are Dead, Long Live Fossil Fuels Leave a comment

  1. Good day Catherine,

    I would like to note a few things regarding your article:

    Regarding carbon capture, I did not see mention of the failed Kemper plant, and the billions lost therein. I am also not aware of enthusiasm for such projects among utilities.

    At least prior to Covid 19, utilities and independent power producers had 60GW worth of renewables in various states of planning and production, around 45 GW of gas, and zero for coal. This is where the money is going.

    There is quite a rancid chestnut I see over and over again, “…when the wind doesn’t blow”. Perhaps many are unfamiliar with how wind farms come to be: A wind survey is recorded at a designated site over a year’s time, and following confirmation that the site is viable, a power purchase agreement is secured to buy that power….all parties can understand what the Capacity Factor will be from said farm…IIRC the national average is 37%.

    BEFORE…. repeat, BEFORE, COVID 19 hit the US hard, Capacity factors at four of the biggest plants in the US shows they were barely used.

    JANUARY 2020 taken from EIA FORM 923
    Plant State Capacity Factor
    Bowen GA 0.09
    Gibson IN 0.22
    John E Amos WV 0.18
    Scherer GA 0.10

    There were a significant number of other Zombie plants like this in the US….perhaps they are receiving capacity payments to sit dis-used

    The other issue with Carbon sequestration is that of Opportunity Cost: is that truly the best use of a utility’s financial resources, or are there better choices? The market is pretty clear on that answer, just follow the money.

    Thank you,


  2. The question as to whether fossil fuels can be part of the zero-carbon solution is critical. Fossil fuels particularly oil and gas need to be part of net zero emissions, the zero-carbon solution, and critically the energy transition. The O&G industry is likely to be with us for the next 30 years and beyond. The O&G industry carries significant challenges and opportunities as well as risks to world economies. Unless addressed this can lead to slower progress on the carbon emissions issue.

    Upstream O&G is a major source of methane and CO2 emissions. Significant technical and economic factors exist that can greatly reduce emissions among O&G fields worldwide. Downstream O&G and by extension the petrochemical industry require high temperature thermal energy currently attainable through the use of fossil fuels only. This in turn makes the O&G industry a key potential partner in the development and research of carbon capture and sequestration and finding alternatives to the generation of high temperature thermal energy aided by economies of scale, size, and scope the industry offers and their in-house research and engineering capacity.

    Policy support whether for carbon capture, zero carbon fuels, or even industrial energy efficiency are either lacking or not in place to encourage these initiatives. Significant efforts are required on this front if major reduction in emissions can be achieved in the O&G industry and the mitigation of technological obsolescence and stranded assets particularly among the new and emerging O&G producing countries. Energy Transition Brings Challenges for New Petroleum Producers

  3. SYW, all these scientists/engineers love you too, despite your ‘kay-boomer dismissal of our discussion as “missing the point” and “know-it-alls in a vacuum.” It’s the kind of comment one might expect from a fresh, innocent mind brimming with overconfidence.

    I think most would agree that Catherine makes good points, although she seems to disagree with your belief renewables + batteries are urgently needed:

    “…we would need to build generating capacity equal to anywhere from 3 to 8 times peak demand to meet demand with renewables. These results hold even with relatively cheap battery storage, mainly due to the multi-day periods of low renewable generation which are particularly likely to occur in the winter when loads are projected to grow disproportionately due to the electrification of heating and other end uses.”

    I’m not an expert, but I do believe in accepting their advice on important matters like climate change. MIT Climate Scientist Kerry Emanuel is just one of many experts who feels “nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change,” and he presents many good reasons in the video I posted above. We both disagree there’s any reason to stop building nuclear plants – if anything, we should be building more as fast as we possibly can. We recognize any dangers they might present pale in comparison to the threat of climate change – one which will leave a world uninhabitable for >90% of extant species alive on the planet today. Yes, it really is that bad.

    • I will point out again that I have rebutted and refuted your points elsewhere on this blog, so I direct readers to those comments.

      One additional point though. Renewables run at a 25% to 40% capacity factor. Our system loads are typically running at a 60% load factor, i.e., the average load is about 60% of the peak load. Even in the summer, the load factor is about 50%. If we assume that the average renewable capacity factor is 30%, we only need to build double the renewable capacity to meet 100% of energy load requirements of the system with current technologies. I don’t see how we ever get to 8 times the capacity.

      • “I will point out again that I have rebutted and refuted your points elsewhere on this blog, so I direct readers to those comments.”

        Thank you Richard, then readers might have an enhanced appreciation for the gaping holes in your understanding of grid electricity.

        The latest example: “Renewables run at a 25% to 40% capacity factor. Our system loads are typically running at a 60% load factor, i.e., the average load is about 60% of the peak load. Even in the summer, the load factor is about 50%. If we assume that the average renewable capacity factor is 30%, we only need to build double the renewable capacity to meet 100% of energy load requirements of the system with current technologies.”

        Policeman: “Sir, you failed to come to a complete stop at that STOP sign.”
        Motorist: “Officer, I do that sometimes, then stop twice at the next one.”

        Here, you suggest the only requirement of generators is to match average demand with average generation, that meeting half of required demand during early evening peaks can be excused by generating twice of demand at 2AM. I only respond to this silliness out of concern some may confuse your inflated confidence in your analytical skills for knowledge. Otherwise, replying to your comments is not worth my time, nor anyone else’s.

        • If the load factor is 50%, that means that you only need twice the average capacity output to meet the peak demand. It’s a simple calculation. I admit that it’s heuristic, but it provides us a ballpark estimate of how much capacity of each resource that we need. The batteries would meet the daily peak during hours when renewables are less available.

          That you need to rely on belittling comments about my personal expertise doesn’t help your case. I have laid out some of my professional qualifications over the last three plus decades. Perhaps you could share your qualifications as an expert.

          • Your simple averages may be “heuristic”, and useful for calculating system efficiency on a dispatchable grid, but they’re useless for resource planning on an all-renewables grid.

            Improving grid efficiency is beneficial; ensuring supply adequacy is essential. As on any conventional grid, engineers on a 100%-renewable grid not only need to supply demand during system peaks – they need to supply demand 24/7. To supply all electricity to the CAISO grid for 24 hours, in the infrequent case when renewables are unavailable or minimally available, would require at least $1 trillion worth of batteries.

            I only attack your analytical skills when they’re deficient, and I don’t care a whit about your resumé. You’re not making sense.

          • Not sure how much resource planning you’ve done, but I’ve worked on California’s resource planning for more than 3 decades.

            I don’t know how you get to $1 trillion for batteries. I showed you how I got to two and a half trillion for the entire U.S. grid versus eight trillion for using all nuclear. I admit that it’s a very rough cut, but its close enought. I’ve already pointed out how you’ve misinterpreted the units in the studies that you’re using. No one is going to invest in a technology that costs $1.5 million/MWH in a market where the market value is less than $75/MWH. That would be 20,000 times higher than the highest market value. You essentially calling any investors in this technology completely stupid and they are certain to lose all of their investment. That’s a pretty incredible claim–that you alone are smarter than an entire market.

          • For some reason the preceding comment just showed up in my Inbox, and it only serves to confirm you really have no idea what you’re talking about. I will indulge you one last time here, then it will be up to you to seek some instruction, for starters, on the difference between power and energy – two specifically-defined, scalar, physical quantities, before you can expect anyone to take you seriously.

            Energy is capacity to perform work, and is measured in joules, ergs, watthours, with all of their prefix multipliers (kilo-, mega-, giga-, etc.). Power is a rate – the speed at which energy is consumed. It’s measured in watts, killowatts, megawatts, etc. depending on the scale of energy consumption being considered. One watt = one joule per second, 1 kilowatt = 1000 watts = 1000 joules/second, etc. A 60-watt light bulb consumes electrical energy at the rate of 60 joules per second.

            Earlier you wrote:

            “It should take the cost per kW and divide by the number of hours of capacity to get to the cost per kWh, so for a 4 hour capacity battery, that would be $375/kWh.”

            The statement makes no sense at all – first, because the rate a battery can dispense energy is only a secondary consideration, and second, because battery capacity isn’t measured in units of time but units of energy: joules, ergs, kilowatthours, or megawatthours. A battery with one kilowatthour of capacity can dispense one kilowatt of power for a period of one hour; the same battery could dispense .5 kilowatts of power for a period of 2 hours. The power and capacity of a battery are 100% independent of each other, so there’s no way to convert the cost of one to the other.

            You shouldn’t be ashamed of not understanding this stuff – for me, it took building an electric car from scratch before I got a handle on it. I’d bet all but 2-3 of commissioners on the CPUC / CEC combined don’t understand it. You should be ashamed of consulting for them as if you do, and taking the money of California taxpayers, and advancing the profit-driven agenda of fossil fuel interests to shut down our state’s largest sources of carbon-free energy without even a cursory understanding of the physics of electromagnetism. Since there isn’t much work at the moment, it would be a great time to take some video instruction on how electricity works. For you, “Electricity 101” would be a good place to start.

          • Carl
            I suggest you spend more time research how the storage industry is expressing its cost per unit. The industry doesn’t use exactly the same nomenclature as the rest of the industry. I very well understand how the cost of storage is expressed. The EIA report that you continually cite is the ONLY report that I’ve seen that calculates this in the manner that you prefer. And I will note that the analyst who wrote that report several years ago no longer works in the Energy Department–her LinkedIn lists here in a different federal agency now. If you can find another citation that shows a storage cost of $1200 per kWh of usage (or $1,200,000 per MWH), meaning that storage costs on the order of 10,000 times the cost of any other bulk power source, you might have some credibility. As it stands, you are claiming a whole industry sector is completely and utterly foolish and doesn’t understand their own cost structure at all.

          • “…meaning that storage costs on the order of 10,000 times the cost of any other bulk power source, you might have some credibility.”

            Enough. I don’t care that you insult me, but please stop confusing other readers.

            “And I will note that the analyst who wrote that report several years ago no longer works in the Energy Department–her LinkedIn lists here in a different federal agency now.”

            I have no idea to what report you refer. My source is a report written less than two years ago by three analysts at the U.S. Dept. of Energy, then reviewed by 35 independent sources for accuracy (from Acknowledgements);

            “Kevin Lynn, Jennifer Garson, Guohui Yuan (U.S. Department of Energy), Eric Dufek, Kurt Myers (Idaho National Laboratories), Paul Denholm (National Renewable Energy Laboratories), Babu Chalamala, Raymond Byrne, Tu Nguyen, David Copp (Sandia National Laboratories), Mary Wierzbicki, Michael Herbert (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), Jill Powers, William Weaver, Andrew Ulmer, Eric Kim (California Independent System Operator), Rachel McMahon (California Public Utilities Commission), Michael DeSocio, David Flanagan, Raymond Stalter (New York Independent System Operator), Jason Doling, Benjamin Falber, Dana Nilsson, Jennifer Phelps (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority), Logan Goldie-Scot, Sam Cotterall (Bloomberg New Energy Finance), Ravi Manghani (Greentech Media), Haresh Kamath (Electric Power Research Institute), Sam Jaffe (Cairn Energy Research Advisors), Davion Hill (DNV-GL), Simkho Zirkiyev and Adrienne Lalle (Con Edison), Loic Gaillac (Southern California Edison), Kiran Kumaraswamy (Fluence), Ken Boyce (Underwriters Laboratories), Wufan Jia (Mobility House), Carly Sorrentino and Manal Yamout (Advanced Microgrid Solutions) all provided helpful feedback and advice during the process of producing this report.”

   (graph, right side of p2).

            “…if you can find another citation that shows a storage cost of $1200 per kWh of usage…”

            Usage? You’re confusing one kWh of energy with one kWh of battery capacity. An analogy: you’re confusing 15 gallons of gasoline with a 15-gallon tank. In California, we’d need a $1.17 trillion “tank” – 782 GWh of Li-ion battery capacity – to power the state for one day of cloudy, calm weather.

            “As it stands, you are claiming a whole industry sector is completely and utterly foolish and doesn’t understand their own cost structure at all.”

            No I’m not, I’m not even claiming you’re foolish. But by stubbornly refusing to admit you don’t understand it, you’re certainly making yourself look that way.

          • Your calculation of the total cost used a price of $1,200 per kWh. I’m not the one who’s confused. You’re simply misusing the number, if you are claiming that its a capacity value; you are instead using it as though its a standard energy cost that is incurred every time that it’s used. Further, you also are trying to claim every reviewer reviewed every calculation. That’s not how those reviews happen.

            Here’s several studies, including from NREL that show the $1200/kWh was not a valid estimate. Let’s start with a study from 2012(!) that calculates a cost then of $500-$600/kWh.


            And 2 DOE studies showing capacity costs under $500/kWh for industry standard 4 hour duration storage

            Click to access Storage%20Cost%20and%20Performance%20Characterization%20Report_Final.pdf

            Click to access 71714.pdf

  4. I love all these scientists/engineers arguing full throttle and missing the point. Know-it-alls in a vacuum. Fact is friends, Catherine’s article is great, makes a good point, and adds to the urgency needed for many simultaneous solutions that involve more renewables and battery storage (yes of course my dear Carl, in fact, after reading all of your comments I have no idea what you are exactly arguing FOR), more carbon capture of oil/gas industry (no brainer as well), yes nuclear (just not NEW nuclear) until such time in the distant future that we don’t need existing plants anymore, and… drum roll please.. more efficiency and less energy use (not enough of you arguing for that nor including efficiencies in your calcuations) and lowered material consumption, which will furthered by a big deal carbon tax. Now all of you, relax, stop arguing like fools while the house burns down and go be part of the solution. Lordy.

    • SYW, your dismissive “OK Boomer” comment is accepted with all the youthful, innocent, enthusiasm it deserves.

      Now –

      That “Catherine’s article is great” we agree, but the greatest threat to climate crisis we face is not at all about scientists/engineers missing the point. It’s about self-annointed experts, with Ph.D.s from the University of Wikipedia, believing a cursory understanding of a very complicated issue might qualify them to not only enter the discussion, but offer solutions.

      Me, I believe in listening to climate experts, for whom climate science has been a lifetime pursuit, who overwhelmingly believe nuclear energy must be a significant part of any climate solution. But since we’re arguing like fools, you obviously know the solution. That’s great news, what is it? I can’t wait to hear.

      • First, why are climate experts qualified to opine on solutions? Climate scientists are trained to understand our natural system–they have little or no training in technology and economics. They are in no better position to have an informed position on specific solutions than your car mechanic (who is an expert in maintaining automobile technology.)

        Second, please provide evidence that climate “experts” “overwhelmingly” support nuclear energy as a solution to the problem. I see a couple of studies, including the MIT studies that I have pointed out elsewhere on this blog are using erroneous assumptions, and not much else.

        And third, as an expert in energy resource planning with more than three decades of experience, I am in as strong a position as any of your so-called “experts” to evaluate potential solutions. I prepared the first-ever emission reduction supply curve for California in 1990 and have evaluated the costs of two nuclear power plants to assess whether they should continue operations. What type of analyses have you done?

        • “I am in as strong a position as any of your so-called ‘experts’ to evaluate potential solutions.”

          Fair enough. I accept your nomination of yourself as a “Person in as Strong a Position As Any to Evaluate Potential Solutions to Climate Change.” One small request: a list of any awards, or people who might second your nomination, to help identify someone who shares your expansive opinion of yourself?

          I ask, because one so-called expert was a co-signer of a letter to environmentalists at COP 21 in Paris (2015), stating unequivocally that “nuclear power paves the ony viable path forward on climate change” – and he has quite an impressive CV. He, of course, is Dr. James Hansen, former Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Adjunct Professor, Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

          Dr. James Hansen Honors and Awards:

          1977 Goddard Special Achievement Award (Pioneer Venus)
          1978 NASA Group Achievement Award (Voyager, Photopolarimeter)
          1984 NASA Exceptional Service Medal (Radiative Transfer)
          1989 National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Award
          1990 NASA Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive
          1991 University of Iowa Alumni Achievement Award
          1992 American Geophysical Union Fellow
          1993 NASA Group Achievement Award (Galileo, Polarimeter/Radiometer)
          1996 Elected to National Academy of Sciences 1996 GSFC William Nordberg Achievement Medal
          1996 Editors’ Citation for Excellence in Refereeing for Geophysical Research Letters
          1997 NASA Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive
          2000 University of Iowa Alumni Fellow
          2000 GISS Best Scientific Publication (peer vote): “Global warming – alternative scenario”
          2001 John Heinz Environment Award
          2001 Roger Revelle Medal, American Geophysical Union
          2004 GISS Best Scientific Publication (peer vote): ‘Soot Climate Forcing’
          2005 GISS Best Scientific Publication (peer vote): ‘Earth’s Energy Imbalance’
          2006 Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal, World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
          2006 GISS Best Scientific Publication (peer vote): ‘Global Temperature Change’
          2006 Time Magazine designation as one of World’s 100 Most Influential People.
          2007 Laureate, Dan David Prize for Outstanding Achievements & Impacts in Quest for Energy
          2007 Leo Szilard Award, American Physical Society for Outstanding Promotion & Use of Physics for the Benefit of Society
          2007 Haagen-Smit Clean Air Award
          2008 American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Nevada Medal, Desert Research Institute
          2008 Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service in Science
          2008 Bownocker Medal, Ohio State University
          2008 Rachel Carson Award for Integrity in Science, Center for Science in the Public Interest
          2008 Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, American Meteorological Society
          2009 Peter Berle Environmental Integrity Award
          2009 Sophie Prize for Environmental and Sustainable Development
          2010 Blue Planet Prize, Asahi Glass Foundation
          2010 American Association of Physics Teachers Klopsteg Memorial Award for communicating physics to the general public
          2011 Edinburgh Medal from City of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Science Festival
          2011 Steve Schneider Climate Science Communications Award
          2012 Foreign Policy designation as one of its Top 100 Global Thinkers
          2012 Ridenhour Courage Prize
          2013 NASA Distinguished Service Medal
          2014 Center for International Environmental Law’s Frederick R. Anderson Award for Outstanding Contributions to Addressing Climate Change
          2014 Walker Prize, Museum of Science, Boston

          Though I haven’t kept up with Dr. Hansen’s awards of the last five years, rest assured they continue to represent prestigious, groundbreaking institutions from around the world.

          I eagerly await your list…I’m sure your qualifications will put his to shame!

          • Dr. Hansen is an eminent climate scientist. However he has little expertise in HOW to develop policies to address climate change mitigation and adaptation. That also goes for most other climate scientists. Know the limitations of your knowledge and expertise.

          • Perhaps you didn’t read what Hansen’s job was, or for what he was being awarded.

            Hansen is Adjunct Professor, Program on Climate Science, Awareness AND SOLUTIONS, at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
            2014 Center for International Environmental Law’s Frederick R. Anderson Award for OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTIONS TO ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE.

            The Energy to Fight Injustice

            “Scientists should have made it clearer that there is a limited ‘carbon budget’ for the world – a limit on the amount of fossil fuels that can be burned without disastrous consequences. We should have made it clear that removing carbon from our energy supplies – particularly for developing countries such as China and India – requires a suite of carbon-free technologies: hydro, solar, wind and nuclear power.

            This last is a key part of the solution, and one we unfortunately abandoned. Years ago, the US, as the leader in nuclear R&D, had an opportunity to help find a carbon-free path for the world. In 1976, nuclear scientists were ready to build a demonstration ‘fast’ nuclear power plant. Today’s ‘slow’ reactors use less than 1% of the nuclear fuel. A ‘fast’ reactor can utilise more than 99% of the nuclear fuel and can ‘burn’ nuclear waste, which will be needed in the future as easily available uranium is used up.

            However, anti-nuclear forces in politics and ‘green’ organisations eliminated this opportunity – the project was stopped by President Jimmy Carter. Research continued at a low level until 1993 when President Bill Clinton delivered the coup de grace, declaring ‘We are eliminating programs that are no longer needed, such as nuclear power research and development.’

            The enormity of these anti-nuclear policy decisions is difficult to exaggerate. Energy consumption is an inescapable requirement of development, and renewable energy sources alone cannot satisfy the energy demands of China and other developing nations. They now have no choice but to burn massive amounts of coal if they wish to raise their living standards. ”

            In your words: “Know the limitations of your knowledge and expertise.” You are way out of your league.

            Below: Michael Shellenberger, testifying before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology last week.

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