Fisticuffs Over the Route to a Clean-Energy Future

The conclusion of the critique is damning: Professor Jacobson relied on “invalid modeling tools,” committed “modeling errors” and made “implausible and inadequately supported assumptions,” the scholars wrote. “Our paper is pretty devastating,” said Varun Sivaram from the Council on Foreign Relations, a co-author of the new critique.

The experts are not opposed to aggressive investments in renewable energy. But they argue, as does most of the scientific community represented on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that other energy sources — atomic power, say, or natural gas coupled with technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere — are likely to prove indispensable in the global effort to combat climate change. Ignoring them risks derailing the effort to combat climate change.

But with the stakes so high, the gloves are clearly off.

Professor Jacobson is punching back hard. In an article published in the same issue of the Proceedings and in a related blog post, he argues that his critics’ analysis “is riddled with errors and has no impact” on his conclusions.

In a conversation over the weekend, he accused his critics of being shills for the fossil fuel and nuclear industries, without the standing to review his work. “Their paper is really a dangerous paper,” he told me.


In San Francisco, cooking oil is collected for recycling into biofuels. Mark Z. Jacobson, a Stanford engineer, claims renewables can provide 100 percent of the nation’s energy needs in a few decades without bioenergy, which today contributes about half of the country’s renewable energy production

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

But on close examination, Professor Jacobson’s premise does seem a leap of faith.

Renewable sources provide only about a tenth of the United States’ energy consumption….

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