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Stanford, UCD Researchers Say 100% Renewable Energy Possible By 2050

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the triumph-of-the-will dept.

Earth 360

thecarchik writes with news of an analysis published in Energy Policy by researchers from Stanford University and the University of California-Davis. "There are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources, said author Mark Jacobson, a Stanford professor, saying it is only a question of 'whether we have the societal and political will.' During this decade, the two 'fuels of the future' will be electricity and gasoline. Beyond that, we can't project."

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360 comments

2050 probably won't be good enough.. (4, Informative)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35241882)

Hopefully before crude oil hits $250 a barrel [wordpress.com] (which will happen sometime around 2035 or later) and the world spins out of control. What's especially interesting is looking at the rising food costs and population growth side-by-side with peak oil graphs [inteldaily.com] .

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (-1, Offtopic)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#35241904)

Well the funny thing is...we could end pretty much all issues with food and fuel within the next 5-10 years. But people wouldn't have the stomach to go to war and clean up(aka removing despots and dictatorships) africa so it could become a major agricultural exporter of grains.

Oh well I've been looking for a diesel for the last bit anyway. They're stupidly easy to convert to burn well just about anything.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35241948)

Good first step would be to stop installing them in first place ....

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (0, Flamebait)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242146)

Talking about "first steps", could someone explain something to me. It's simple, and it's a stupid question, but I'd still like it answered :

Today's energy cycle :
Sun -> plants -> animals -> bacteria -> (adding geothermal energy) -> digging them up & using them

Tomorrow's energy cycle:
Sun -> using it
Sun -> athmospheric pressure differences -> using it

Anyone else notice what's missing from tomorrow's cycle ?

How is this good for plants and/or animals (or bacteria for that matter) ? When the usage of renewable energy grows we will have to take more and more energy away (directly) from the rest of the biosphere.

Now anyone who's learned the least little bit of thermodynamics or eveolution can tell you this : the biosphere can function perfectly well when it's warm. Not when it's cold (before idiots reply : deserts are caused by COLD, not heat). The biosphere can function perfectly well with pollution. It can function perfectly well with more water. With less water ... in general : the biosphere can function with what we're doing now.

It CANNOT function without energy.

And yes, we don't see these effects right now because there's only a truly tiny installed base of renewable energy (just like global warming was a totally negligible effect the first 100 years of oil use). When we install anywhere near the capacity needed to get 10% of worldwide energy from renewables, we will have no choice : we will have to make a region the size of a small continent entirely lifeless. For 100% we will absolutely need to "steal" so much energy half the atlantic ocean would no longer contain so much as a s single fish.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242192)

Actually, in 1 hour the sun provides as much energy to the earth that humans consume in an entire year. So assuming we can harness it efficiently to and not have to cover the 10% of the surface of the earth is PV panels, this would not affect the biosphere. I'm guessing a solar eclipse reflects more energy away from earth than that.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242224)

there's no shortage of heat at the equator where you'd want to build solar panels and the heat bleeds back out thanks to the old laws of thermodynamics.

There's plenty left for the rest of the biosphere.
Whether the rays of light hit dead sand or dead solar panel they give exactly as much energy to the biosphere.

Solar would require a stupidly large area but nothing like half the Atlantic. The obvious choice is to stick it on top of somewhere already short on life like deserts.

In most of the ocean life is limited by the amount of iron, not the amount of light.

"(adding geothermal energy)"

geothermal isn't what you think it is.

Only a square 251km a side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242286)

Only a square 251km a side would be required for 5% effective solar to supply the entire world's projected 2020 energy needs. An area about the size of Wales. The earth's surface would be a square about 18000 km on a side.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242232)

When we install anywhere near the capacity needed to get 10% of worldwide energy from renewables, we will have no choice : we will have to make a region the size of a small continent entirely lifeless. For 100% we will absolutely need to "steal" so much energy half the atlantic ocean would no longer contain so much as a s single fish.

Citation needed.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242234)

Sunlight that hits anything not doing photosynthesis is reflected or converted to heat. Almost all energy used by humanity sooner or later ends up as heat. Energy input to the earth remains same or even slightly higher (as less is reflected back to space from solar panels than from sand).

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (1)

juasko (1720212) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242258)

Hmm your deserts are caused by cold, is kinda flawed. The Sahara dessert is purely caused by humans. It used to be a forrest.

And I live in an area which currently has temperatures around -25 degrees Celsius. That colder than your fridge which is around -18. Still in our more temperate season this is far from a dessert. California is a dessert compared to finland. And it's not cold there.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242316)

I hope you are you trolling.
First law of thermodynamics. The Energy is not used up it is just used differently and in the end will always also become heat(second law).
If you used all the availible roofspace, a lot of heating (and cooling too via adsoption) energy cost could be saved without any negative impact to the enviroment.Did you see the movie by Al Gore? You do not need a continent to power the world just a rather small part of any of the big deserts will do for the whole world. Interesting project, at least for europe/africa, is DESERTEC, look it up.
Anyway it would be stupid to do just do one thing or build just one big solar plant somewhere. Reliable energy distribution and/or storage is a bigger problem than generation itself. Distributed energy generation from many different sources(direct solar, wind, bio mass) is the way to go. Personally I would include nuclear(fusion in the future hopefully) too, there were a few great advances in recent years to make it safer/more efficent/cheaper. Just get rid of the old reactors and replace them with new safer/better ones.
One of the areas you completely negelcted is power generation from bio mass(any organic waste).
Ever heard of the "solar updraft tower", the prototype in spain actually helped plant growth due to increased moisture below the collector.
OK, troll is fed enough.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242340)

Sh'yeah, using solar power totally sucks up sunlight that would otherwise benefit plants, and is much worse for the environment than poisoning the air with a few practically harmless carbon oxides.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (2)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242356)

You clearly have no idea as to what you're talking about nor did you do any math before you made your knee jerk reaction. We would only need a small fraction of the Sun's energy. It would hardly even be a blip on the global scale.

Nor do you propose any alternatives. I'm thinking perhaps you're trolling. At least I hope you are trolling, because the alternative is you're just not very smart.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (2)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242366)

Tomorrow's energy cycle: Sun -> using it Sun -> athmospheric pressure differences -> using it

Please add: Sun -> Plants ->Yeast (fermentation) -> Using it (as ethanol)

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (3, Interesting)

kangsterizer (1698322) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242038)

I think it's more about the money.
Free energy? What else do you need once you have that.
Free energy solves nearly everything. Of course, we might not actually get real renewable energy (100.00%) but if we do...
Then you don't need to pay for light, heating directly. All other supplies can be operated on free energy as well and cost nearly zero.

There's still a lot of other things requiring humans to work (medicine, entertainment, etc)) but all the basic needs could be fulfilled for everyone.
It means, the rich couldn't exploit the poor anymore since the poor could just live on with minimum effort if he wanted to. Which also means things would get more equal. That's not something the rich will want to happen.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (4, Informative)

ray-auch (454705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242118)

Renewable != Free

Wind power is renewable, the "fuel" is completely free, but collecting the wind and turning it into usable power is not free. Turbines have to be built, maintained, replaced at end of lfe, land to site them needs to be bought or rented etc. Overall, wind is often more expensive (and has to be subsidised as a result), at least per unit of electricity generated, than oil/gas at current prices.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242370)

Renewable != Free

Wind power is renewable, the "fuel" is completely free, but collecting the wind and turning it into usable power is not free. Turbines have to be built, maintained, replaced at end of lfe, land to site them needs to be bought or rented etc. Overall, wind is often more expensive (and has to be subsidised as a result), at least per unit of electricity generated, than oil/gas at current prices.

Good thing there is two things in this world we can always count on then right? Death & Taxes. Maybe by then we will have figured out that its OK if government does something good for the people just fucking once because it is the right thing to do.

And maybe, just maybe, the BigCorps and the real human beings within them will think twice before trying to fsck with my free power.

Maybe.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (1)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242244)

Um... no

Roughly 70% of the cost of just about anything you buy is labor.

Renewable = free ? My God, are you that stupid ? (0, Flamebait)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242290)

Free energy ? Is that what liberals think renewables are ? Oh dear God.

Renewable energy is only free in exactly the same way food is free : given land, very long-term investments, huge risk, and a *LOT* of patience you can make it "for free".

Now tell me : where can I get me food for free ?

And now let's compare : the price of oil, per unit of energy, currently stands at 5.8e6 BTU for $100 (let's round it seriously upward) : let's say $20 per million BTU
your "free" energy, should be within a factor of 10 of current agricultural energy prices : 150 BTU per pound, 3300 pounds per acre (you need oil-based fertilizer for these yields, but let's ignore that), 14 cents per pound =150*3300 BTU for 3300*0.14$ = 5e5 for $462 = about $1000 per million BTU (this is for corn, one of the more efficient plant species)

Let's suppose we can make renewables 10 times more efficient than they are now. That would be an accomplishment that far surpasses putting a man on the moon btw.

That would make the price per kilometer travelled for your car ... 5 times what it was during the oil crisis ...

"free" ... I think you're going to find "expensive" to be cheaper ... and that's ignoring the fact that there is going to be a (long) period with fundamentally less energy. Who gets to die ?

You know rain is free too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242352)

But damn does my town have the nerve to charge money for the water they get from it.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (3, Interesting)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242044)

Yeah. Going to war worked SO well in Somalia. America got very heavily criticized for military interference in Africa's internal affairs. Citation: PBS. "Less than a year after having been welcomed by the Somali people as heroes, American soldiers were ambushed by Somali men, women, and children." [pbs.org] Then, a year later, America didn't use its military to stop the Rwandan genocide, and got the blame for standing by and doing nothing. Don't trust me: listen to PBS. "The Triumph of Evil: How the West Ignored Warnings of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and Turned Its Back on the Victims." [pbs.org]

I read this story somewhere on the net. One day, an African newspaper's headline read: "Three Headless Bodies Found".

The next day: "Three Heads Found".

The third day: "Heads Don't Match Bodies".

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (2, Interesting)

Kokuyo (549451) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242158)

What we need to do, same as with Israel and Palestine and many others, is dump shitloads of weapons on them, let them duke it out fairly and then, when they finally have enough of killing each other, we could sit down and help them build something worthwhile.

You cannot bring peace and you cannot go and end wars. Only the people involved can do that. They need to want to, they need the guts to stand up and try and they need the staying power to see it through. It's social evolution, and we can't do it for them.

OR we could give them what they need: A shared enemy. But then again, I thought we weren't all that happy about terrorism.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (2)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242400)

>>>let them duke it out fairly and then, when they finally have enough of killing each other, we could sit down and help them build something worthwhile.
>>>

That sounds like the Star Trek TNG solution. Don't interfere, unless they come to you and ASK for peace. But if they want to keep killing each other, then back away and do nothing.

It's also the solution proposed by our first president. Non-interference with world affairs, while our country lives in peace. Only go to war if the US is invaded and has no other choice.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (1, Insightful)

HertzaHaeon (1164143) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242076)

People can't stomach it because of the waste of life and resources, which in the end accomplishes nothing but the installation of another despot.

The latest developments in the Middle East will hopefully be the final nail in the coffin of you war mongers.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (1)

Issarlk (1429361) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242134)

Why go to war when you can just buy the land? The chinese and indians are doing it currently.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242138)

I'm trying to think of an example where a foreign invasion has resulted in installing a government that protects and encourages the freedom of the people involved. The only one that comes to mind is West Germany, and that took a lot of time and investment, and probably wouldn't have happened without the Russian threat. In contrast, I can think of dozens of examples where the new government has - at best - been differently bad, and often worse.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (1)

juasko (1720212) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242246)

Do you really believe that is their problem the despots and dictators. The problem you have in those countries is spelled USA and formely Sovjet.

But the problem in those lands today are only a result of the politics that where during the Cold War and prior to that the colonization that European countries did.

Most of the war and the fights in the world that has lead to people suffering, also by hunger. Has been communism against democracy. And I don't know who to blame the most. To me it seems that the "Democratic" countries has done more damage than good. Look at vietnam, somalia etc etc.

True the cold war is all gone. But the aftereffects still remain, these countries are polarized, and if they learned anything is that money control weapons, weapons control the country. And you think going there "cleaning up" is the solution.

Well the American clean up of Iraq and Afghanistan has really proven successful? Give me a break. The food shortage problems could be easily solved if western countries would be willing to pay the price. But when you if you ever get the insight of what that price is, I bet you rather annihilate those who are suffering.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242332)

This getting a little off-topic but...

Even if Africa were to become a bastion of democracy and jurisprudence, it could not develop an agricultural industry as US & EU farming subsidies would render their product uncompetitive.

Any IMF investment to start said industry would be conditional on opening the market to US/EU goods. Yet high US/EU quality standard would mean only a fraction of goods produced in Africa would be eligible to be sold in either developed market.

Farming subsidies are the real weapons of economic control, and, I would contend the dictatorships are more of a result of the powerlessness to (enter, let alone) compete in what we consider to be civilized & well functioning markets.

Suggesting to 'go-to-war' in order to 'clean things up' is definitely a US perspective on problem solving. Events of the last ten years have obviously gone unnoticed by many.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (1)

Candid88 (1292486) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242342)

africa so it could become a major agricultural exporter of grains.

One of the fundamental problems I don't understand how to overcome is modern mass-produce agriculture relies on massive quantities of oil-based fertilizer, tractors constantly going up and down fields planting, spraying and harvesting, then the food being shipped all over the world. Cheap oil is crucial to the availability of cheap mass-produced food. If the price per barrel goes up to the region of $250 and more. Then food is surely going to experience massive price rises too.

With an already precarious food situation and high population growth rate throughout the 3rd world, how can frequent mass-famines not be an almost guaranteed regular occurrence in future decades?

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (2)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35241906)

There was an article in The Economist a few months back about several companies that are working on what's essentially synthetic gasoline and that they are planning on producing in significant volumes within the next three years or so. I'm eager for practical alternatives to oil so that we can stop kissing OPEC's ass.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (5, Insightful)

spydum (828400) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242430)

Gasoline is not the only thing derived from petroleum resources.. You will still depend heavily on OPEC for all of your plastics, fertilizers, pesticides, and thousands of other uses. So OPEC will still continue to be pretty difficult to ignore.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242012)

What's especially interesting is looking at the rising food costs and population growth side-by-side with peak oil graphs [inteldaily.com].

Is it really that interesting? My kitchen has fruit from Mexico, cheese from Ireland, beer from Europe and the rest - while in country - is shipped across a continent to get to me.

Of course food prices will go hand in hand with rising energy costs.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242426)

Interesting also that global trade in food and goods was developed before the internal combustion engine. Empires were built trading coffee, tea, spices, fabrics, etc. around the world using sailing ships.

Oil isn't necessary for global trade, but it's important to remember that the reason those things were worth sailing around the world for was that they fetched a good price at home - they weren't cheap like today and won't be cheap in the future but it will still be available.

Re:2050 probably won't be good enough.. (-1, Troll)

jandersen (462034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242274)

...the world spins out of control

The world has been out of control since the beginning of the industrial revolution, so it's a bit late for that. "Out of control" is what laissez-faire capitalism is all about - that's what people like Rupert Murdoch mean when they talk about "freedom": complete lack of control and restraint.

Perpetual energy is against the laws of physics (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35241930)

People have been trying to patent 100 percent renewable energy for centuries. The problem is that physicists arrogantly proclaim its not possible.

It's clear that Laissez-faire Libertarianism hasn't completely over-run the patent office.

Re:Perpetual energy is against the laws of physics (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35241960)

Idiot.

Re:Perpetual energy is against the laws of physics (5, Insightful)

FauxPasIII (75900) | more than 3 years ago | (#35241968)

Right. If only we had some sort of giant fusion reactor constantly sending us more energy... but what would we CALL it ?

Re:Perpetual energy is against the laws of physics (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242064)

Yes, but when it shifts from primarily fusing hydrogen to primarily fusing helium we're all doomed! DOOOOOOOMED!

Doooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooomed!

Sustainable would be a better word (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242016)

That energy is not exactly "renewable" in the sense that it can be used again. However, we can make much more use of the energy input that the earth gets from the sun (directly, as in solar panels or heat engines, or indirectly, as in wind and tide energy). That energy is eventually converted to heat and radiated into space, just as the energy was originally radiated in from space. Not renewable in the exact sense, but very clean and sustainable.

Re:Sustainable would be a better word (1)

juasko (1720212) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242308)

There is a completely renewable energy source, and you all (almost) have it. You got your legs, and arms. You eat to fuel them the rest products are disposed of in a fashion that it's renewable.

So what we can't do without muscle craft, should we be doing it at all? Ok that we can build machines but should we really rely on machines for everyday tasks. Especially if those machines only cause trouble in the long run, and waste resources.

Well just a taught for consideration, I'm no Amish type my self, but really is it sane to go on as we do?

Re:Perpetual energy is against the laws of physics (3, Informative)

Hammer (14284) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242022)

I'll bite on this troll...

Renewable energy != perpetual energy
Solar power, wind power, hydro power, burning plant matter are all viable renewable energy sources today.
Incidentally all have been in use for the last... oohh 3000 years

Re:Perpetual energy is against the laws of physics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242180)

I'll bite on this troll...

Renewable energy != perpetual energy
Solar power, wind power, hydro power, burning plant matter are all viable renewable energy sources today.
Incidentally all have been in use for the last... oohh 3000000000 years

FTFY, unless you mean to imply that life on earth in general does not employ solar power?

Re:Perpetual energy is against the laws of physics (1)

MtHuurne (602934) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242058)

"Renewable" doesn't mean "perpetual", it means "lasts as long as the sun". The sun won't last forever, but probably well over a billion years, while oil will likely be depleted in under 100 years (and maybe far sooner than that).

Re:Perpetual energy is against the laws of physics (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242428)

And, don't forget, the sun doesn't care whether we use the energy before radiating it back into space (as heat). The sun will die in a billion years or so, whether we use the energy or radiate it back as soon as it arrived.

Sahara (2)

KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35241938)

Maybe we'll be a few steps closer to being able to cover the Sahara desert with solar panels if more regimes fall. A deal between the EU and the new hopefully democratic governments?

Re:Sahara (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35241994)

That's completely backwards. Whenever big industrial projects (and the associated business interests and concentrations of financial power) come into poor environments, conflicts are born, not solved. Making the EU dependent on solar power generation in northern Africa would basically guarantee bloody conflicts for decades to come. One big aspect of renewable energies is that they work quite well in decentralized configurations. The gains in stability are worth much more than the economies of scale of putting everything in one place.

fools of the future (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35241958)

During this decade, the two 'fuels of the future' will be electricity and gasoline.

Electricty isn't a fuel.

renewable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35241962)

didn't realise solar was renewable, my science class told me the sun was going to burn out eventually...

Oil on the other hand, let some fish decompose and you've renewed the source.

Re:renewable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242000)

Where does those fish get their energy from?

Re:renewable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242124)

From God. Duh!

Re:renewable? (1)

one cup of coffee (1623645) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242048)

Oh, I didn't realize that while the sun's life is finite, there exists an infinite number of fish. Or that fish can live without the sun.

Re:renewable? (1)

juasko (1720212) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242322)

Well, it's only a hypothesis or theory that the oil we have is based o n decomposed fish etc.

But as so many other theories and hypothesis it's portrayed as a fact :(.

But If you can prove it to me I'll be more than happy to learn about it.

Ethanol? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35241972)

I don't trust any article that touts ethanol (presumably from corn)

40 years? I'll be dead by then ... (3, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35241978)

... so fuck 'em. My generation had a pain in the ass dealing with all the bullshit that mere existence dished out, so let's just let's just leave nuclear waste, lack of petroleum based fuels, etc, as a problem for forthcoming generations.

Re:40 years? I'll be dead by then ... (4, Insightful)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242050)

Isn't thinking like this exactly what got us into the environmental and energy problems we have now?

Re:40 years? I'll be dead by then ... (1)

HertzaHaeon (1164143) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242060)

Thank you. You just volonteered as fertilizer for the biofuel that those of us who will be alive in 40 years will need.

righteo.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242010)

Tripe! Replacing all the polluting power plants with new generation coal or nuclear power would be an incredible feat and we're efficient at that. To suggest we can replace all that infrastructure when we have no real suitable proven baseload technology aside from hydro is completely laughable.

Do these people understand money, time and resources are not cheap and infinite? This sounds like something my manager would throw up.

Re:righteo.. (1)

silanea (1241518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242402)

Do these people understand money, time and resources are not cheap and infinite?

If (or rather: once) the energy situation gets bad enough money will stop being a consideration and resources will indeed be "infinite" in the sense that they will simply be utilised no matter what, and by force if necessary. So they err not in their assumptions per se but in their timing. It will be a long way to go before the powers that be stop evaluating their options in units of currency. But it will happen. It has to, really.

Here's how we'll do it: (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242020)

We'll just have China make all the composites and fabricate all the solar panels, mine and refine all the nickle and do all the other nasty work to make our 'clean' new 'renewable' energy system work. Install it here in the West and not talk about the contaminants and pollution we've exported to Asian kids.

Yay 'green' energy. When we're done we'll congratulate ourselves and buff moral cred.

SPOILER ALERT (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242024)

We don't have the societal or political will.

Nothing new here (1)

2Bits (167227) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242040)

Of course, everything is possible if we have the societal and political will. What's new here?

It's called a breeder reactor (1, Interesting)

charnov (183495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242078)

Breeder reactors are clean and never run out of fuel. Hydro is very dirty from enviromental view and very destructive. Solar is getting better. Wind and wave are also dead ends for total replacement as they dont scale. Geothermal and hydrogen could be viable, too.

Hydro? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242130)

Why is hydro power 'very dirty'?

Re:Hydro? (4, Informative)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242166)

Reservoir sites usually contain lots of vegetation, and once underwater, the plants naturally decompose and release methane (a greenhouse gas). That's why it's considered "dirty." It's considered destructive because of the effect on migratory patterns, currents, and the overall eco-system surrounding the dam. There have also been reports of increased temperature levels around hydroelectric dams which can have a very harmful effect on surrounding wildlife.

Thermal effects of hydroelectric power stations on the environment [springerlink.com]

The Environmental Literacy Council - Hydroelectric Power [enviroliteracy.org]

Re:Hydro? (1)

juasko (1720212) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242336)

Also any dam kills that local eco system that exists at that specific place. Trapping water is very dirty as it may take thousands of years for the nature around that trap to acclimatize. Beavers seems to be the only ones that can build a dam that doesn't impact too much on nature.

Re:It's called a breeder reactor (2)

k8to (9046) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242270)

Breeder reactors are relatively efficient. "Never run out of fuel" is a pipe dream. The 1800s perpetual motion machines want to talk to you.

Yea right (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242080)

As if looking one year into the future isn't difficult enough. The whole article is just wishful thinking.

Re:Yea right (1)

Cryophallion (1129715) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242144)

Seriously, I thought growing up I was supposed to have all the stuff shown on the Jetsons...

And politicians and society as a whole are more than happy to spend other people's money to make these things happen. As soon as it becomes about their money though, few want to do it.

I'll just put this up there with the perpetual motion machine, because there is always something that breaks any time it comes to energy, nothing is fully renewable. Entropy rules all in the end. I'll believe it when I see it.

Re:Yea right (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242410)

Actually, it can be easy to predict technological progress. The most popular technological prediction is Moore's Law. What's more interesting is whether we would be following Moore's Law if we didn't believe we could. If we had politicians saying we couldn't do it, and trying would destroy our economy, perhaps we'd be stuck with 20 MHz 32-bit processors.

PR Puff Piece (4, Informative)

jamesl (106902) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242090)

This Stanford PR piece has received a lot of "coverage" -- mostly cut and paste.

Here are links to the original papers.
http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/JDEnPolicyPt1.pdf [stanford.edu]
http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/DJEnPolicyPt2.pdf [stanford.edu]

We estimate that 3,800,000 5 MW wind turbines, 49,000 300 MW concentrated solar plants, 40,000 300 MW solar
PV power plants, 1.7 billion 3 kWrooftop PV systems, 5350 100 MWgeothermal power plants, 270
new 1300 MWhydroelectric power plants, 720,000 0.75 MWwave devices, and 490,000 1 MWtidal
turbines can power a 2030 WWS world that uses electricity and electrolytic hydrogen for all purposes. ...
Barriers to the plan are primarily social and political, not technological or economic.

I'm sure everybody will want to study the papers in detail. And hold on to your checkbooks.

Re:PR Puff Piece (3, Interesting)

Olivier Galibert (774) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242128)

Niiiiiiice. $19 trillions just for the wind turbines (around 5M each), $100 trillions for the rooftop PV systems (around 60K each), but there is no economic issue. Right.

Only $135 billions for the dams (around 500M each)... if you can find 270 new places in where to put them...

    OG.

Re:PR Puff Piece (5, Interesting)

locofungus (179280) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242288)

Niiiiiiice. $19 trillions just for the wind turbines (around 5M each), $100 trillions for the rooftop PV systems (around 60K each), but there is no economic issue. Right.

85 million bbl/day oil consumption (2007)

At $100 per bbl that's $8.5 billion per day or, by 2050 $120 trillion, almost exactly the same cost as you've given above.

Oil is less than $100/bbl now but is almost certainly going to be a lot more than $100/bbl by 2050 (unless, of course, we've switched most of our power generation to alternatives so that there's no longer the same demand)

Right now, migrating off oil is looking approximately economically neutral. There's a cashflow issue - if we do it over the next 40 years we're going to need about $3 trillion tied up in building new infrastructure (assuming it takes about 1 year from starting building to bringing something on line - dams are obviously slower, wind farms seem to be quicker). But the longer we leave it the more urgent it's going to become (eventually there will be a time when we have to be off oil) and the more cash we'll have to tie up in order to build the infrastructure more quickly.

Tim.

Re:PR Puff Piece (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242386)

"At $100 per bbl that's $8.5 billion per day or, by 2050 $120 trillion, almost exactly the same cost as you've given above."

It's an interesting "back of the envelope" comparison. I like it.

But keep in mind what that implies: it would cost roughly the same as *all* the oil used in the next 40 years (at today's prices) to pay for the conversion. So, double whatever you're paying now, and that'll roughly cover it.

I don't know how many people can afford to start paying $200/barrel from today, half for the oil we need to keep food on the table today, and half for the investment in alternatives. Mind you, if we actually did do that, the price of oil would start going down or at least flatten out as the demand stabilized (because we're replacing ever more of it with alternatives).

Anyway, I think the grandparent poster is right: there is a *big* economic issue here too, and it's ridiculous to imply otherwise. It's not easy to swing that kind of investment when we're already investing so heavily in the status quo. This article is saying it's possible to do, which is good, and I think we should get on with it. But it isn't going to be easy.

Re:PR Puff Piece (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242310)

Spread out over 20 years, the economy is not really an issue. That works out at about 6 trillions a year for the whole world, that's about 10% of the global GDP.

In reality, probably even less if one considers impacts of mass production and technological improvements.

Re:PR Puff Piece (3, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242210)

Barriers to the plan are primarily social and political, not technological or economic.

Not economic, eh? I suppose you can make any economic argument up and buttress it with facts and graphs and sell it to somebody, but if fails the sanity test. Even China who has the closest thing to a command economy on the planet is hell bent on running up coal and nuclear for the short term. We've barely started to bring 300 MW concentrated solar plants on line, much less create 50,000 of them, hydro is pretty much tapped out in most places and is a risky bet when you factor in climate change (hard to move the stupid things if rainfall predictions are wrong). Tidal and mwave are beta technologies at best and damned expensive ones at that. In the event that the authors of the study have missed it, we're in the midst of a generation changing recession with most of the first world countries who would putatively bankroll this non economic problem having major problems making next month's payroll.

And even if the supposition is correct - even if it's 'only social and political' - how the hell do you plan on solving the most intractable issues that the human race has managed to come up with - that of getting along with each other? Politics is the art of the possible, not pixie dust and ponies (that's Steve Job's department).

Some people really need to go outside sometimes.

Re:PR Puff Piece (3, Interesting)

a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242398)

Even China who has the closest thing to a command economy on the planet is hell bent on running up coal and nuclear for the short term.

China is the second largest wind power producer in the world and are quickly climbing the ranks to become #1.

China is actually very heavily investing in wind power and about half of world wide wind power added during the first half of 2010 was in China.

http://www.wwindea.org/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=21&Itemid=43 [wwindea.org]

Before the end of this year China will be the #1 wind power in the world surpassing USA.

Re:PR Puff Piece (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242268)

What's a WW?

Sounds big... bigger than MEGAWATT!

I want one!

Is it enough to power a flux capacitor?

Electricity or Gasoline? (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242174)

Why use the implied polemic "Electricity and Gasoline"? Is he pushing the standard lie that, if the world replaces food crops with flammable plant oil, the new version will be CO2 free? Is CO2 really a problem yet anyway? This implication is not only false science, it could cause international havoc by raising the price of food.

Re:Electricity or Gasoline? (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242318)

No, probably the most of the world will run on electricity with biogasoline/biodiesel used where electricity is not cost-effective (like, farm machinery, ships, airplanes, etc.)

Why would we want this? (-1, Troll)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242212)

Why on earth would anyone want to remove yet another limit to human growth? We don't need more energy, we need to use less energy, period. At its base, this means fewer humans. We simply need to decrease the surplus population of ravenously resource-hungry bourgeoisie. It is incredible that in this day and age, there are still no limits on how many children hetero couples are allowed to conceive. Christian sects encourage their brainwashed followers to have as many children as possible, so as to elbow out the smart people. In a democracy this can only mean bad news. What we really need is a Chinese-style one child policy, or better yet incentives for no children at all. Misusing science to find better ways to exploit the earth for more and more energy will just end in tragedy, because there is no end to the hunger for resources.

Re:Why would we want this? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242252)

No it doesn't. Better quality of life means less kids. AFAIK this is purely biological and at most mildly influenced by religion. Education and access to contraceptives are also important factors.

Re:Why would we want this? (3, Informative)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242298)

Why on earth would anyone want to remove yet another limit to human growth?

Where do you see a correlation between access to energy and population growth?

The countries with greater population countries are Liberia, Burundi, Afghanistan, Western Sahara, East Timor, Niger, Eritrea, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Palestinian territories. Clearly they have too much access to energy.

What we really need is a Chinese-style one child policy, or better yet incentives for no children at all.

Because, not only that doesn't have any moral implications, as it clearly worked in reducing their population [wolframalpha.com] .

Don't get me wrong, I agree that having many children with our current population is completely immoral, but I think that approach to dealing with the problem is misguided.

Re:Why would we want this? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242306)

The countries with greater population countries are

Sorry. "The countries with greater population growth rate are"

Re:Why would we want this? (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242434)

The Chinese population is continuing to rise because the one child policy has been in place for only several decades, and improvements in health have increased the average lifespan. The Chinese population will go down when people born before the one child policy die of old age, in a few decades.

Re:Why would we want this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242330)

You, sir, make a great case for abortion. Please, GTFO of this world and don't let the door hit you. It's a damn shame your momy had no idea what RU-486 was. She could have saved the earth and us from your carbon footprint.

Re:Why would we want this? (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242414)

There's more than just earth, you know. And if you feel so strongly that the population needs to be reduced, that humanity should just let itself fade away, then why don't you lead by example and off yourself? Then the rest of us can get on with expanding the human race and moving off this rock.

Re:Why would we want this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242432)

Funny. Its already a whole lot cheaper to have no kids. I don't think thats it.

No Problem (1, Interesting)

gmdiesel (1272738) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242222)

By 2050 disease and war will have reduced the global population to a fraction of what it is today, and whoever is left will not be wasting energy on heating and cooling McMansions and feeding oversized vehicles and toys. It won't be that we've managed to move to renewables on a scale that can keep up with the population, just that we've reduced the population to the point that renewable energy will have no problem keeping up with demand.

"barriers" (1)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242230)

There are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources

I didn't read any further than this. If there aren't any economic barriers, then why does it need any sort of public backing or support. If wind and solar actually were an economic alternative to things like coal, then power companies would be switching without any other sort of incentive, simply to save money.

Now, one could certainly make the argument (though he doesn't) that fossil fuels produce negative externalities to society, and correcting for that clean energy is actually more economic in the long run for us all. However, correcting for market failures at a national political level is definitely a "barrier" in my mind, and even more so if he thinks we can expand this to a global scale.

Re:"barriers" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242360)

we can expand this to a global scale

Which we can't. Whatever fossil fuel we fail to consume will be burned up in the unregulated engines and furnaces of the third world to which the last remaining vestige of our industry will evacuate. We, and the environment, will be better off if we burn it ourselves.

Re:"barriers" (2)

bunratty (545641) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242422)

I think "no economic barriers" is different from "more profitable". There were no economic barriers to going to the moon, but it was not profitable. Because there was no profit in it, we wouldn't expect companies to do it without public backing.

Possible but unlikely (1)

jopet (538074) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242348)

There are three major issues, two are more technical and one is political:
The technical issues: transportation of goods ( by ship, airplane or trucks) and intensive farming. Both rely practically to 100% on oil-based technology and there is no strategy and no technology in sight how to change this, or change it quickly enough.

The other, perhaps more important issue is political: the only way to have the solutions available when we need them is to start pumping money into them now, or even better, yesterday. However, companies that want to make a profit will not pay more than necessary for this now and will stick to oil-based technology as long as that is cheaper. And governments, especially neo-liberally influenced ones, cannot invest the huge amount of tax-payer money either (which will give countries like China a huge long-term advantage in this area).
Maybe the best argument to motivate countries like the US to invest more into this is that practically all their war-technology is based on oil too: tanks, jets, missiles, even the rockets launching satellites are driven by fuel that is made directly or indirectly out of oil.

So, the real effort will just start to happen when the prize for oil really goes up. Unless we can buy the technology from China then, this will get rather unpleasant.

Thanks for putting this in the abstract (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#35242372)

QUOTE: During this decade, the two 'fuels of the future' will be electricity and gasoline. Beyond that, we can't project."

Saved me reading time.

Come again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242376)

" During this decade, the two 'fuels of the future' will be electricity and gasoline. Beyond that, we can't project."" - If they can't do projections beyond the next decade, how can they claim 100% renewable energy possible by 2050?

Make it 2020 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35242418)

At least you have a better chance of interesting investors into making it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It's hard enough to think 10 years ahead when you live for the next quarter, and 40 years is just completely irrelevant to them.

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