Thursday, April 3, 2014

Engineer for Hope

If you still hold stock in Exxon, it's time to sell now. 

Ben Adler at Grist.com reported Tuesday ("ExxonMobil: Carbon caps? Fat chance. We'll just keep on drilling") on Exxon's Monday shareholder report, which argued for business as usual, based on the assumption that the U.S. government will be unable to compel the necessary 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 

Exxon's report itself is worth perusing: evidently the megacompany admits human-caused climate change could be a bit of a problem, but plans to address it by increasing conservation in its drilling operations, expecting that renewables will comprise only 5% of the world's energy mix even by 2040. 

The good news, as Adler points out, is clarity. For anyone still hoping shareholder activism might succeed, Exxon has laid its cards on the table, signaling loudly that the health of future generations is not this company's concern.

But for those disappointed by the oil and gas industry, the person to watch is Dr. Mark Jacobsonprofessor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. He and his associates have been rolling out detailed plans to convert California, New York, the whole U.S., and in fact the world to 100% water, wind, and solar energy.

Watch his lecture concerning the whole planet here. And see his 50-state plan, including profiles for each state, here.

These plans naturally mean large up-front costs for turbines, PV panels, and other improvements, but Jacobson projects that the financial returns from improved human health alone will quickly reward these investments. For instance, according to his New York proposal: "If New York switched to water, wind, and sunlight, air pollution-related deaths would decline by about 4,000 annually and the state would save about $33 billion...in related health costs every year."

The only thing more remarkable than his proposals is that anyone anywhere is still wondering whether the pricetag is worth it. 

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