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72: Mark Z. Jacobson: Pioneering a Renewable Future, One City at a Time

Guest Name(s): Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson

Join Matt for an enlightening discussion with Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor from Stanford, who works diligently on promoting policies for cities, states, and countries to transition to 100% renewable energy for all energy sectors.

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Mark Z. Jacobson’s career has focused on better understanding air pollution and global warming problems and developing large-scale clean, renewable energy solutions to them. Toward that end, he has developed and applied three-dimensional atmosphere-biosphere-ocean computer models and solvers to simulate air pollution, weather, climate, and renewable energy. He has also developed roadmaps to transition states and countries to 100% clean, renewable energy for all purposes and computer models to examine grid stability in the presence of high penetrations of renewable energy…
Episode 72: Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson, Stanford Professor
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You’re listening to Unite and Heal America. This is Matt Matern, your host and I got a great guest on the program today. I’ve got Dr. Mark Jacobson, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford. Mark’s got a CV that’s about a half a mile long, so we’re not going to be able to go over all of it. But he testified four times before Congress, been involved in writing five textbooks was named as one of the 100 most influential people on climate policy.

And most importantly, he was on The Late Show with David Letterman. So I mean, the guy’s got credentials coming out of Hoosier. So, Mark, thanks for being on the show.

Yeah, thank you for having me on.

Well, tell us a little bit about kind of what led you to this space in terms of your background in Civil Environmental Engineering? What was your path actually?

Well, I knew when I was a young teenager, that I wanted to study air pollution, because I used to travel to Los Angeles and San Diego to play tennis, I just noticed this is back in the 70s. So polluted the air was and how difficult was to breathe and to see, I thought Why should people live like this.

And so I thought at that time, this is what I want to try to understand and solve later in life. And sure enough, I’ve set my path and focused on that for my education, or my education and my career.

Well, that’s a that’s a great story and appreciate your work on that front. Because certainly when I came to LA in the late 80s, the air was a lot dirtier than it is now. And I know that the work that you and, and countless others have done, have helped clean up, our air still needs a lot of work.

And I noticed that one of the things that you had written about was these carbon dioxide domes over cities that enhance air pollution mortality. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about that. Because that for those of us who live in cities like LA, that’s a problem.

Yeah, well, actually, it’s I thought it was kind of interesting, because while CO2 carbon dioxide, it doesn’t directly affect people’s health when you breathe it in unless it’s in super high concentrations, which are not usual.

But it does affect climate, it does warm the air by absorbing heat from the surface of the earth. And when it warms the air, it turns out that when you have polluted air, like in Los Angeles, where you have a lot of ozone being produced, which is a main component of air pollution, higher temperatures actually increases the rate of ozone production, both through the direct effect of the temperature and to the fact that higher temperatures, results in more water vapor being water evaporating from the soil and from the ocean, to have more water vapor in the air.

And it turns out that both more water vapor and higher temperatures both increase ozone when the ozone is already high. So what I found is that in Los Angeles, where you have this, beyond the background, carbon dioxide, due to all the emissions worldwide that are increasing the CO2, you actually have this big dome of carbon dioxide over a city because you have super high emissions from all the 13 million vehicles in Los Angeles, for example, in all the power plants and refineries and others sources of CO2, so you have what are called these domes of carbon dioxide, these high concentrations.

And they’re not enough to directly affect people’s health directly. But but more CO2 increases the temperatures that increase the water vapor. And both of those increase the ozone and pollution when it’s already bad, like in Los Angeles so that the conclusion was that carbon dioxide domes will worsen air pollution where it’s already bad.

And this was actually used by the EPA back in 2009, to justify California’s request to be able to control carbon dioxide from vehicles. And before that, Scott, no entity in the United States was allowed to control carbon dioxide from any source. But because of its impact on health through its impacts on temperature. The EPA determined that gave California permission to control CO2 And this is the first regulation of carbon dioxide from vehicle exhaust worldwide was due to this impact.

Well, that’s a that’s a great result now tell us since 2009, have there been effective regulations put in place that have helped reduce that carbon dioxide dome in LA and well, it’s been scattered. I mean, there. There’s all since then, there’s been fights to eliminate California’s ability to do that all at once California can do some regulation in the US that other states can follow.

So other states have attempted to Follow California’s lead on the CO2 controls from power plant from vehicle exhaust. However, the Supreme Court just recently ruled in a case that because the Biden administration was trying to control carbon dioxide from power plants, and the Supreme Court just nixed that answer said they can’t control CO2 directly from power plants on climate grounds.

However, they could still theoretically do it on health grounds, as I just mentioned, but their plan, you know, they’d have to come up with an entirely new plan at this point. So a lot of controls of CO2 have been stymied. However, we can also we can control CO2 indirectly, by just switching to renewable energy sources. So that’s really the better way to do it at this point, instead of trying to, you know, control the CO2 from, let’s say, a vehicle, but you can actually go to an electric vehicle, and that will eliminate all the carbon dioxide and all the other air pollutants.

So that’s the best best path forward, which is to transition our energy entirely to clean renewable energy, electricity. So you know, electric cars instead of gasoline or diesel cars, electric heat pumps for air heating and air conditioning, instead of natural gas heaters, electrifying industry, instead of burning coal, oil and gas for high temperatures.

And just getting rid of all the coal plants and gas plants and replacing them with wind turbines, solar panels, some geothermal electricity, some hydro electricity. So that’s the best path forward is through renewable, renewable energy. And so we don’t even have to discuss whether we’re controlling CO2 If we actually just replace the CO2 sources with clean, renewable electricity.

Well, that sounds like good plan now. You’ve been working on modeling how to get to 100% renewables by 2051, I guess in the 50 US states and then more recently, 445 countries. Tell us about that work and and how are we doing as far as whether we’re on track or if you know, what we need to do to to meet those targets?

Now, so while we’ve been developing plans since 2009, actually, for our first plan was really a world plan could it was more theoretical, is it possible to power the entire world entirely with wind, water and solar, for all energy purposes, the main energy purposes are electricity, transportation, buildings and industry. And the conclusion was, yes, it’s technically and economically possible. But there are social and political barriers.

And since then, we’ve actually developed more refined plans for individual states in the US all 50 states, 145 countries, as you mentioned, and also over 120 cities, including large cities around the world. And the again, we find every time that it is technically possible, economically possible, and it’s getting even more and more possible, because costs have come down for all the technologies that we need. And by the way, we have about 95% of all the technologies we need. So we do not need a miracle technology to solve this problem.

You know, the basic technologies we need are aside from wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal electricity plants, some hydroelectric power plants, most of which are existing, is we need storage like battery storage. Also heat storage, which we have in water tanks, we can store heat underground and soil. We can store heated water pits, and cold storage of ice and water. And we need some hydrogen for large heavy transport like large, long distance aircraft, long distance ships, and also steel production. And we have the technologies for buildings.

I mean, I have my own home I’ve electrified my home, or I have a new home that was all electric no gas. It says solar photovoltaics, batteries in the garage like electric cars, LED lights, heat pumps, for heating and cooling. And also water heating, and electric induction cooktop stow. So buildings we can transition. Totally existing technologies. Even industry, we can transition most of that with existing technologies, and transportation.

We didn’t know how better electric fields one thing we don’t have is like long distance jumbo jets, which will need hydrogen fuel cells for those but we know how to do that. It’s just a matter of commercializing the those. So we looked at is it possible to transition each country and state and we looked at the cost, how much land would be taken up? What would be the benefit in terms of air pollution, health cost reductions, climate cost reductions, and, and job creation and loss?

And we found worldwide for example, if we transition all world energy, we can create 28 million more long term full time jobs than LA asked, we would use less land than the fossil fuel industry takes up right now because it takes up in the US, for example, fossil fuel industry takes 1.3% of all US land area. And then we would also reduce costs substantially, because with electric fully electric system, we use 56% less energy, because for five main reasons, because electric vehicles are much more efficient than gasoline or diesel vehicles, because electric heat pumps are much more efficient than our gas heaters or, or other type of fossil fuel heaters for air and water.

Because electrified industry is more efficient than the fossil fuel industry. And because we eliminate 11% of all energy worldwide is used just to mine transport and refined fossil fuels and uranium. And we don’t need to do that, with wind turbines and solar panels because wind comes right to the turbine and solar comes right to the panel, we don’t need to line it. So that saves 11% of energy, and then end use energy efficiency improvements beyond what we expect in a business as usual case, well, those are the five reasons that add up to 56% reduction of demand.

So even if our cost per unit energy is the same with wind, water and solar, versus a fossil fuel system, we’re using 56% less energy, so people pay 56% less each year. But it turns out right now that the cost per unit energy of clean renewable sources is now less than fossil sources. So we get about we estimate about a 14% additional reduction of the cost per unit energy.

So total energy cost that people pay in the annual average will be about over 60% less. But then you add on top of that health and climate cost savings. We’re talking about a 90% reduction of the what we call the social cost of energy, that’s the the energy cost, the health cost plus the climate costs. So it’s really a no brainer, we just save so much money and so many lives worldwide.

Well, I appreciate that. Dr. and that’s a very comprehensive answer. And I think the audience can appreciate as well. We’re gonna be right back in just one minute. You’re listening to Unite and Heal America. And Dr. Mark Jacobson is our guest. And we’ll be right back in just one minute.

You’re listening to Unite and Heal America. This is Matt Matern, your host. And I’ve got Dr. Mark Jacobson on the program, Stanford professor. And, Doctor, one of the things that I had heard recently was that there’s a concern about the amount of minerals that is available for electric batteries, say for cars. And I’m curious as to your view on that and whether you think that’s a realistic concern, or do you think there’s enough of those minerals such as lithium or cobalt and things of that nature.

So, you know, people have mentioned that their limitations and materials, I should first point out that the material needed if we want to transition all energy worldwide, to entirely clean renewable energy that’s namely, wind and water and solar power. Powering electricity, transportation, vehicle, buildings and industry. The amount of materials is so much less than needed, so much less than with our current energy infrastructure.

And just a, for example, in North America alone, there are 50,000 new oil and gas wells drilled every year. And we have 1.3 million active oil and gas wells in the United States already and 3.2 million abandoned ones. So we need to when we’re using fossil fuels we’re using we’re mining every minute of every day for fuel itself. Plus, we need to mine for the infrastructure for building gasoline cars for building natural gas power plants or nuclear power plants.

So we need we need to mind for both the infrastructure and for the fuel. If we go to wind, water and solar powering everything, then we only need to mind for the infrastructure we have no more fuel mining at all. Because the wind comes right to the wind turbine, sunlight comes right to the solar panel. We don’t need to dig it up out of the ground.

And so we have orders of magnitude less overall mining. However, there’s still a question you know, we do need the materials for certain materials for like batteries. And for permanent magnets and wind turbine generators. For example. We need neodymium that’s called lithium for batteries. Now Take lithium, though. I mean, there are enough right now there are about 1.2 billion cars in the world, where cars and trucks and but there’s enough lithium resource and known resources for at least 5 billion vehicles. So there’s plenty of lithium available.

But but we don’t we want to mine it sustainably, right. So there are ways to extract lithium that really minimize the impact of that extraction on the environment. For example, in Texas, there’s now a lithium mine that is 100%, renewable or it’s being may not be finished, but it’s being built as 100% renewable. So all the energy that goes into the mining is provided by wind and water and solar power. So that’s one way to minimize the impact of that mining.

There’s actually a way it turns out that in the United States, there’s enough lithium in one location to provide all the lithium needed for the entire country for all battery purposes, by one estimate, at least. And that’s in the Salton Sea, in Southern California. And you can actually extract much of that lithium without additional mining, there’s a geothermal electricity plant already there. Where that when when you provide geothermal electricity, basically, you’re you have a brine, that’s a big salty mixture, liquid mixture that’s hot that comes is brought from deep under the ground to the surface. And the that hot brine is the heat from it is used to evaporate water. And then the water vapor is used to run a steam turbine to generate electricity.

So that’s already in existence where the Brian has been brought up, and the heat from it is used to generate electricity. Well, it turns out that you can extract lithium from that brine, and provide lithium for electric vehicles and other batteries. And that requires no new mining. So this is a technique. And there are other places in the world. Like there’s one in Germany where you can do same thing where you already have geothermal electricity, and you just need to extract lithium from the brine. So there’s no additional invasive mining at all, for this process of taking lithium out.

Now, now, not to say you can do that everywhere. But you can do that in a few places, and certainly in the, in the Salton Sea where there’s a huge lithium resource. Now, the third reason way to reduce the impact of use of lithium is recycling. So right now, there is already battery recycling, for example, is a company called Redwood materials in the United States that they recycle, I think it’s it’s either 95 or 97% of all the components of batteries, including the lithium.

And so. So anyway, the combination of these three methods of powering minds with 100% renewables, using extracting lithium from brines that are used for multiple purposes, and recycling. There, you can reduce the impact of the mining. But as I mentioned before, the overall amount of mining materials that we’re going to need in 100%, renewable world is orders of magnitude less than that needed in a fossil fuel infrastructure world.

Are there some developments? I’ve been reading a bit about battery development? And is there? Is there something on the horizon that could replace lithium as a source for battery materials that might be cleaner and greener than then the lithium mining?

Yeah, well, there are different types of batteries, and many don’t involve lithium. Now, lithium is very optimal for car batteries, because you can get a lot of power density from it. So that’s going to be optimal. But what we can do is for stationary electricity storage, where we also need batteries there, we can afford to have batteries that are bigger than because lithium batteries, as I mentioned, you can make them compact, and so they’re good from cars.

But other types of batteries that can be used for stationary electricity storage that don’t require lithium at all, like sodium sulfur batteries or vanadium batteries or there many other types that are being developed as we speak.

So what do we see as the future of wind power here in the US and and how much progress do we need to make in the coming years to kind of get to the level where we’re hitting the mix of 100% renewables and you know, what would you see is wind in in that percentage of the 100%? How much of that power is going to come from wind say in the US?

Well, in the end, I think we would shoot for it somewhere between 30 five to 45% of all our energy in the US for all purposes coming from wind. And a good fraction of this will come from offshore wind. Now offshore wind, we have an enormous resource. I mean, there’s enough offshore wind off shore of the US to power the entire US.

But we don’t need all of it, we just need much more than today, which is almost zero. And there’s only a few wind turbines, in fact, offshore. We’ve developed a lot of onshore wind. And some states like Iowa has over 60% wind of 60% of Iowa’s electricity generation is from wind now. And that’s going to increase even more. And there are many states where there were 20% of their electricity from wind. And that’s all onshore wind.

So that’s going to keep growing. In fact, even this year, I mean wind there, 34% of all the new electricity capacity added in the first half of this year was wind. And that was the biggest new source of electricity in the United States. And that’s all onshore. But that’s even going to increase in the second half of 2022.

But offshore wind now, there are plans in many states, coastal states for offshore wind farms. And once that gets going, we’ll be able to expand wind substantially. So anyway, I we proposed somewhere between 35 and 45% of all energy generation coming from wind in a fully sustainable 100% renewable world for the US.

Well, I was just in Denmark, and they have a lot of offshore wind or Yeah, offshore wind. And my understanding is they they bet really heavily on this offshore wind. And there were days this year where they got 100% of their electricity from from this offshore wind. And John Doerr in his recent book, speed and scale had had mentioned one of the the people that ran one of the utilities that that did this rollout of offshore wind, and maybe you could speak to that.

Well, in in Europe, there’s offshore wind has been prevalent since the 1990s. And so yeah, all the Baltic countries, I mean, all the countries that North Sea, you know, they have offshore wind, and that’s growing. And that’s being expanded in the UK right now, I think has the most offshore wind installed worldwide, and certainly Denmark and Germany and, and well, Norway, and Sweden are all jumping on it as well. And this has been really beneficial.

I mean, the nice thing about offshore wind is that not only is it relatively constant during the year, I mean, you have you don’t have you have more variation of onshore wind, but it’s also more peak coincident offshore wind is when I say peak coincident like usually electricity demand demand for electricity peaks in the afternoon or early evening. And that is when offshore wind generally peaks as well.

And peaks at that time for us physical reason, namely, that the temperature difference between the land and the water the ocean that is, is usually the greatest in the late afternoon or early evening. And the greater the temperature difference, the faster the wind between the ocean and the land. And so there’s a nice peak coincidence of offshore wind with peak time electricity demand.

And so this can really help in not only in the US, but it helps around the world. And in addition to offshore wind speeds are generally faster than onshore wind speeds. And so you get more power output for the same wind turbine offshore hydro.

We’ll take our break right now. You’re listening to Unite and Heal America. This is Matt Matern, your host, and we’ve got Dr. Mark Jacobson on the program, Stanford civil and environmental engineering professor, and we’ll be right back with Mark.

As you may know, your host Matt Matern of Unite and Heal America is also the founder of Matern Law Group, their team of experienced employment consumer and environmental attorneys are dedicated to leveling the playing field by giving everyone access to the highest quality legal representation contact 844-MLG for you, that’s 844-MLG for you or 844-654-4968. 844-654-4968.

You’re listening to Unite and Heal America. This is Matt Matern, your host, and I’ve got Dr. Mark Jacobson on the program. from Stanford and Dr. I wanted to segue to the issue of kind of batteries and how we can deal with the the variability of wind and solar power that you were kind of just briefly alluding to. And we’ve had kind of issues here in California.

And I imagine in other places that have a high reliance on renewables, and how are we going to change the grid, so that energy can be transported from places that have it to places that are short of it in certain hours of the day, as well as have better battery storage, and maybe more micro grids that would allow this, you know, the power to be as consistent as it needs to be for daily usage.

Right. So people are concerned about what’s called the intermittency of wind and solar, the wind doesn’t always blow the sun doesn’t always shine. So how are we going to keep the grid stable? Well, turns out, there are many ways to keep the grid stable with a bunch of intermittent resources. And I should point out that right now, I mean, the grid is dealing with intermittency, even without wind and solar, because the demand for energy is intermittent.

I mean, the demand for energy changes every minute of every day. And so you get big peaks and drops people’s requirements for energy. So even if you have a flat supply of energy, that does not meet the demand. I mean, if you have a constant supply, which is called baseload, that doesn’t meet demand, because the demand varies up and down every minute. So the key is how do you match the supply which can be variable with wind and solar, or flat with let’s say, nuclear with the demand, which is variable.

So because demand is already variable, we already have intermittency problem. So we already have tools to address that. Now, right now, the main tools to address intermittency are using hydroelectric power, which you can turn on and off within 15 seconds in natural gas, which doesn’t ramp up as fast as hydroelectric, but you can Rican ramp it up pretty quickly in five minutes. Now, batteries, of course, are a perfect solution to this intermittency problem, because you can ramp up batteries within a millisecond.

So batteries are much faster than natural gas or hydropower ramping up. But the only problem with batteries is they’re more expensive right now, then either natural gas or hydropower, but the costs have come down substantially. But it turns out, you know, with, it’s projected that the costs will be sufficiently low there, really, there’ll be no limit to how many batteries, we can get at a reasonable cost to keep the grid stable pretty soon.

But in the meantime, there are plenty of other ways. First of all, there’s other types of storage. Well, let me back up there just in the general ways to keep the grid stable, okay, one way is storage, where you have a batteries or I mean hydroelectric dams or storage, but there’s also called what’s called Pumped Hydroelectric power, which is actually the greatest type of electricity storage in the world today.

There’s also concentrated solar power with storage, there are flywheels, there’s compressed air storage, there’s gravitational storage with solid masses. These are all existing technologies that are used to store electricity, then, so there’s their storage is one, then there’s transmission if you can interconnect, geographically dispersed locations, so locations that are far away from each other, the wind may be blowing or not blowing in one place, but it’s blowing far away.

Somewhere in the world, the wind is blowing at a given time. Same thing with solar, even though it’s not sunny in one place, that one time like a dark, it’s going to be light somewhere else. But if you interconnect geographically faraway places, with transmission lines, you can also then wield in power when you need it from far away. So that’s the second way.

So one way is storage. Another way is long distance transmission. Another way is to combine different renewables together. So generally, for example, if you just have solar alone, then you’ll get a lot of energy during the day, but nothing at night. Whereas if you combine wind with solar, well, wind often blows at night. And so you can wind in fact, wind and solar are complementary in nature, even during the day. In places where it’s sunny. Generally, the winds are slow. In places where it’s not sunny, where you have storms, winds are generally fast.

So by combining wind and solar, then you can smoothen out the overall energy production, not only during the day, but during the year. You add in with that geothermal electricity which is relatively constant. You add in hydro which you can Then use like a big battery to fill in gaps of supply. And so combining different renewables together, actually, and then adding in storage, adding in long distance transmission that can help keep the grid stable.

Well, another thing you can do is what’s called demand response. Utilities give people incentives not to use electricity at certain times of the day, or to shift the time of their electricity years. So remember, a lot of the intermittency is due to the actual demand for electricity. And by paying people not to use electricity at a certain time, you can reduce that demand and help keep the grid stable. So So and then the final thing is coupling sectors.

Right now we have four sectors, which use different fuels, like there’s electricity sector, there’s transportation, which uses mostly gasoline and diesel. There’s buildings, which uses a lot of natural gas, but some electricity as well. Then there’s industry which uses coal, gas and oil for heating. But if we electrify all energy sectors, that can actually help stabilize the grid too. Because let’s say you electrify cars, well, we have more of a demand for electricity, with battery electric cars.

However, we don’t need to plug we don’t need the electricity instantaneously for the car from from the power grid, for example, you’re not plugging in the car, to the power grid while you’re driving, you have batteries in the car. So these batteries can be charged pretty much any time of day or night, given the proper incentives. So that’s what’s called a flexible load where you can give people give car owners incentives to only charge their car, when electricity demand for the rest of the grid is low. And so this is a way to help stabilize the grid.

Well, let me ask you, let me ask you, kind of shifting to another topic you had mentioned a couple of times is nuclear and where you stand on that, and, and what your thoughts are on the development of what I see are new micro reactors, and I just saw a new design for a micro reactor was just approved by the US government and and whether you think that’s a road that we should be going down and whether it makes sense?

No, I don’t think it makes sense. Nor will it be a road that will actually come to fruition? Well, let’s just look at first of all existing nuclear reactors, most of them are aged, there are hardly any new nuclear reactors going up in the world. In fact, each year, there’s more being retired than going up. So we actually have less nuclear output, for example, last year than in 2007. And worldwide.

And part of the reason is, it’s so expensive and take so long to put up a nuclear reactor, there’s one reactor or pair of reactors being built in Georgia right now. But they’re on years 16 and 17. And they’ve cost $34 billion. That’s like seven times the cost per installed. What have I power compared with a solar panel. So it’s seven cost seven times that of solar and wind, and takes because a new solar plant takes one to three years to institute from planning to operation, nuclear is taking on the order of 15 to 20 years.

In Europe, there are several plants that are all on 15 to 20 years, one spec 21 years. And so it takes way too long, and it costs way too much. Now new nuclear reactors, well, that are proposed to be smaller and more modular. Well, in the 1960s, and 70s. People were experimenting with the smaller Modular Reactors.

And the reason we went to bigger reactors because of economies of scale was cheaper. So the small reactors are going to be just as expensive or more expensive than the big ones. We they’re not even being proposed to be ready till 2030. That the Sooners for some test reactors. But we need 80% of the problem solve the climate problem solved by 2030 and 100% by 2035 to 2050. So even with their proposed schedules, it’s virtually impossible for nuclear, even if it were to be implemented by that proposed timeline to have any material impact on solving the climate problem.

And this is before we even start start talking about other the other risks associated with nuclear, which include weapons proliferation, which when you have small modular reactors, they can be shipped all over the world. And then you can harvest plutonium from the from the nuclear waste and also refined uranium. And so this becomes a weapons proliferation issue.

There’s a waste issue. There’s a meltdown issue. There’s underground uranium mining cancer issue. So you have all these problems associated with nuclear that just don’t go away, or in some cases marginally go away but just have major cost and delay issues as well.

But certainly those are important factors. And I appreciate you shedding some light on that. I, I wanted to pivot to another topic before we, you know, right before we go into our break, and you can think about it and get, you know what our listeners hear about your opinions on, say, like the city of Lancaster is has been working on rolling out more clean energy and, and more of a hydrogen based economy up there and I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that, but maybe we can talk about that after the break.

You’re listening to Unite and Heal America. This is Matt Matern, your host, and I’ve got Dr. Mark Jacobson, Stanford professor on the line and we’ll be right back.

You’re listening to Unite and Heal America. This is Matt Matern, your host, and I’ve got Dr. Mark Jacobson on the program. And after we were just talking about a little bit about hydrogen pivoting into that topic, and what your thoughts are as to the role of hydrogen in a clean green economy.

Going forward, we’ve had a guest on the program, Mayor Rex Paris from Lancaster, and he has, has been a big proponent of using hydrogen clean hydrogen in helping power their city. What’s your thought as to the role of hydrogen moving forward?

Well, hydrogen is essential for certain applications. And I’ll get into those in a second. But we only want to use what’s called Green hydrogen, which is hydrogen produced from electricity, where the electricity comes from wind or water solar sources. And we do not want to use hydrogen that’s produced from natural gas. Even if there’s what’s called what’s called Blue hydrogen, which is natural gas with carbon capture, we do not approve of the use of carbon capture for any purpose because we it’s an opportunity cost.

And it results in more energy requirements in energy use and pollution. And it’s really a way to just keep the fossil fuel industry alive as opposed to switching to clean renewable energy, and particularly for hydrogen, so hydrogen should only be produced from clean, renewable electricity. And the applications of hydrogen should be limited to long distance heavy transport, so long distance aircraft and ships like 740 sevens, some long distance trains and trucks.

Then the other applications are steel production, ammonia production, and in some cases, remote microgrids for both electricity and heat. But we do not need to use hydrogen for heating buildings at all, we don’t want to do that we want to use electric heat pumps much more efficient. And we don’t want to use hydrogen for passenger vehicles.

Because battery electric vehicles are much more efficient. They both of them run on electricity, essentially, hydrogen fuel cell passenger vehicles and battery electric vehicles both require electricity, but you need 1/3 of the electricity to run a battery electric passenger vehicle vehicle compared with a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle.

That’s for passenger vehicles. However, when you get to long distance trucks, big heavy long distance trucks, the tables turn and hydrogen actually becomes more efficient when you get to distances larger longer than, like around 1000 kilometers or 1100 kilometers. And the same thing with long distance ships and aircraft. And the other thing we don’t need hydrogen for is stationary electricity storage because batteries are again more efficient, you need less fewer wind turbines for battery storage with rather than hydrogen fuel cell electricity storage.

So yeah, so if there we as long as we limit the hydrogen to certain applications, then it’s okay. We don’t want to get distracted with all the proposals by the fossil fuel industry to produce hydrogen. And they they have a motive because 96% of all hydrogen today is produced from fossil fuels, namely natural gas. But there’s a cheaper way to do it now, which is from electricity.

And in fact, blue hydrogen, maybe even a year ago, the natural gas industry was pushing blue hydrogen, which is natural gas producing hydrogen and then adding carbon capture. But even they’re saying today that because gas natural gas prices are so high, that it’s actually more efficient just to use to use green hydrogen which is hydrogen produced from electricity from where the electricity comes from wind water solar sources.

Now in terms of producing green hydrogen and using it from I believe an electrolyzer. What kind of progress will be is being made towards I believe the Biden administration goal of one kilogram of hydrogen For $1, and if we could get hydrogen down to that price using green energy, would that in fact make it as effective or more efficient than the battery powered passenger cars?
No, it’s, well, you’re still gonna need. Yeah, the cost will be different from the efficiency. That’s so in terms of efficiency. You’re never going to get passenger cars with even green hydrogen being as efficient as a battery electric car.

I mean, batteries already becoming efficient, even more efficient as well. I mean, you’ll get better instead of being a bet, like, right now a battery electric car uses 1/3 The energy as a hydrogen fuel cell car, just to see why I mean, my ask why? Well, when you have a battery electric car, your let’s say you have wind turbine electricity, the electricity then goes into the battery store, and then the battery then releases the electricity to run a electric motor in a car.

So really, the main efficiency loss there is just the energy going in and out of the storage, the energy loss going in and out of storage. But when you have a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, you have four types of efficiency losses.

One, you take the wind turbine, same wind turbine electricity, you have to run that electricity through an electrolyzer, so there’s a loss of energy to run it through the electrolyzer, then you have to compress the hydrogen that’s produced, that’s another energy lost, well, then you store the hydrogen in the storage tank, and that may or may not result in any losses, and then eventually it gets into a car storage tank, and then in the car, you have to run it through a fuel cell.

And that’s another storage, an energy loss during through the fuel cell, the fuel cell converts that energy from the hydrogen back to electricity, which is used for an electric motor. So you have several efficiency losses. So from the wind turbine to the wheel, the overall efficiency of of hydrogen from using using a fuel cells on the order on the order of 30 to 40%. But for the batteries on the order of 70 to 90%.

How is it then that in a situation with a long distance truck that then hydrogen is more efficient than the battery is it the weight of the battery gets much greater?

Exactly. So what happens when you get to longer distance, heavier transport, you end up carrying around more batteries. And so your your vehicle is much heavier. And you can especially see this in the air airplane where you can’t just stop in the middle of the sky, usually to charge. So you have to carry around more and more batteries and just the weight of the batteries makes the energy requirement per unit distance you travel go higher and higher.

And at some point, you can see that that that you’re just carrying so many batteries around you that you lose a lot of efficiency. Whereas hydrogen, you do have some additional weight when you have more hydrogen because just because of the container, the storage container that you need to use. But the hydrogen itself is extremely light and sorry, hardly adds them to the mass of the vehicle.

Let me pivot with you to talk about grading your professor. Let’s grade different governmental entities the state of California, the United States of America, kind of the world Europe, India, China, where where what kind of grades are they getting for meeting the goals that we need to hit to get to 100% renewables by 2050? And, you know, tell us tell will tell us where we stand?

Yeah, well, I should point out, so we want to transition all energy sectors, electricity, transportation, buildings and industry. And what you see is a lot of progress in the electricity sector. So in fact, there are 10 countries in the world in the world that are at 100% renewable electricity, most of them are powered by hydropower. Like, you know, for example, Norway, Costa Rica, Iceland. But even like Albania, the Congo, Ethiopia, Tajikistan, Paraguay, Bhutan, Nepal, they’re all at are really near 100% renewable electricity, but not other energy sectors.

California is actually at 55%, around renewable electricity. And it was actually at 100% on Mother’s Day this year for less than an hour, which is 100%, wind, water and solar alone, which was a milestone. And there are some states like you know, as I mentioned, Iowa has over 60% wind alone in the US is from electric in the electric power sector is on the order of 25% renewable now. So that’s not too bad. But when we look at all energy, though, electricity is only 20% of all energy.

So in terms of all energy us is closer to 10% there whereas You know, but other countries that you know they have similar issues? Well, a lot of there’s a lot of effort in Europe, a lot of countries have high penetrations renewables in the electric power sector, but hardly any vehicles that are electric, you know, except for Norway, Norway now has a lot of almost all the vehicles sold each year, or big majority are now electric vehicles.

So you can find pockets of excellence in a lot of places, South Australia has really good penetration of renewables plus batteries in the electric power sector. But again, not much has been done in vehicles. I mean, right now, worldwide, you know, we’re still talking on the order of one or 2% of vehicles are electric, we need to get that up to 100%.

So it’s hard to great, it’s very, even in the US, we really look at states. So, you know, certainly California is doing a lot. And Texas is actually doing quite a bit to add a lot of wind and solar on the grid. And there are many states that are have their 18 states and territories in the US that have passed 100% renewables laws or executive orders.

And so, there there is a lot of progress. But there are a lot of states that are much further behind. But I think many of them are seeing the light that it’s much cheaper to install solar and wind than to keep fossil fuels. So even the states that are far behind are really I see them changing very quickly in the near future.

Well, it’s been great having you on the program doctor. You know Dr. Mark Jacobson, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford, a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman and now here on Unite and Heal America. It’s been great having you and love to keep in touch with you going forward because I think you gave our listeners quite a good overview of where we’re at, in solving these problems, to get our get our world back in order so that we don’t have a climate complete meltdown.

So we’ll tune back in next week to listen to Unite and Heal America.

As you may know, your host Matt Matern of Unite and Heal America is also the founder of Matern Law Group, their team of experienced employment consumer and environmental attorneys are dedicated to leveling the playing field by giving everyone access to the highest quality legal representation contact 844-MLG for you, that’s 844-MLG for you or 844-654-4968. 844-654-4968.

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