David Letterman took a break from chatting up celebrities and movie stars to talk about something serious and imperative for our country – renewable energy. Mark Jacobson, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University chatted with Letterman earlier this week about how the US can transition to using 100% renewable energy. The fact that this urgent topic got serious air time on a major network during a late night talk show is amazing enough, but the fact that Jacobson has a plan to help is even better.
Mark Jacobson is in charge of the Atmosphere/Energy program at Stanford and is helping train a new generation of engineers* to change the world. Jacobson’s research shows that there’s enough wind energy to power the entire world about 7 times over and enough solar to power the earth 30 times over. The offshore east coast of the US also has a huge untapped resource for wind power. Pollution caused by dirty fuels is another part of the issue – according to Jacobson, 50,000-100,000 people die prematurely every year here in the US from air pollution. Globally that equates to 2.5-4 million people every year.
Jacobson has been working diligently to come up with a plan to transition our country to 100% renewables. So far he, along with fellow scientists, have come up with detailed plans for New York, California and Washington states, where each state relies on its own resources to generate all of its power. In addition, Jacobson is working with Mark Ruffalo, Marco Krapels and Josh Fox on The Solutions Project, a new initiative to combine science, business and culture to accelerate the transition to 100% renewable energy.
In the surprisingly funny interview with Letterman, Jacobson discussed some of the details for their plan and threw down a challenge to help us move forward. Letterman promised his viewers they would feel better as they went to sleep at night as he made Jacobson assure everyone watching that everything will turn out fine. Jacobson said: “Everything will be ok if we collectively put our mind to it. There’s no technological or economic limitation to solving these problems. It’s a social and political issue, primarily.”
*Full Disclosure: This author is in fact a graduate of that program and studied with Dr. Jacobson. Yes, I’m totally biased.