THE best ways to improve energy security, mitigate global warming and reduce the number of deaths caused by air pollution are blowing in the wind and rippling in the water, not growing energy crops on a grand scale or glowing inside nuclear power plants, says Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University in the US. He says that currently fashionable “clean coal” – which involves capturing carbon emissions and sequestering them in the earth, and which is currently flavour of the political month here in Britain – is not clean at all.
Jacobson has conducted the first quantitative scientific evaluation of the proposed major energy-related solutions by assessing not only their potential for delivering energy for electricity and vehicles, but also their impact on global warming, human health, energy security, water supply, space requirements, wildlife, water pollution, reliability and sustainability.
His findings indicate that the options that are getting most attention are between 25 and 1,000 times more polluting than the best available options. Wind is by far the most promising, Jacobson says, owing to a better than 99% reduction in carbon and air-pollution emissions.