3E Intelligence

In search of the silver bullet

“There is no silver bullet to solve the climate/energy crisis” is one of theses phrases which can be heard over and over again in each and every energy debate in Brussels. Most of the times, the phrase is used by someone who wants to push his or her own silver bullet, be it nuclear, CCS or prolonged use of fossil fuels. A recent and totally independent study from Stanford University gives at least some indication as to which bullets are less silvery than others.

Professor Mark Z. Jacobson of the department of environmental engineering at Stanford looked at the different proposed solutions to deal with global warming, air pollution and energy security and compared them according to their life-cycle impacts on climate, air pollution, energy security, water supply, land use, wildlife, resource availability, thermal pollution, water chemical pollution, nuclear proliferation and undernutrition. The study was not paid for by any stakeholder or government agency.

According to Jacobson’s ranking, wind power, concentrated solar power, geothermal, tidal, solar photovoltaics, wave and hydro are the most promising energy sources. Nuclear, coal (even with carbon sequestration) and ethanol (corn as well as cellulosic) score considerably less good in terms of externalities.

The Climate Progress blog has an excellent longer summary of the study, which completely debunks the myth that nuclear and carbon capture and storage are low-carbon technologies.

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  1. Dear Mr De Backer

    It is not because an individual searcher concludes in the direction you like that he’s right.

    I find very strange that Pr Jacoson puts wind power on top of the most promising energy sources. There are enough reports demonstrating the poor performance of wind power. The latest one is the UK House of Lords, concluding “The Committee argues that wind generation should be seen largely as additional capacity, rather than a substitute for the substantial number of old coal and nuclear plants which are scheduled to be replaced by 2020.”


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