The World Changing Podcast

Since he first struggled with air pollution as a teenager in Los Angeles, Mark Z. Jacobson has committed himself to understanding and solving this issue. And boy, has he succeeded! Today, Mark is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University. He has published six books and over 175 peer-reviewed papers.
His research forms the scientific basis of the Green New Deal and many laws and commitments for cities, states and countries to transition to 100 percent renewable electricity and heat generation. 

In Mark’s most recent book, “No Miracles Needed,” he says we still have time to save the planet without resorting to 'miracle' technologies. Not only is there no need for carbon capture, biofuels or nuclear power, but investment in these technologies are sucking up valuable time and money we could be using to scale existing clean energy technology - wind, water and solar. We also discussed one of our favorite challenges to greening the grid, incentives. How is the Inflation Reduction Act incentivizing the development of various forms of energy and “climate tech”? Let’s find out.

Mark Z. Jacobson Full CV
- Has links to Mark's breakthrough research as well as his interview on The David Letterman Show.

Reference at 01:08:32 to organizations that track government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry .
- International Monetary Fund

The Solutions Project

1. Introduction to the World Changing Podcast (00:00-01:19)
- Podcast's purpose: deconstruct projects and products for a decentralized and carbon-free future.
- Host introduction: Greg Robinson, co-founder of Aston and producer.
- Mention of first episode of the second season.
- Guest introduction: Mark Jacobson, professor and director at Stanford University.

2. Greg and Flo Introduce Mark Z. Jacobson
2a. Mark Jacobson's Research on Fossil Fuel Elimination (01:32-05:09)
- Mention of Mark Jacobson's work in 2015 on a mathematically verifiable plan to eliminate fossil fuels.
- Research initially focused on the US and expanded to 139 countries.
- Reference to Mark Jacobson's book, "No Miracles Needed".
2b. Background of Mark Jacobson (03:24-06:30)
- Mark Jacobson's position as a professor and director at Stanford University.
- Publication of books and peer-reviewed papers.
- Involvement in the Solutions Project.
- TED talk and appearance on David Letterman's show.
- Flo discusses her favorite parts of the conversation.

4. Discussion on Climate Change and Finance (06:30-08:37)
- Mention of attending COP28 and roundtable discussion on direct air capture.
- Invitation to discuss topics Mark Jacobson has recently talked about.
- Focus on avoiding explanations of Mark Jacobson's research and papers.

5. Financial Challenges in Transitioning to Renewable Energy (08:42-22:09)
- Exploration of financial challenges in renewable energy transition.
- Emphasis on time constraints and urgency.
- Mention of a guest with expertise in power electronics and transmission lines.

6. Overcoming Barriers and Unlocking Financing (22:09-49:26)
- Addressing the need for solutions to overcome financial barriers.
- Reference to the importance of information and providing cost-benefit analyses.
- Highlighting the necessity of stakeholder engagement and community involvement.

7. Scaling Research and Engaging Stakeholders (49:27-1:14:03)
- Discussion on scaling Mark Jacobson's research across 139 countries.
- Consideration of forming a company or utilizing NGO-style mechanisms for scaling.
- Importance of engaging stakeholders and policymakers to effect change.

8. Conclusion and Call to Action (1:14:03-1:16:24)
- Acknowledgment of the need to target specific listeners and stakeholders.
- Appreciation for the conversation with Mark Jacobson.
- Closing remarks and invitation to follow the World Changing Podcast.

Note: The timestamps provided are approximate and may differ slightly from the actual timing in the transcript.

Creators & Guests

Greg Robinson
Husband. Dad. Working to make basic needs not so basic..
Flo Lumsden
Audio and Video producer. Owner of #chorusstudios

What is The World Changing Podcast?

Join us as we talk to the skeptics, supporters, and innovators in the fields that depend on electricity to run their industries, which is changing every single day. Hosted by Greg Robinson and Flo Lumsden, an Aston podcast produced by Chorus Studios.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Except. And then it was so inefficient, they closed the carbon capture part of the plant after three years. And who got saddled with that $1 billion? Well, ratepayers. And who pays the highest fraction of their income for electricity? It's low income ratepayers. So basically, it's just a tax on low income individuals. This carbon capture, same with direct air capture. Even with bioenergy, it's the same problem.

Greg Robinson: Welcome to the World changing podcast. Was that too much? Yeah, that was probably too much, but let's keep it. We'll keep it. Anyway. How about this? If we do the podcast and the world doesn't change, then we can take that out. Welcome to the World changing podcast, where we deconstruct the projects and products that are moving us towards a decentralized and carbon free future.

Florence Lumsden: We'll talk to skeptics, supporters, and innovators.

Greg Robinson: In the fields that depend on electricity.

Florence Lumsden: To run their industries, which is changing every single day.

Greg Robinson: I'm your host, Greg Robinson, co founder.

Florence Lumsden: Of Aston Labs, a decentralized infrastructure company.

Greg Robinson: And on the other side of the.

Florence Lumsden: Camera here, we have Flo Lumpston, our.

Greg Robinson: Producer, and she will make sure that.

Florence Lumsden: The train stays on the tracks while we do this.

Florence Lumsden: Welcome back to the first episode of the second season of the World Changing podcast. And we are really excited because our first guest was sort of a reach guest for us. We had Mark Jacobson on. So tell me again why you were so excited to have him on the show.

Florence Lumsden: I first came across Mark Jacobson's work in 2018, maybe. I think his first work was done in 2015. It was just this huge research project of like a plan. Not, here's an idea, not here's my marketing copy, but here's an actual mathematically verifiable plan to get rid of fossil fuels, period. Not net zero, not some crazy thing that you had to twist your brain into a knot to try to understand what the marketing copy was saying to you. And for me, that was like, I'd been looking for that for a long time. And ever since I'd gotten into the solar industry, this is the first time I heard somebody say, we can use wind, water and sun to get rid of fossil fuels.

Florence Lumsden: And he did that for a bunch of countries, right?

Florence Lumsden: That research? Yes. The very first one he was looking at was the US then was like, 139 countries, and it's just getting better, obviously continues to do a lot of work on the topic. Just came out with the book called numericals needed. For me, it was all just that there was a lot of math involved to explain how this could happen. Still to this day, nothing even compares to that research. And yet, unfortunately, there's plenty of people putting a lot of time and energy into not acknowledging that his lab and his partners have already done that research, someone who's taken an engineering approach to solving this problem. And so that's why I hold him in very high regard. I think I might have said to.

Greg Robinson: You one time, I was like, we.

Florence Lumsden: Should see if we can get Mark Jacobson on. And you're like, mark got back to like, all right, let's talk to.

Greg Robinson: Such.

Florence Lumsden: It was so awesome. Let me give a little bit more background on Mark. So Mark Z. Jacobson is a professor, civil and environmental engineering, and the director of the atmosphere energy program at Stanford University. He's published six books and has over 175 peer reviewed papers. His work forms the scientific basis of the Green New Deal and many laws and commitments for cities, states and countries to transition to 100% renewable electricity and heat generation. He received a 2018 Judy Friedman Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2019 was selected as one of the world's most influential people in climate policy by apolitical. In 2022, he was chosen as the World Visionary Clean Tech Influencer of the year. He served on an advisory committee to the US secretary of energy.

Florence Lumsden: He's appeared in a TED talk, appeared on David Letterman's show check it out, and co founded the solutions Project. So you asked. It's just fantastic. What's so amazing to me is that he was on David Letterman to talk about the same things he's talking about today. And like, David Letterman's show hasn't even been on that network for a while now.

Florence Lumsden: Right?

Florence Lumsden: So it's like, this is not. We've had a plan, not hopes and dreams, not goals. We've had a plan that we could use. And anyway, I'm going to stop talking about that. What was your favorite part of having him on?

Florence Lumsden: So, two things. First of all, I really loved how his journey to environmentalism or renewable energy started as being a tennis player in California and dealing with bad air quality and having trouble working out, practicing, seeing his friends get sick from the air quality. It was an innocent way into just trying to figure out why this was happening and what the problems were. And it's fossil fuels, the pollution from fossil fuels are really bad for us. And on top of that, they're warming the climate in an unpredictable, unnatural way. So it was interesting to hear him talk about it that way. And I think people forget to add that angle in that it is also air pollution. And then also, I loved hearing his take on net zero. He just came straight out and said, it's greenwashing. It's greenwashing.

Florence Lumsden: It's sort of a politicized way of making the transition to renewable energy a little bit slower and making it possible to do carbon accounting so that we can just preserve an existing forest and say, oh, we did something and we're still burning a bunch of fossil fuels into the environment. So I appreciated his candor in that area.

Greg Robinson: All right, there you have it.

Florence Lumsden: We hope you the conversation as much as we did.

Greg Robinson: I'm super excited to talk to you today because I just spent a week at cop 28. I had to sit in rooms, or is this like, I would listen to people talk about something and be like, that's not true, it's not true.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Meeting yesterday and the same thing happened. Really?

Greg Robinson: Yeah. I sometimes feel like the pitch from some of these companies. I was at a roundtable discussion about direct air capture. It was all the investors in direct air capture. It was all the companies in direct air capture. And I was just listening to it, and I feel like it's those old infomercials where they made the task look so much harder than it was, where they would be screwing a light bulb and they would make it look totally impossible so that you would buy their product. I don't know if you remember those. It's like, are you tired of screwing in a light bulb and having it be break all over the place? It's like, I've never done that before.

Greg Robinson: So it just seems like when they explain, I'll just give you this one quote that was the claim they said was 10% of the economy cannot be decarbonized. And for the part that cannot be decarbonized, we have direct air capture. And I just thought that was like.

Mark Z. Jacobson: That'S just made up out of the blue.

Greg Robinson: Yeah. And by the way, just so you know, we'll put all the introductions and all of that stuff at the beginning. And my goal today was just to talk about these things. I want to get into some topics that you've talked about lately. I've seen some posts from you. If you're okay with this, we're happy to go into anything you want to talk about. So meander. If there's any points you want to talk about that are pertinent to even this week of meetings you've been in also great. But mostly I'll stay away from making you explain your research. Paper and the research that you've done? Because I just think there's so many places on the Internet that we can point people to. And I think there's so many pertinent conversations that are going right now, especially around cop.

Greg Robinson: Just what I've been seeing on social media. And my first question for you is, why are people allowed to say that if I went out publicly and said, we are going to do this amount of revenue next year, and I've signed all these contracts, and that was just fundamentally not true, that's called fraud. I'm not even allowed to say that. But how come there's sort of scientifically disproven points that these companies are allowed to say? Do you have any perspective on that?

Mark Z. Jacobson: Well, I guess they'll say whatever they want. Until somebody calls them on it, they're free to say it's not illegal to say what they want. I mean, some of these companies, they do get charged with fraud. And once they make promises like this nuclear company, new scale, had been claiming that new nuclear reactors, small modular reactors that they were building, was low cost and was telling its shareholders this. Then its largest contract was canceled recently, and shareholders turned around and sued them for fraud for making rosy claims about new nuclear. So at some point, if somebody does lose money on it, then they will get in trouble. But until then, they pretty much say what they want, and it is up to the scientists to push back.

Mark Z. Jacobson: I mean, part of the problem is not only scientists are not aware of the problems with direct air capture and carbon capture, governments as well are not aware. And so governments are indirectly or not necessarily intentionally complicit in this inability to change. I mean, a good example was like in cop, a lot of countries don't want to phase out fossil fuels. They're getting criticized for that, rightly. But if you think about it, anybody who supports carbon capture or direct air capture or blue hydrogen or non hydrogen electrofuels also does not want to phase out fossil fuels because all those technologies prolong and continue the fossil fuel industry.

Mark Z. Jacobson: So it's pretty hypocritical for anybody just to criticize the lack of commitment to phase out fossil fuels when in fact, a lot of the same people are criticizing him, are proposing all these technologies and getting funding for technologies that do exactly that, which is to keep fossil fuels alive. So we do need to phase out fossil fuels as fast as possible. We do need to stop this ridiculous push for carbon capture, direct air capture, blue hydrogen, electrofuels, which are all pushed by the fossil fuel industry and do not do anything except for increase carbon dioxide, increase air pollution, increase fossil fuel mining, and increase fossil fuel infrastructure.

Mark Z. Jacobson: In comparison with using the same money or energy, it's always better to eliminate emissions with renewable energy than to use that renewable energy to try to take carbon dioxide out of the air or out of the exhaust stream of a fossil fuel power plant. That applies also to bioenergy and any other source of carbon dioxide.

Greg Robinson: Yeah, that point you just made, that's what you often call opportunity cost emissions. Is that correct?

Mark Z. Jacobson: Yeah, it's the opportunity cost emissions if you use that renewable energy to just eliminate a fossil fuel power plant. What's more is you eliminate the air pollution, the fossil mining, and the infrastructure when you replace the fossil plant.

Greg Robinson: Yeah, we'll get into this in a bit, because I think most of the rooms that I was in Dubai, were talking about finance. And when you're talking about finance, you're getting into that exact discussion, which is, if I have a million dollars to put into something, why would I put a million dollars into vacuums to suck the pollution out of the air, rather than put it into replacing a fossil fuel plant entirely? I have to share this with you, and I was told when I walked in, I can't attribute it to the person who said it. So I'm a little disappointed in that. I heard someone sit on the stage and say, there's no good data about how bad it is that we're burning fossil fuels.

Greg Robinson: If we had better data about how much pollution were creating or how negative the effects would be, we'd be able to solve it. And I just thought it was like, so much money is being put into finding out how bad it is.

Mark Z. Jacobson: It's like, well, we do have studies that show, right, people are not looking into the literature, right? I mean, we know that fossil fuels and biofuels and other types of bioenergy cause 7.4 million air pollution deaths per year worldwide and billions of more illnesses. And that cost the world, in terms of statistical cost of life and morbidity, on the order of $30 trillion per year.

Greg Robinson: Oh, my God.

Mark Z. Jacobson: And these are avoidable deaths and morbidities. We need to eliminate not only the deaths and morbidities right away, but also global warming. We have six years to solve 80% of the problem and about eleven years plus to solve 100% of the problem by 2050 at the latest. We need to solve 100% of the problem, but 80% by 2030. So we do not have time to waste. So we're putting a billion dollars here, a billion dollars there. In technologies that have no benefit whatsoever. All they do is increase carbon dioxide, increase air pollution, increase fossil mining infrastructure, that's not good. And even in isolation, these technologies do not do very much. One example was there was one coal plant in the United States that had carbon capture added to it. It was the Petronova project in Texas. They spent $1 billion.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Just to give you an idea of how energy intensive that is, to run the carbon capture equipment for the coal plant, they built a natural gas plant, and then they mined natural gas. They piped it. There was leakage from the mining, and there's emissions from the mining, and they didn't capture any of the emissions from the natural gas plant. The capture rate from the coal plant was much lower than expected. They didn't capture any emissions from the coal mining. When you looked at the overall emissions compared to what was captured relative the overall emissions from this whole operation, the capture rate over a 20 year time frame was only 11%. And then that didn't even account for what happened to the co2 after it was captured. It was piped to an oil field nearby and used to dig out more oil.

Mark Z. Jacobson: And that process itself, 40% of the co2, goes right back to the air. So they really had about a 7% capture rate. And who knows if the rest was captured? It was supposedly stuck in the underground, but nevertheless, they had more oil to burn, and that resulted in more air pollution, more mining, or more carbon dioxide. And so it's just not a solution to anything. And then it was so inefficient, they closed the carbon capture part of the plant after three years. And who got saddled with that $1 billion? Well, ratepayers. And who pays the highest fraction of their income for electricity? It's low income ratepayers. So basically, it's just a tax on low income individuals. This carbon capture, same with direct air capture, even with bioenergy, it's the same problem.

Mark Z. Jacobson: There is a proposal to spend $5.6 billion in the upper midwest, in five states, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, on carbon capture, attached to 34 ethanol refineries. And they would be connected by 2000 miles of pipes to send the carbon dioxide that's captured to North Dakota to sequester it underground. Sounds great, right? Except what's the ethanol used for? It's used for what are called flex fuel vehicles instead of gasoline.

Greg Robinson: Right.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Sounds even better, right? You don't need gasoline. Well, notwithstanding the fact that all the energy needed to take corn and grow the corn and water it and fertilize it and then cultivate it and then transport it and then refine it to ethanol. That takes a lot of energy and emits a lot of carbon dioxide as well as air pollutants. And then you burn the ethanol in a vehicle and you still produce a lot of air pollutants. What about comparing spending that $5.6 billion instead on replacing the entire ethanol infrastructure with wind powering battery electric vehicles? So I did a study on that, and the conclusion was it would reduce co2 by 2.4 to four times that of this ethanol plant, which included carbon capture.

Mark Z. Jacobson: And it would save consumers $30 to $60 billion over 30 years, primarily due to the fuel cost savings, because electricity is so much more efficient at running a vehicle than is combustion. And so basically, adding carbon capture is just saddling consumers with tens of billions of dollars of excess fuel costs for the next 30 years and increasing carbon dioxide relative to replacing these vehicles. I mean, anybody who has a gasoline vehicle knows the price of gasoline. It varies, but somewhere between three and a half to $7 a gallon. And the equivalent cost of electricity is like seventy cents a gallon over 15 years. You can save anywhere from $30 to $40,000 in fuel cost if you drive 15,000 miles a year, which is the average in the US.

Mark Z. Jacobson: So all cases that I've ever looked at, there's never a benefit of carbon capture of any kind. It's always an opportunity cost. It always increases air pollution, it increases carbon dioxide, it increases costs. You need pipelines. And in the case of fossil fuels, you have more fuel mining, you have more fossil fuel infrastructure. In the case of bioenergy, orders of magnitude more land is required anyway. There's just no benefit. Not even in hard to abate sectors. We can go to zero emission cement, zero emission steel, they already exist. There are technologies to do that with zero emissions without carbon capture.

Greg Robinson: Yeah. One of the words that kept coming up this past week was bankability. It sort of goes to this idea to me. I've just seen it over the last, like, 15 years. I'm sure you've seen it your whole career. The things that should get financed don't necessarily get financed. It's the things that become deemed bankable. And all that really means is that you have a big balance sheet that's willing to guarantee that payments will be made. But I've seen over the years, so many times that these projects are, quote, bankable when they start. And as soon as they go out of the money or they prove to not be working then in the utility or in the energy sector.

Greg Robinson: To your point, a lot of those costs just get thrown over to the ratepayers because the utility is not on the hook for basically upholding that, like, they can't lose money. And so many projects that I've seen over the years, they get financed because they can, because they check enough boxes for the banks to call them bankable. And so one of the questions, I was going to leave this for the end, but it's kind of relevant since you're talking about direct air capture and the fact that these get built when they have absolutely no benefit, or they're not really solving the problem that people are setting out to solve, which is decarbonization. They're just getting built because they're deemed bankable. And so what are some of the financial challenges or just the financing challenges?

Mark Z. Jacobson: These projects would not survive without funding by governments. For example, a lot of these projects that are being proposed now in the United States are only being proposed because there's a lot of funding from the Inflation Reduction Act. I mean, about 40% of the funding from the Inflation Reduction act in the United States is going towards what I call useless technologies. 40% are going to carbon capture, direct air capture, blue hydrogen, electrofuels, bioenergy, small modular nuclear reactors. These are all useless technologies for actually solving the climate and pollution problems we face. But there's a lot of funding, and that's why a lot of money is going into. I was reading a story today in Kern county in California. There's this proposal that's also being funded by the Inflation Reduction act.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Largely, they're going to build a lot of solar, but they're also going to try to capture a lot of carbon. And one of the comments was that they have some new generators to generate new carbon dioxide. Then the oil companies and gas companies would then take federal money to then take that carbon out of the air. So they're basically trying to get it on both ends, getting funding on both ends to create energy and then create pollution and then remove the pollution themselves, instead of just going to technologies that have zero pollution problem with these net.

Florence Lumsden: Zero goals that are then becoming carbon accountable, there's these accounting mechanisms associated with net zero goals, is my understanding.

Mark Z. Jacobson: I'm going to point out. So the term net zero is a greenwashing term. I mean, we really need zero emissions, not net zero emissions. Net zero only means we're going to use carbon capture. We're going to offset our emissions with trying to pull carbon dioxide out of the air. So this is, again, a term that's made up by the fossil fuel industry. And also the bioenergy industry also has interest in it as well, where they want to allow emissions to occur, but then get funding to take carbon dioxide out of the air as well. And so that takes pressure off them to close down. So we need to focus on absolute zero emissions or even if it's negative emissions. It's not net negative emissions, it's negative emissions. And there are some kind of carbon capture that's good. And they're called trees.

Mark Z. Jacobson: So trees are a good kind of carbon capture. They don't require energy or equipment. They're planted in the ground, or they grow naturally, and they take carbon dioxide and water vapor out of the air and convert it into tree material to grow. So that is good, which is what we call natural direct air capture, but not synthetic direct air capture, which is people making equipment and using energy to try to suck carbon out of the air and suck taxpayers money out of the government's pockets. So this is great carbon and money sucking device.

Florence Lumsden: I'll just add, I think what people need to understand is, sure, if we had 50 years to solve this problem and we had the luxury to do all these different, to waste time, basically, and money, then I'd be like, well, at least they're doing something. But we don't. We don't have 50 years. We have six years, so we don't have time for this. That's the problem.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Yeah. All the money they're spending, the amounts, even when they do it, if you look at it, the absolute amounts that they're actually reducing, they're trivial. I mean, for example, there was a new direct air capture plant built in California, and they had a big celebration by the secretary of energy flew from Washington, DC to California to celebrate the opening of this direct air capture plant. And how much carbon does this direct air capture plant actually take out of the air? Well, it was about 1000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Sounds a lot like a lot. But it's the equivalent of three round trip flights from Washington, DC to California, which the secretary of energy in the entourage took.

Mark Z. Jacobson: One of those flights in one flight just offset one third of the savings of this direct air capture playout for the year, which is trivial. This is a trivial amount of carbon dioxide, and they're spending all this money and all this hoopla over. But it takes money from real solutions that actually eliminate far more carbon dioxide and eliminate fossil fuels instead of allowing the fossil fuel to continue to kill people, because the other thing about carbon capture is it doesn't reduce anything except for carbon dioxide from the air. It doesn't reduce any other pollutants. So it allows those pollutants to continue. Whereas replacing a fossil plant eliminates pollutants as well as carbon dioxide.

Greg Robinson: Right? Yeah, I think I stood there one time at a party. There was somebody from the EPA who was explaining this very convoluted plan. They had to add emission sensors to coal plants to find out how much they were emitting so they could very specifically dial in. I was like, I know how to achieve a bigger goal, which is just like, get rid of it. That's the easiest way to measure the amount of emissions coming off this plant is to get rid of it.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Get rid of it.

Greg Robinson: And the answer will be zero. And the amount of people, human power and brain damage you're causing to people to try to figure out how to do this just seems just maddening. So many of these stats that you've brought up are somewhat depressing, but also just really, I mean, I'm always inspired by whenever I see you post online or when I see something about what you're putting out, because I guess I'm a scientist by training. So I really am biased towards a model. Like, if somebody comes up with a model and really does the research and shows it, I'm way more biased to saying that's true versus a politician or somebody who's not really doing any kind of, like some lobbyist told them last week at lunch that direct air capture was the answer.

Greg Robinson: Oh, and by the way, here's a bunch of campaign money for you to go say this out loud. I'm not really biased towards believing any of that, but I want to take a step back because I do want to get back into the heat of this. I have one more quote. You're going to love that. I'll save for the end. How did you get into this? As I was going through your know, I saw you were on David Letterman about a decade ago, and I think that your air pollution stat was actually about a third of the deaths and morbidities at that point than it is today, which is actually somewhat depressing. But you have been writing about this, researching about this for, I would say, twice as long as it's sort of been in the zeitgeist for people, if not longer.

Greg Robinson: So how did you get into this? What initially was the spark?

Mark Z. Jacobson: Well, it started about 45 years ago when I was a teenager playing tennis, traveling to San Diego and Los Angeles. And I'm from northern California, and the air pollution when I went down there was so bad, I just thought, why should people live like this? And it was very stressful, and you couldn't see, and eyes were scratchy, throat was scratchy. And some people were running in this. I mean, I was running in it too, but some people saw vomit because the pollution was so bad. I mean, at that time I was smoking over two packs of cigarettes a day just walking through that, and you imagine running in it. And so I said, this is something I want to solve when I grow up. Throughout high school, I studied math and science a lot.

Mark Z. Jacobson: But in college, when I had a chance to start working on it, I focused my education around trying to understand the air pollution problem, mostly at the time, but also the climate problem crept in there around my late teens, and I really only had a chance when I went to graduate school. I majored in undergrad in civil engineering and economics and then did a master's in environmental engineering, which is groundwater pollution. But that's only because those were the closest I could come because there was no major in air pollution or climate science or anything related to the atmosphere. So I studied civil engineering, economics, and environmental engineering. But then for my PhD, I went to UCLA, where I knew there would be a laboratory right outside my door to study air pollution. And I studied atmospheric science there.

Mark Z. Jacobson: And I was fortunate to be able to do a PhD project on computer modeling of air pollution in Los Angeles, which I built effectively from scratch, a computer model, only the third in the world, to really combine chemistry and gases, particles, meteorological, transport, but also radiation and other processes to simulate air pollution in an urban region. The idea at that time was, well, I'm going to first understand the problems. Then I expanded that model, ultimately to a global climate model that had a lot of detail. And then I did all scales in between. I connected them to the global with a local model and developed what's called a nested model that would nest from the global scale to the urban scale.

Greg Robinson: Wow.

Mark Z. Jacobson: And I used that to study the impacts of gases and particles on air pollution, health and climate after. And I studied the effects of different energy sources like coal, fossil gasoline, diesel, bioenergy, and even hydrogen, looking at the effects on the climate and on health and on feedbacks in the atmosphere. But I started my phd in 1989 and 1994 and then started working on global modeling. But it was in the late 1990s, right at the end, about 1999, I started looking at solutions. So I started looking first at wind energy for several years, then in around 2007, eight, I started looking at other types of energy, solar, geothermal, hydro, and did a review in 2008 comparing different energy sources and looking at which energy technologies might be the best in solving global warming, air pollution, and energy security.

Mark Z. Jacobson: So, in fact, I did a paper in 2008 reviewing the different energy technologies because people are starting to talk then about carbon capture, starting to talk about bioenergy and nuclear as solutions to global warming. So I compared those technologies with what I call windwater solar technologies. Wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, tidal, wave power, and determined at that point that, ignoring costs, the best technologies for the environment in terms of combination of climate, air pollution and other environmental benefits, land use. Looking at water supply as well. The best technologies were wind, water, solar technologies, and these other technologies were not so good. So it was back in 2008 that I came to that conclusion based on what the available information, and nothing has changed then in terms of the conclusion. Since then, there's been no improvement in carbon capture, nuclear power, bioenergy.

Mark Z. Jacobson: They're the same as in 2008, and its conclusions are the same. Windwater solar is the only way forward in terms of solving the climate and air pollution problems we face. Unfortunately, their costs have come down since then.

Greg Robinson: Ten x or more, right?

Mark Z. Jacobson: Yeah.

Greg Robinson: Like, no one's standing around saying, are we sure about these smartphones? Are we sure we want to use these? Shouldn't we go back to rotary phones? It just seems like that adoption should have happened with windwater and solar by now. But we're still.

Mark Z. Jacobson: I don't see anybody standing in line at blockbuster for later, Max. Right?

Greg Robinson: Yeah, exactly. Like, coal plants should be sold in nostalgia stores at this point. Like, little roadside. It's like, remember when we used to use this? That was the thing of the past. What I think is really amazing about the research you've done is you didn't forget or gloss over some of the really important points, like energy security and energy costs. You could very well have theoretically said, here's how all of the electrons can get delivered. Actually got to meet the president of Palau, who's talking about they want to go 100% renewable because their primary energy sources in these small island communities are diesel generators. They have a land issue, but they also have this issue of they pay eighty five cents a kilowatt hour for power. The costs are high, the reliability is low, and so oftentimes reliability.

Greg Robinson: So uptime, how much does the energy stay on? And cost is often the sort of tired explanations that people who really don't know that much about fossil fuels, but that's what people will say is, we have to keep fossil fuels. I actually think the president of the cop said that was, if we don't keep fossil fuels, we'll be cavemen again. And it's like, because you've done that research on energy security and uptime reliability, what do you say to somebody in the fossil fuel industry that comes and says, well, don't you want the lights to stay on? And do you want to be paying ten times more for electricity?

Mark Z. Jacobson: Well, I've had a whole electric home for the last six and a half years, and I'm connected to the grid. But if it's nighttime and the power goes out on the grid, I have battery backup, and it always kicks on instantaneously, so I don't suffer from that. And places that have battery backup, they also don't suffer, because batteries are much better than what's currently used mostly is just fossil gas to back up the grid. There are two main sources of backup right now. It's hydroelectric power and fossil gas, and hydroelectric we want to keep. That has a response time of 15 seconds. I mean, within 15 seconds, you can get electricity from nothing within 15 seconds with a hydroelectric dam. With fossil gas, it takes 5 minutes to get 100% electricity from nothing. With the fastest plants with a battery, it takes ten milliseconds.

Mark Z. Jacobson: It's even faster. It's, like, instantaneous. So batteries save money over fossil gas and providing backup, and they're a lot easier. You don't need pipelines. You don't need to continuously mine. And there's 50,000 new oil and gas wells drilled every year in North America. And in the United States alone, there are 1.3 million active oil and gas wells and 3.2 million abandoned ones. Worldwide, there are, like, 29 million abandoned oil and gas wells, and a third of these all leak methane and other gases, and you have to keep drilling. I mean, in fact, the fossil industry occupies 1.3% of all us land areas. So, yeah, if you want to just cover the whole United States eventually with oil and gas wells and pipes, then, yeah, sure, keep going on this ridiculous route. But we want to solve the problem.

Mark Z. Jacobson: We want to get rid of air pollution. We want to get rid of carbon emissions and global warming. We want to keep energy security. We don't want to destroy our entire United States, beautiful country, and rest of the countries of the world with mining continuously for fuels. We need to eliminate all that mining because it's destroying the countryside everywhere.

Greg Robinson: Yeah, it's interesting that you brought that up, because one of the challenges that I'm always looking at is nimbYism. So if anybody doesn't know what that is, not in my backyard ism like, I grew up in an area of upstate New York where they had an island that there was a huge push to have wind put on this island. It was uninhabited island that was like, we could put wind power out there and we can move it back. It's on Lake Ontario that ultimately went on for years and got shut down by local politicians because they didn't want to see the windmills. I mean, you bringing up what you just brought up, which is the alternative, is way worse, that we just eliminate all of the natural areas of our country while we keep going.

Greg Robinson: We just have oil dereks everywhere, which doesn't look much better than windmills. Being honest, have you taken a deep look at the data of how much pushback is there really on the deployment of new renewables? Is that just like anecdotal evidence that the fossil fuel industry pulls out and says, look at, nobody wants these things here? Or have you seen any data on nimbyism?

Mark Z. Jacobson: I mean, there is nimbyism in certain places, but still wind and solar are being put up in the United States and worldwide at a very rapid pace. So there are a lot of places where there's not an issue. So you mostly hear about the places where somebody is pushing it, people are pushing back. But you also have nimbyism with fossil fuels, too, and nuclear power. But the key is, like, if we're looking at how much land occupation, our study for the United States finds that we would use less than 1% of the United States land area for a complete conversion of all energy from fossil fuels and uranium and bioenergy to just wind, water, solar, and most of that. Less than 1%.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Most of that area is open space between wind turbines that can be used for dual purposes, like farmland, range land, open space. Or you can put solar on that land, compared with 1.3% of the US land areas used for fossil fuels. And that's growing every year because we keep drilling tens of thousands of oil and gas wells every year, building lots of pipelines. And they want to build more pipelines with co2 capture and more infrastructure just continuously covering the US. Whereas when you build a windwater solar infrastructure, that's basically, sure there will be some growth over time, but it's not continuous growth because you don't need to mine or put in new infrastructure for the mining of fuels. The wind comes right to the turbine, solar comes right to the panel.

Mark Z. Jacobson: So you eliminate that whole mining for fuel component, which is by far the biggest source of new land occupation by the fossil fuel industry. And so they're going to just keep occupying more and more land, whereas we'll have fixed set of land that's less than what they're occupying, and it won't grow very fast. Population increases will cause slight increases, but it won't be for fuels, which the fossil fuel industry is burdening us with now.

Greg Robinson: Yeah, we had a guest on the podcast who's spent about 30 years, I would say, in the power electronics side of the business, really focused today on transmission lines. So as you think about conversion to windwater solar, how much does transmission play into it? Or do you think that there's a way for us to make it small and distributed enough that we're not having to create these long haul HVDC lines or even the overhead lines from North Dakota to La or any of that?

Mark Z. Jacobson: Well, we can start with existing lines, and we can beef up the existing lines so they're higher capacity, and we will need some new lines. Know, if you build a new wind farm, let's say, in North Dakota, you have to connect it to a local transmission line, so you need local lines. A lot of that's underground. The more we can underground, the better that nobody will even care about it. They won't care, but we will need some additional transmission lines. There's no doubt about it, because we're going to convert everything to electricity, and we'll have about in a complete windwater solar world. Just to give you an idea of how efficient it is, let's say we have 100 units of energy today for everything. That's electricity, transportation, buildings and industry.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Today, 20% of those units, or 20 units, is for electricity, and the rest is for transportation, buildings, and industry. If we electrify all energy and provide the electricity with this windwater solar, there's a 56% reduction of the energy requirements. But all that remaining 44 units is electricity. So instead of 20 units of electricity, we go to 44. So we little more than double the electricity requirements, but we reduce overall energy requirements 56%. So we will need more electricity a little over two times. We will need some new lines, but we eliminate all the need for pipelines, and we can get rid of all existing pipelines. And so there's no new pipelines going forward. Even in your home, why do you have two sources of energy in your home? Why do you have electricity and gas? Some people might have three. You just need electricity.

Mark Z. Jacobson: It's just much more efficient. It's cleaner. You don't have pollution in your home, and you can provide that electricity with solar on your roof, or most of it for most people. Or even if you can't, it's still less expensive. You don't have to rely on mining of fuels and that cost of transport of fuels, but it's definitely cleaner in your own home. And it can be made more reliable on a large scale with grid backup, with batteries. And biggest source of backup right now, as I mentioned, is hydropower. But there are also other ways to keep the grid stable that including demand response utilities give people incentives not to use electricity in certain times of the day. And that helps and saves you money as well. The key is that we want to electrify everything.

Mark Z. Jacobson: We will need some more transmission, but we're going to have fewer pipelines. And then also more local sources of energy will reduce the need for transmission. So more rooftop solar. So if you have the more people that put solar on their own roofs, that means they don't need to transmit anything for that electricity. You can use your own rooftop solar. When you have excess rooftop, then you could send the excess to the grid. So there are efforts in many states where a lot of rooftop solar is growing by utilities to prevent the growth of rooftop solar, because that takes away from the business of the utilities. But given that we're going to need more electricity in the future as we electrify everything, that's a misconception.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Even if a quarter of all the electricity, of the 44 units of electricity that we will need, even if a quarter of it was rooftop solar, that still means that the amount of electricity that the utilities can sell is still going to be way more than they currently sell. So there's room for everybody when we electrify everything. So utilities should support rooftop solar because it reduces transmission needs. And we want to reduce transmission needs because transmission lines can spark fires. And they have in California and in Maui, for example, those fires were transmission line fires.

Greg Robinson: Yeah, it's always occurred to me that if a utility could make a margin on the power that you sold back to them, or if there was a fundamental business model shift where it's like they actually made more money by buying and reselling from their local distribution network than they would by building some massive capex plant way the heck out in the middle of nowhere, they could still increase shareholder value, as is one of the necessary things for a publicly traded utility company. If they could just make more money by buying it from their local network, rather than buying it from something they build themselves. It just seems like a stroke of the pen way to incentivize people to build more of their own stuff.

Greg Robinson: But are you seeing any of that, like any of those business model shifts in the utilities, or are you still trying to hold on to their old ways?

Mark Z. Jacobson: I've pretty much mostly seen utilities fighting against rooftop solar. They just think that since they can't sell the electricity themselves that they're not owning that electricity. More people have rooftop solar means fewer customers. That's how they're thinking about it, and they're claiming that's going to hurt their business. Whereas in fact, they should be supporting electrification of everything which would benefit everybody in terms of costs, in terms of health, in terms of climate, energy security. And they will make more money in the long run because even the short run because there'll be greater electricity demand even if there's a lot of rooftop solar.

Greg Robinson: Yeah, maybe the co ops in the municipalities or something could roll something like that out. Seems like an easier thing to do than PG e or one of those.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Yeah, well, there are community choice aggregation utilities that do support rooftop solar, but it's really the PG E's of the world that are slowing down the transition.

Greg Robinson: How are those going? I remember one in, like, Marin county. Wasn't that. Is there also one where you like.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Well, there are a lot. There are dozens in California. There's Marin clean energy, which was the first one. The one in my area is called Silicon Valley clean energy.

Greg Robinson: Okay. Yeah. Are they going well?

Mark Z. Jacobson: Yeah, I think so. I think they're still flooding strong.

Greg Robinson: That's good news. That's potentially a bright spot in some of the articles that we see about. I mean, there really is. Your point about grid scale batteries that I remember first getting into solar and even thinking about it in California. And there was all this sort of doom and gloom about, like eventually if we build too much solar in the middle of the day, it's going to wreak havoc on the power grid. Like we're going to have this issue at night. What kind of policies are changing in your area? Or is there enough changing to incentivize grid scale storage, in your view, to kind of balance out some of that daytime peak time solar?

Mark Z. Jacobson: Well, in California, something is working because the state has built already close to six gigawatts of utilities solar, and there's another one or two gigawatts in private residences and other buildings. And then there's another plan, even by the end of this year to have another two gigawatts on the grid. So right now there is at least 20% of the peak electricity demand in California during all but summer can be supplied for a four hour period by batteries. So that's a lot in the last two and a half years that was all installed. And there's going to be a huge growth in the next few years. And Texas now has a similar amount, or maybe even more batteries than California.

Florence Lumsden: And they learned the hard way.

Greg Robinson: Yeah, they did. Okay, I'm going to go back to this other, because you just talked about how much is being built right now. I heard the same person in that talk that I listened to. They said there's plenty of capital to decarbonize. There's not enough opportunities that are bankable, which is one of the most maddening things I've ever heard, seeing as though I can think of at least 10 billion of them, $10 billion worth, like in a pipeline that we could go after now.

Mark Z. Jacobson: But the United States, there's so much renewable energy in the pipeline, it's backed up due to red tape right now, but there's enough in the pipeline to replace everything, I think.

Greg Robinson: Yeah, agree. So if they give you the power of the pen one day to eliminate a bunch of red tape, what would you do to unlock all of that laden?

Mark Z. Jacobson: Well, I would first change the incentive infrastructure to get rid of the incentives for carbon capture, direct air capture, blue hydrogen, electrofuels, small modular nuclear reactors, bioenergy. We need to focus on what works. And so I'd say that's all of the above policy, which has been a policy for at least 15 or probably 20 years, is really damaging our ability to solve this problem. The second thing is to enact more what are called renewable portfolio standards, which are basically in the electricity sector. It's a standard to say we're going to have 100% clean renewable electricity by a certain year, with different level, different penetrations by years before that. So let's say 80% by 2000 and 3100 percent by 2035.

Mark Z. Jacobson: We need to do that not only in the electricity sector, which in the US, there are 20 states that have 100% renewables laws, effectively in the electric power sector, but not in the other sectors, not in transportation, buildings and industry. So we need renewable portfolio standards. We need to transition timelines for each of these other sectors. Because if you think about it, if we transition to 100% renewable energy in all these sectors, we automatically eliminate fossil fuels for energy without even saying we're doing that. So that's a positive message. Nobody likes a carbon tax or to eliminate things. But if you are for something like being up for 100% renewables, that's a positive message, and it accomplishes the same thing as let's go to zero carbon, but it's a positive way to do it.

Greg Robinson: Yeah, it sounds like from what you said at the beginning as well, that 100% renewable portfolio standard does need to move away from these net zero games, though, that people are playing, right? Like, if they can go 100% on the year, then they can do all sorts of magical accounting during the year to be net zero.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Well, if it's 100% renewable, let's say throughout the United States, then there is no net, because everything, even if you're importing another times of the off times of the year, you're importing 100% renewable electricity. So that's the beauty of 100% renewables. If it's done everywhere, then you don't have any fake accounting. There's no more need for carbon capture even.

Greg Robinson: That's a good point.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Argue, oh, you still need direct air capture. You don't need electrofuels, you don't need blue hydrogen, because all energy is provided with just wind, water and solar. So you eliminate these phony technologies. You don't need small modular reactors or bioenergy if you have 100% renewables. So that automatically eliminates all these useless technologies.

Greg Robinson: Let's touch on that small modular reactor piece quickly. So when you're describing the things that keep fossil fuels in business, that sort of like carbon capture, direct air capture, blue hydrogen, non hydrogen electrofuels, sounds like bioenergy. But in the new nuclear, especially the small modular reactors, does that fall into that opportunity cost emissions? It's so expensive to put that in. And then you have to deal with the fuel supply chain, you have to deal with all of those other pieces. And it's so expensive to build that you might as well just take all of that money and put it into the stuff that is way cheaper is working, and we don't really need that. Or is it different than that? How do you see the small modular reactor?

Mark Z. Jacobson: Well, small modular reactors don't exist commercially, so they're vaporware. And so they're even worse than the other ones that do exist, because basically funding is being given to them through the Inflation Reduction act to these companies and private sources. That is basically going into like a bottomless pit. There's no timeline that such technology may be commercial. I mean, some companies have claimed 2030, but the company that was furthest along in the United States, newscale, they had a reactor design that was approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is the only one that was approved. But their largest client bailed on them a few weeks ago because of the costs were already escalating. And subsequently, then that company was hit by a shareholder lawsuit due to fraud, or the alleged fraud due to using rosy projections of costs.

Mark Z. Jacobson: So this is kind of the old story with nuclear in general, is they always promise, oh, our next generation will better, cheaper, faster to install, but it never happens. Nuclear has actually gotten worse in terms of installations in North America and Europe. There isn't a reactor that's been built between planning and operation less than around 16 years and up to 22 years. In the United States, only one reactor has been built in the last 20 years, and that's with Vogel in Georgia. And that's taken 17 to 18 years between planning and operation. It costs $35 billion, or $16 a watt, which compares to one dollars a watt for new wind or solar. So in wind or solar, you can put up in one to three years.

Mark Z. Jacobson: So why would you spend 16 times more on the capital, which translates to about five to eight times more in the cost per unit energy, and only get that energy like 14 years later while the planet burns in the meantime, and you're emitting so much carbon, like that Vogel plant, they put up enough carbon into the atmosphere because they laid enough cement for a sidewalk from Miami to Seattle for that reactor. Can you imagine how much carbon that went into building that, in addition to allowing for 17 years coal and gas plants to spew out emissions? Whereas if they invested that same money initially in wind or solar, they would have been starting eliminate that emissions within one to three years. So it's an enormous opportunity cost, the vocal reactor.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Who knows if it'll ever pay back the carbon debt that it already resulted in. Yeah, because it would have been so much more efficient to just go to the wind and solar route. And this is the main problem with nuclear general. And the small reactors are even more expensive than large reactors. That's why went to large reactors in the first place. Plus they have more weapons proliferation risk. Now we have these small ones, which companies are willing to ship around the world. There are 30 countries in the world around that have nuclear energy technologies. And now if with small module reactors, that allows more countries to get these technologies, and then usually what happens to these countries?

Mark Z. Jacobson: They secretly develop the weapons capability under the guise of civilian nuclear energy programs by being able to import uranium and then refine it or harvest plutonium from spent fuels.

Greg Robinson: Yeah. My lesson in large nuclear was. I lived outside of Seattle for about 15 years and we used to drive to the coast and you would see the failed nuclear reactor plant. I don't know if you remember that one. I think the nickname was whoops. I think the acronym spelled. Spelled whoops. But there's just these huge plants and you drive by it. It's like that never made any energy whatsoever. Multiple billions of dollars worth of those.

Mark Z. Jacobson: One in South Carolina, too.

Greg Robinson: All right, what about. Well, since you started about the small nuclear as vaporware, I can kind of assume what you're going to say about this. But what about all the money going into fusion reaction? That might not even be vapor word. That might just be science fiction. But I'm just curious your thoughts on that.

Mark Z. Jacobson: That's like a factor of ten multiplied useless endeavor. Yeah, certainly from as a researcher point of view, I'd say, oh yeah, let's fund a research to research. But from a practical point of view, again, we need to solve 80% of the problem in six years and we're wasting money on something we know is not going to do diddly squat and will never be commercial in our lifetimes. And they can promise all they want. It's just we know it's not going to happen. We shouldn't be spending money and time on things that actually do work. And we know it works.

Greg Robinson: Yeah. If I didn't know already that you were not a physics major, I now know that you are not a physics major based on your view of those. I just know so many physics people, they're like, oh, I really want to spend.

Mark Z. Jacobson: My nuclear fission or fusion is really pushed by the nuclear researchers who depend. All their income depends on, or not all, but a lot of their income depends on the US federal funding from the federal government to pay for their research and their jobs. A lot of them are soft money positions. So I can see why a nuclear physicist really support nuclear. It's because there's a huge financial incentive. There's a huge amount of money in the past that's gone into this.

Greg Robinson: Yeah, I had the opportunity when I was in undergrad for physics to replace pieces of my degree with others math based sciences, and I replaced all of my nuclear physics curriculum with atmospheric science and climatology. And that actually brings me to a point that I try to ask everybody this, because it's always so fascinating to me what the moment was or what the experience was as a kid that kind of got you into what you're doing today. Was there something, some exposure you had as a kid that didn't get you into what you're doing today, but gave you the skills. You went into civil engineering.

Greg Robinson: You obviously were drawn to the engineering world, and even in your research and some of the things you said today definitely seem to have more of a bias towards getting things done in real world, practical ways, which to me is so much more of an engineering approach, rather than a physicist approach, which is more of, like, I can theorize how this world should work, and so therefore, I'll design to that. So was there something in your childhood that pushed you into that engineering, or to really think of the world this way?

Mark Z. Jacobson: Well, I think when I was, like, seven or eight or nine, I built this massive toothpick sculpture. It was a village made of toothpicks. So if that counts as engineering, 100%. I mean, it's actually, they still have it, and it has little mobile parts on it. I can't believe I did that.

Greg Robinson: I think we might need a picture of that.

Mark Z. Jacobson: That's amazing. I do have photo somewhere. That's fantastic.

Greg Robinson: That is awesome. Yeah. My co founder of Aston, we've been together for a long time. We actually played a band together when I was in college. But he got into. His answer to getting into software was his parents got him, like, a Commodore 64, and he was playing video games, and he found out that he could break the game and magically, like, the code would appear in front of him as he broke it. Yeah, similar. I can see that there's something very pragmatic and visceral about having to create a structure out of something. And I think I've been so fascinated to talk to you because there's so many hypothetical conversations going on, and it's like, if it can be marketed, it gets marketed.

Greg Robinson: It's almost like now, all of a sudden, our deep science companies act more like political organizations, just in terms of, like, I have to get stakeholder buy in. I have to get capital stakeholder buy in for this new invention that I have, rather than, hey, here's something that really could move very quickly. I've also had this experience personally in my career so far, where when I heard companies say, we're 100% renewable, yay. I actually truly believe that they meant that they were running their facilities on 100% renewable energy. It was so naive to think that, because they absolutely were not. I mean, they were buying renewable energy credits from a grid that wasn't even connected to theirs. Sort of like from Texas or something when they were elsewhere.

Greg Robinson: And you've been in the industry from before that renewable energy credit sort of swap game started to happen. Do you think that was a necessary step in the industry where we needed to have those renewable energy credit purchases? We had to have companies sort of stepping up and putting up their balance sheets to say, I'll underwrite this, but you have to give me marketing credit. Do you think that was a necessary step, or do you think that has gotten us down a path that's actually tough to unravel now?

Mark Z. Jacobson: Well, I think if the company is actually, whatever it's spending on is actually resulting in the building of a new wind or solar farm, that's good. Like, for example, Stanford University, where I work, it's 100% renewable, not only for electricity, but also heating and cooling. And what it did was it replaced a natural or fossil gas plant that provided 80% of the campus electricity and heat, and it replaced it with this energy system that consists of cooling and heating. So it built two chillers in a boiler, put like 30 miles of coal and 30 miles of hot water pipes around the university, and then put 10 solar on the rooftops and then bought two new solar footable tac farms in the Central Valley in California. So for a total of around 160 mw.

Mark Z. Jacobson: So they actually paid for two new solar farms and they're getting their electricity from the grid, so they're not getting their electricity directly from those solar farms, but from the grid, but they're offsetting it with that electricity production, which would not be there otherwise. So that kind of purchase where you're actually purchasing something real, that's resulting in new development, that's good. I mean, that's what Amazon is doing. And I'm sure like Microsoft, Google, they building farms. A lot of them are using their own electricity, in some cases for data centers, but other cases are just building and they're on the grid. And these companies are over 400, maybe 450 companies worldwide, including eight of the ten biggest companies in the world that have now committed to 100% renewables.

Mark Z. Jacobson: And they're the ones who are making the biggest changes, or some of the biggest changes around the world. I mean, Amazon has built more wind and solar and some other energy and battery storage in several entire countries, and that is really good. But there are other types of fake credit schemes. When you're like buying carbon offsets from a forest, you're going to preserve a forest for a few years or something. You can't judge if that's actually saving anything, right? Especially over farmland. Like not just letting farmland go for a few years and then a few years later, then they just burn it down or something when you can't actually verify that there's an actual reduction. I don't like those kinds of schemes. It's carbon credit schemes.

Mark Z. Jacobson: But I do like the schemes where you're actually building somewhere a wind or solar farm or battery storage facility, even if it's not connected to your business.

Greg Robinson: Yeah. In your modeling, even if you're building these new large scale systems far away from demand, is there any scenario where the grid is having to build new fossil fuels for like, peak? Or do you think that battery technology is far enough along that we don't need any more gas peaker plants to.

Mark Z. Jacobson: I don't think we need more peakers. I mean, generally what happens is if you need more electricity, you import it. So, like California, it's about 50% renewables in their annual average in California. But there are a lot of times when we don't have enough electricity in the state, and so they just import it. But if you look at the grid around California, like Washington is on the order of 90% renewable. It's true. Idaho, too. A lot of hydropower. Many other states are getting either. I'd say on average, all the imports are 50% renewables if you look at all the states that California imports from. So it's not a bad thing. In fact, the greater the interconnection region, the smoother the easier it is to supply 100% renewables everywhere.

Mark Z. Jacobson: And as we provide more windwater solar in these other states, we're going to 100% imports as well. So it doesn't really matter if we have import extra electricity if it's all 100% renewables.

Greg Robinson: Yeah, I like that. California has sort of expanded into the imbalance market. It's not quite as efficient yet as it probably should be, but they at least can tap into these other resources from sunnier states or windier areas or more.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Yeah. And so in, you know, the thing that's holding us back is offshore wind not being put up yet, because we have a huge offshore wind resource, and there are a lot of plans to put up offshore wind. But one of the problems is Diablo canyon nuclear plant is hogging the biggest transmission line to the coast and basically limiting the amount offshore wind we can develop in the next five to ten years. Because of infinite wisdom of our state governments, they decided to try to keep it open for a few extra years. And that's all it's doing, is saddling consumers with high subsidy costs because it's being subsidized to stay open and it's hogging the transmission line and it's preventing more solar and wind and other energy sources from being developed.

Greg Robinson: That's incredible. And you mentioned subsidies. I did have a note to talk to you about subsidies, but it just is still fascinating to me that there are, I believe the number is about a trillion dollars worth of fossil fuel subsidies still in play.

Mark Z. Jacobson: What can we have more than that you're talking about worldwide or in us?

Greg Robinson: I was just saying in the US.

Mark Z. Jacobson: I was trying to keep the number low.

Florence Lumsden: I had no idea about that. That's not good news.

Greg Robinson: Yeah, that would be my question. It's just like, how do you get rid of something like that? What are the steps?

Mark Z. Jacobson: There are different subsidies. Yeah, there are different types of subsidies. There's direct subsidies. There's tax code subsidies. So there's fossil fuel industry has been manipulating the tax code for over a century, and then there are subsidies of what they're not paying, like through health costs and climate costs. So they're not paying for all the air pollution mortalities and morbidities that they're causing. And so they're basically being subsidized by people in the United States and worldwide who are suffering these damages and basically paying those costs, paying higher health care costs, workers compensation rates, and paying for more, higher medical bills, higher taxes in general.

Greg Robinson: Yeah. I don't know if you know about any research going on right now, but it'd be really interesting if there was some sort of comprehensive research just on subsidies. Just uncovering.

Mark Z. Jacobson: There's some group that does like annual subsidy summary for the world, and it's pretty eye opening.

Greg Robinson: We should find that. I feel like a lot, even Flo saying, oh, I didn't even know that. It's just incredible that there's so many things that have been there. I often talk about the utility industry is kind of tricky because the founders of the utility business model aren't around anymore. And so there's a lot of belief that if I pull that rock out from the corner of the house, is the house going to fall down? So there's this feeling that nobody's around to say, no, we designed it this way, but we designed the subsidies this way, but if you pull those out, it's not going to make the whole house come tumbling down. But there's just that fear.

Greg Robinson: Seems like there's that fear to rip out some things that have been there for longer than any politician's been around or any of us have been alive. I have two more questions for you. One is, how would you scale your research, does there need to be a company that's formed around scaling the research? Do you think you could do it through an ngo style? Do you think it needs to be like you talked about incentivization, do you think it's a policy thing, or do you think that a company could be formed around that to actually go out and do that development, or to push? Have you thought about kind of the mechanisms that would be required to scale this across 139 countries, or maybe already?

Mark Z. Jacobson: Well, I think the first thing, the biggest issue is information. Most people aren't aware of what's possible. And in terms of the numbers, what are the benefits and the costs and the cost. Benefits, job creation, loss, how much land is needed, how much materials are needed. So that's what we try to do, is develop plans to give that information. So it's information about what's possible and what are the benefits. And then once people have that information, then it's a lot easier to make decisions to go forward. And you do then need a coalition of stakeholders, or. I helped co found a nonprofit back 2011 called the Solutions Project. And the beauty of that nonprofit was that it combined. I do science, but nobody listens to me as a scientist.

Mark Z. Jacobson: So if you combine science, business, culture and community, and have leaders and people who are respected and can get the information out in their communities, that really helped to get information out to a larger scale and also engaged other nonprofits. We ended up engaging about 100 nonprofits to support 100% renewable energy. And that created a movement. I mean, I was doing the plans, but the plans alone weren't enough. You really needed a community of people from different areas who could really engage the public and policymakers and affect a change. And I was fortunate, I was just really lucky to meet these wonderful people.

Mark Z. Jacobson: And in the end, it resulted in laws, and in fact, it resulted in the Green New Deal that was the source of the Green New Deal, and also the 100% laws in 20 states and territories in the US, and over 180 cities and hundreds of companies adopted this. And worldwide, about 62 countries have adopted 100% renewable energy policies.

Greg Robinson: Wow, that's amazing. That sounds like scale. Yeah. I've met a few people at cop that kind of had these very inspiring stories about working just on where they were from. So going back to the country that they were from and using their influence or convening power to be able to convene resources in order to get them to go 100% renewable. But a few of those people I need to send your research to because I think sometimes it's like the desire to do it is not enough. You really need the data, you need the models to go along with your desire to do it. As you said, you have to bring those stakeholders together. Yeah, I think that actually covers it. The only other question I was going to ask you was just about kind of the biggest challenges.

Greg Robinson: You did mention that nobody listens to you as a scientist, which I think should go on the climate epitaph or something like that. I think the ultimate challenge of being a scientist in climate is so easy for people to be like, it's not warm out, freezing cold, or some ridiculous state.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Well, everybody's a scientist, right?

Greg Robinson: I think it might be getting worse. Yeah, I do think. I talked to a bartender at one point about mrna transcription in the last couple of years, so I think we've reached peak. Armchair scientist, I hope. But thank you so much for having this conversation with us. The only thing I'll say is if there's anything that you would ask of anyone we try on this show to really after we record, to take and point the messages at specific people, rather than just sort of putting it out there and hoping we amass a bunch of listeners. It's more of like, we try to kind of use it as a way to get it in front of stakeholders or people who need to hear this.

Greg Robinson: So if there's anything for anyone, whether it's policy, whether it's the Federal Trade Commission, to make these people stop saying the things that they're saying, if there's any message that you want to leave.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Us with, well, I think we need to focus and keep our eye on the ball. Focus on what works, which is clean renewable energy and storage. What does not work are things that we know don't work. Carbon capture, direct air capture, blue hydrogen, electrofuels, bioenergy, small modular nuclear reactors, geoengineering, these are all distractions, useless, not helpful. Increase air pollution, increase carbon dioxide, increase fossil mining, fossil infrastructure, land use. So we need to deploy, deploy the clean renewable energy technologies we have. Electrify everything, provide the electricity with clean renewable energy, focus on that, stay positive because we can solve the problem. We have 95% of the technologies we need. So I'm just going to be optimistic that we will and can't solve the problem and hope that others who listen are agreeable and help to help actually move the ball forward in solving this problem.

Greg Robinson: Amazing. Perfect.

Florence Lumsden: Thank you, Mark.

Greg Robinson: Yeah.

Florence Lumsden: One thing I hope that we can't escape this planet. So eventually people are going to have to come around to the fact that this is in their.

Mark Z. Jacobson: Benefit. There's a financial benefit and health benefit, job benefits. You're absolutely right.

Florence Lumsden: Yeah. So that's my hope, is eventually the self interest will come. Will come through for us.

Greg Robinson: Yeah. Selfishness must prevail.

Florence Lumsden: Selfishness must prevail.

Mark Z. Jacobson: I know. That's why you got to shift these incentives to useful things, and people can then try to make proposals on useful things, not useful. Anyway. Thanks, Greg. Thanks, blow.

Greg Robinson: Appreciate it.

Florence Lumsden: Thank you.

Florence Lumsden: Thanks so much.

Greg Robinson: Thanks for tuning into this episode of the world changing podcast. Be sure to follow us wherever you get your podcasts, iTunes, Spotify, YouTube to hear the latest episodes.