We don’t need more fossil fuels to power the future, says Chuck Kutscher. His report, on how massive deployment of efficiency measures and renewables could cut U.S. carbon emissions by at least 60% by 2030, was well received this morning by an audience here eager for good news.
The bottom line? All we need is a hefty pricetag on carbon emissions–-Kutscher estimates about $35 per ton of carbon dioxide–-and a surfeit of political will to force people to use public transportation, build greener buildings, and pressure fossil fuel plants to become more efficient. Kutscher envisions the great plains blanketed with windmills, the Southwest bustling with concentrated solar power plants, and photovoltaic cells and biofuel plants all over. He says the yearlong study he presented, sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society, was “reasonable” in its assumptions, which included manufacturing limits on solar panels and market competition with fossil fuels in the wind power estimates.
Physicist Art Hobson of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville thought the session “really ended [the AAAS conference] on a positive note … I’ve been asking myself for years, 'Can we do it with renewables and efficiency?' ” But he said that “we might need some help” to meet energy demands in the future at a feasible cost, and he figures fossil fuels could fit the bill.
Kutscher, an engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, says Americans must be willing to pay more for the alternatives. “Does it become an entirely economic argument if you say the polar icecaps are melting?”