Jill Stein, the Green Party's candidate for president, calls for a "Green New Deal," to initiate a WWII-scale national mobilization to climate change, invest in public transit, sustainable agriculture, conservation and restoration of critical infrastructure, revive the economy, and make wars for oil obsolete.

The plan is a social and economic stimulus package to address both the climate and financial crises. It combines Franklin Roosevelt's fiscal ideals with investment in renewable energies and the promotion of greater resource efficiency.

In her August 25 interview with the Washington Post Editorial Board, Stein explained it would create 20 million jobs, and transition to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030. It would rely on material previously published by Rutgers' Philip Harvey and Stanford's Mark Jacobson.

At the time of the interview Stein said she would be putting out a more detailed position paper in the next couple of weeks. But in the heat of the presidential campaign, she has not been able to finish and publish it, and likely will not before the election. However there is a ready surrogate.

The Jacobson roadmap

Mark Jacobson initially set out a roadmap in a cover story in the November 2009 issue of Scientific American, "A Path To Sustainable Energy By 2030," co-authored with Mark Delucchi. The article's key concepts, as summarized by the editors were:

  • Supplies of wind and solar energy on accessible land dwarf the energy consumed by people around the globe.
  • The plan calls for 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations worldwide.
  • The cost of generating and transmitting power would be less than the projected cost per kilowatt-hour for fossil fuel and nuclear power.
  • Shortages of a few specialty materials, along with lack of political will, loom as the greatest obstacles.

To ensure that the system remains clean, the authors considered only technologies that have near-zero emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants over their entire life cycle, including construction, operation and decommissioning. That excluded ethanol, nuclear, carbon capture and sequestration, and technologies which could present significant waste disposal or terrorism risks.

Overall construction cost could be on the order of $100 trillion worldwide, not including transmission. But it would not be money handed out by governments or consumers. It is investment to be paid back through the sale of electricity and energy.

Jacobson, Delucchi, and others elaborated on the concept in a detailed paper published last year, "100% clean and renewable wind, water, and sunlight (WWS) all-sector energy roadmaps for the 50 United States".

In an interview this year Jacobson explained the paper's methodology. It specifies a state-by-state plan to replace fossil fuel energy with wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and small amounts of tidal turbines and wave devices. It relies solely on existing technology of today.

For Michigan, I have copied the results below. The benefits include elimination of air pollution mortality, job creation, stabilization of energy prices, and diminution of the threat of climate change. Fossil emissions would be eliminated. And deaths of about 63,000 people nationwide would be prevented annually.

The 2015 study began by examining energy usage in four sectors: residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation. For each, the authors analyzed the current amount and source of the fuel consumed -- coal, oil, gas, nuclear, renewables (referred to as "WWS" for "wind, water, solar") -- and calculated the fuel demands if all were replaced with electricity. For example all cars would become electric, and the internal combustion engine would be phased out.

The result would be a 39% reduction in total end-use power demand by 2050. Most of the drop would come from replacement of combustion energy with electricity. The remainder would come from infrastructure efficiency improvements. For example, only 20% of the energy in gasoline is used to move a vehicle; the rest is wasted as heat. In an electric vehicle of the electricity delivered goes into motion.

The supply of wind, water, and solar is of course free and inexhaustible.

As to intermittency, the wind often blows during night and storms when there is no sun; the sun often shines on calm days with little wind. Periods when there is neither wind nor sun can be mitigated by balancing sources, battery storage, and changes of lifestyle habits.

The paper's next task was to determine how to power the new electric grid. This involved analyzing each state's sun exposure and number of available south-facing, non-shaded rooftops. Involved also was review of maps to determine the availability of wind, onshore and offshore. Land footprint and spacing needs for wind turbines and solar panels were calculated. Traditional geothermal resources (volcanos, geysers, and hot springs) were found in 13 states. The impacts on jobs and total earnings created in the electricity system -- as well as those lost in the fossil and nuclear industries -- were also analyzed.

The paper concludes with a transition timeline, energy efficiency measures, and potential policy measures to implement the plans. The first step would be an end to subsidies and tax benefits for fossil energy and biofuels.

The 2015 paper is a retreat from Jacobson's 2009 Scientific American assertion that goals could be met by 2030. The goal could be only 80-85% met by 2030, and 100% by 2050. But unlike in 2009:

We do not believe a technical or economic barrier exists to ramping up production of WWS technologies, as history suggests that rapid ramp-ups of production can occur given strong enough political will. For example during World War II, aircraft production increased from nearly zero to 330,000 over five years.

We now have a prescription for hope. "The main barriers [to implementation of the plan] are social, political, and getting industries to change," Jacobson says.

Jobs

The paper's section on jobs will be of greatest interest to many people or most people. Here is how detailed estimates of the jobs and total earnings created with renewable WWS-based electricity, discounted by losses in the displaced nuclear and fossil industries, were computed. (It does not include the potential gains and losses in manufacturing and other affected industries.)

Job and earnings increases from WWS are first estimated using government Jobs and Economic Development Impact ("JEDI") economic input-output models. Because the JEDI models have some uncertainties, results were compared with and found consistent with results from a compilation of 15 other models derived in a 2010 paper by other scholars.

Job and earnings losses due to the onset of large-scale WWS were then estimated in the fossil- and nuclear-related industries, after subtracting out non-fuel petroleum jobs (lubricants, asphalt, petrochemical feedstocks, petroleum coke) which would remain. No modeling is needed for these numbers as they are available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Energy Information Administration.

The conclusion: Throughout the US, JEDI models predict the creation of about 3.9 million 40-year construction jobs and 2.0 million 40-year operation and maintenance jobs for WWS. The shift will simultaneously result in the loss of about 3.9 million fossil and nuclear jobs. Thus, a net of about 2.0 million 40-year jobs will be created. The direct and indirect earnings from WWS amount to $223 billion per year during the construction stage, and $132 billion per year for operation. The annual earnings lost from fossil-fuel industries total about $270 billion per year giving a net gain in annual earnings of about $85 billion per year.

Michigan

The Michigan-specific results follow.

Energy mix (rounded to the nearest %):

Residential rooftop PV   4%
Solar PV plants 19%
Concentrated solar power (CSP) plants   2%
Onshore wind 40%
Offshore wind 31%
Commercial/govt rooftop PV   3%
Wave devices   1%
Geothermal   0%
Hydroelectric   1%
Tidal turbines   0%

Number of 40-year jobs created:

Construction jobs 89,250
Operations jobs 58,810

Other results:

Diminution of need for energy
due to use of WWS and
improvements in energy efficiency
38.0%
Annual avoided mortality
and illness costs
$12.1 billion
Air pollution deaths
avoided every year
1744
Percentage of Michigan land
(including spacing) needed
for all new generators
4.57%

Comparison of future energy costs in 2050:

Fossil fuel and nuclear (state
average, including fossil-related
health and climate externality costs)
16.5/kWh
WWS (state average) 11.4/kWh

Annual savings per person as of 2050:

Energy, health, and climate costs $10,932
Electricity costs $    157