As young children worldwide protest over climate change, I thought I'd do a post about Bernie Sanders' Green Climate Change plan.

(click to watch on Youtube)

Bernie Sanders' idea is one of many ideas but one of the ones that promises the most radical action most quickly. He plans to spend $16 trillion on it, and claims that all of this will be recovered, that it will pay for itself.

It doesn't have to be done this way. The UK and California are already committed to zero emissions by 2050 - and some countries have 100% renewables already, without having to do massive government programs like this. But he claims that his way of doing it will actually benefit the US economy and save money in the long term.

How fast should we transition to renewables, should the government fund large renewable projects to achieve this, and is such an ambitious very fast trnasition as Bernie Sanders proposes practical and is it the best way forward? I won't give answers here, but will try to counteract some of the many misconceptiosn about his idea in the media.

Yes, I think it is plausible that it can pay for itself. There are some ways in which it clearly does save a lot, and the renewables are bound to have a big upfront cost that then is paid back over the 15 years of the project. He identifies various sectors where it will save money and other sectors where it will generate revenue. He has this summary of how it pays for itself:

As for the details then it needs economists to check it. If he becomes president, any of these plans of course would have to go through a stage of rigorous examination and pass Congressional approval before it became policy and law.

It is easy to see that renewable power requires larger investment upfront for the same amount of power as a coal fired powerstation but it pays for itself back more easily because there is no need to buy any fuel. Once it is built all you have are the maintenance and replacement. This has been the main barrier to adoptation, in places like India especially where local people do not have easy access to capital and loans for such projects even if they would pay back in the middle term.

He says the renewables will collect revenues from 2023 to 2035 and then after that the electricity will be virtually free apart from operations and maintenance costs.

Since renewables are already profitable in the US there seems to be nothing wrong with this aspect of the plan. If you invest this much in renewables it is a sure bet that it will generate a steady stream of revenue from then on.

Then he says that there will be a saving in the use of military to maintain the US global oil dependence. There again it seems reasonable. The US military spends at least $81 billion a year protecting oil supplies. It could easily be more like $216 billion a year by a more extensive analysis. See: The Military Cost of Defending Global Oil Supplies - Securing America's Future

Over 15 years that saves $1.2 trillion to $3.2 trillion depending on whether you go to the lower or higher estimate.

The US defence is very expensive, largest in the world, estimated budget from 2019 to 2020 of $989 billion. It’s not too surprising that possibly a tenth of that or more, maybe even more than a fifth is used to protect global oil supplies.

As for fossil fuel subsidies, again we have huge subsidies. Worldwide $370 billion is spent in support of fossil fuels, compared to $100 billlion for renewables. Swapping those fossil fuel subsidies to support renewables would help kickstart the renewables revolution.

A 2018 report recommends that

“Following subsidy reforms, governments can increase taxes on fossil fuels to continue to generate fiscal resources for clean energy while simultaneously reducing carbon dioxide emissions.”

Fossil Fuel to Clean Energy Subsidy Swaps: How to pay for an energy revolution

This is what Bernie Sanders is proposing to do. It’s not that revolutionary. The report looks into four countries that have already done it, India, Indonesia, Zambia and Morocco

For example, when Indonesia reformed gasoline and diesel subsidies in 2015, the fiscal savings were estimated to be USD 15.6 billion, over 10 per cent of state expenditure. These savings were reallocated to fund a wide range of economic development and infrastructure investments Fossil Fuel to Clean Energy Subsidy Swaps:How to pay for an energy revolution

That’s a saving of $300 billion over 15 years.

If you take account of the hidden costs of fossil fuels, like global warming, pollution effects on health etc, the costs are far higher, worldwide an estimated $5.2 trillion a year according to the International Monetary Fund.

As for the amount the US spends, then from 2015–6 the US federal government provided subsidies of $14.7 billion a year to the fossil fuel industry, and individual states provided $5.8 billion for a total of over $20 billion a year direct payment. See report from Oil Change International

He uses a figure of “almost $15 billion” in the report.

He will also massively raise taxes and enforce penalties for polluting.

Then in addition to that he has:

  • Income tax revenue from the 20 million new jobs.
  • Reduced need for state and federal safety net spending because of the new jobs.
  • Making wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share.

His report doesn’t seem to have a detailed break down of how it would be funded. It is for economists to check it out and make sure all the numbers add up, but he says experts have checked the costing and it’s not surprising to me that he could pay for a multi-trillion dollar program over 15 years by such methods.

He will also be investing $200 billion in the Green Climate Fund for “equitable transfer of renewable technologies, climate adaptation, and assistance in adopting sustainable energies”.

We all benefit from a world where third world countries have lower CO2 emissions, greater resilience, no climate refugees, and are more self sufficient in power and less poverty. A richer, more secure third world will benefit everyone.

He also says inaction will lead to a loss of $34.5 trillion in economic activity by the end of the century and he says that his plan can save $2.9 trillion over 10 years, $21 trillion over the next 30 years and $70.4 trillion over 80 years.

Of course none of this is any good if it doesn’t work. However much of it is a sure investment, especially renewables. We know for sure that it’s possible to build renewable powers stations that are cost competitive with coal already. So is this the time to do such a thing?

It doesn't have a detailed costing in the released statement as far as I can see.

This is another article I'm writing to support people we help in the Facebook Doomsday Debunked group, that find us because they get scared, sometimes to the point of feeling suicidal about it, by such stories. Do share this with your friends if you find it useful, as they may be panicking too. I


The cost of renewables is falling rapidly. This is for the UK, 50 - 60 degrees North and even here the cost of solar -PV power generation has reached the same levels as the most efficient fossil fuels and is predicted to fall below them in the next few years. Onshore wind is also equal or below the best fossil fuels.

The price drop for solar is especially remarkable, a drop from 2012 to 2022 from 27 to 4 cents per kilowatt hours.

Before 2015, only four years ago, solar power couldn't compete even with the most expensive of fossil fuels without government subsidies.

Over most of the US then renewable power stations are already competitive with fossil fuels on cost. These prices will continue to drop in the 2020s as his program is rolled out over the US, and indeed, the initiatives he would help fund would continue to drive down prices of renewables.

I won’t discuss the politics of all this. In the UK then much of Bernie Sanders’ politics would seem centrist not left wing at all. Many of the things he propose that seem so radical to Americans are things we have here already - such as our National Health Service here in the UK where I live.

However this idea of borrowing large amounts in order to spend large amounts on renewables would be radical even in the UK and nobody here is proposing doing it quite this way here. But I do think it is very interesting and it needs to be looked at carefully. Perhaps we should be doing it like that here too?

However I didn't write this to comment on the politics. So many journalists are getting the science all wrong and it’s the science that is making / will make it possible, so I want to focus on that most of all.


Electric vehicles and aviation are the biggest challenge. His proposal is an Apollo Moonshot type investment, not to get to the Moon but to transition to renewables. The cost of batteries for instance has come down hugely in just the last decade, at a rate of a remarkable nearly tenfold drop per decade.

A Behind the Scenes Take on Lithium-ion Battery Prices | BloombergNEF

This is a projection through to 2030 from those figures by BloombergNEF based on its ninth battery survey in 2018:

A Behind the Scenes Take on Lithium-ion Battery Prices | BloombergNEF

It’s that price reduction that is starting to make electric cars affordable and he is proposing a major public finance initiative to push it even lower even faster.

This is just through foreseeable near future tweaks in existing lithium ion battery technology and economies of scale, not taking account of any possible major breakthroughs.

Bernie Sanders says he will:

"invest in public research to drastically reduce the cost of energy storage and electric vehicles, and make our plastics more sustainable through advanced chemistry".

With this background then it is clear that massive investment would yield results.

The nay sayer are saying we can’t transition to 100% electric vehicles because we don’t have the charging points yet and don’t have the batteries for long trips without recharging. Well, build a charging network then!

He will invest in an open access national elecrical vehicle charging infrastructure.

The main problem with electric cars is not so much the range, as the cost that goes along with achieving that range. Electric car batteries could drop in cost to below $100 per kwh by 2020. That would be a game changer as that’s the point at which people would start to switch to electric vehicles just on the basis of cost alone, that they cost less than petrol based cars.

Many industry analysts believe a cost of $100 per kwh is the point where battery-electric cars become cost competitive with internal combustion.

Electric-car batteries: $100 per kwh before 2020, $80 soon after?

If we are to have all electric vehicles by 2030 it is not enough to make sure all cars sold are electric by then, because the typical lifetime of a car is 15 years. Even if all cars sold were electric in 2021 it wouldn’t be until the mid 2040s that most cars on the road would start to be electric.

So, he is going to provide grants to purchase new ones, and a trade in program for low to moderate income families and small lbusinesses to trade in a old cars for an American-made electric vehicle.

For shipper trucks then the trade in program will cover everyone including the largest fleets.

In a survey by Yale university, the percentage support for funding more research into renewable energy sources such as solar and power is 86% of registered voters as: 96% of Democrats, 75% of Independents, and 77% of Republicans.

Whether they will go for such a major investment program as this, at lesat there is a stomach for more investing than at present.

We are getting remarkable advances in technology every year. Both cost and power density. Until recently the idea of an electrically powered plane was inconceivable, it would weigh too much to take off.

This is Eviation’s first all elecric aircraft for shorthaul flights of 9 passengers up to 1000 km which they expect to release for commercial use in a few years. He expects a cost per passenger / mile similar to a train.

(click to watch on Youtube)

Take a seat in the world's first all-electric plane

Evision sees a future where we have numerous small planes flying between the many small local airfields, carrying passengers on short haul flights.

(click to watch on Youtube)

Norway is likely to be an early adopter of electric planes as it has lots of flights over short distances as you can imagine. There is a company there that is already working on electric planes. This is a small two seater plane that took off and flew around Oslo airport.

(click to watch on Youtube)

It works only for small planes at present but those ones with maybe half a dozen passengers are often used in remote rural places. They hope to start commercial flights by 2025 Norway's plan for a fleet of electric planes

We probably have to use carbon offsetting for long haul flights, or e-fuel (like Audi’s e-gas for cars). But short haul flights can be all electric within a few years.

We can also increase high speed trains, and provide more efficient public transport, and that’s part of Bernie Sanders’ plan

“High speed rail and public transit services reliable, affordable and accessible to everyone including seniors, those with disabilities and rural communities.”


In the intro I talked about where we are headed at present with improvements on existing technology mainly lithium ion batteries. But it’s possible we get some major breakthrough too.

These only exist in the labs or small scale pilots at present, but that is how most breakthroughs start. There are many battery technologies that exist in labs but not yet scaled up to commercial use. Including ways to improve the lithium ion batteries even further, some of them described here:

Then there is the possibility of something really major coming. It would be a huge difference if we can crack the “lithium air” battery as that would have storage capacity similar to gasoline in theory.

“There’s a lot of polarized views about if lithium-oxygen could be promising, but I always remember that scientists are allowed to dream,”

Y. Shirley Meng, professor at University of California, San Diego

The Future of Batteries: From Li-oxygen to Sodium-ion

The theoretical specific energy of Li-air batteries is calculated as 5,200 Wh/kg, or equivalently, 18.7 MJ/kg including oxygen. Since oxygen is constantly drawn from air, specific energy is often quoted excluding oxygen content.

This theoretical specific energy is calculated to be 11,140 Wh/kg, or 40.1MJ/kg which is close enough to that of gasoline, around 46MJ/kg

Lithium-Air Batteries: An Overview

By way of example, this is one recent research breakthrough in Lithium air batteries from 2018

By storing O2 as lithium oxide (Li2O) instead of lithium peroxide (Li2O2), the battery not only maintained excellent charging characteristics, it achieved the maximum four-electron transfer in the system, thereby increasing the theoretical energy storage by 50 per cent.

“By swapping out the electrolyte and the electrode host and raising the temperature, we show the system performs remarkably well,” said Nazar, who is also a University Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Waterloo.

Chemists make breakthrough on road to creating a rechargeable lithium-oxygen battery | Waterloo News

It potentially can store ten times as much as lithium ion. This is a good overview of it:

(click to watch on Youtube)

It’s potentially 15 years away from commercialization. But perhaps that 15 years can be speeded up with rapid investment?

Scientists deliver a longer-lasting lithium-oxygen battery

There are many other technologies in the labs that we can work on. There are the hydrogen fuel cells. Then there are the “flow batteries” which are a kind of hybrid between the two. The idea is that you go to a refilling station to swap out the spent electrolyte of your battery for new electrolyte. The energy is stored as the electrolyte instead of in the terminals.

A flow battery is a type of rechargeable battery where rechargeability is provided by two chemical components dissolved in liquids contained within the system and most commonly separated by a membrane. This technology is akin to both a fuel cell and a battery - where liquid energy sources are tapped to create electricity and are able to be recharged within the same system.

One of the biggest advantages of flow batteries is that they can be almost instantly recharged by replacing the electrolyte liquid, while simultaneously recovering the spent material for re-energization.

… The fundamental difference between conventional batteries and flow cells is that energy is stored as the electrode material in conventional batteries but as the electrolyte in flow cells.

Flow Batteries | Energy Storage Association

Potentially flow batteries could have a huge range. This is one that produces both electricity and hydrogen from the same battery. It’s at an early stage being tested at Purdue university to power golf carts, but they think they will be able to achieve a range of 3,000-3,600 miles (about 4,800-5,800 km)

(click to watch on Youtube)

New "refillable" battery tech could allow electric cars over 5000km range | The Driven

There are so many ideas out there, and some of them may be the next big breakthrough.


He has many plans but they include:

  • $30 billion "StorageShot" initiative to commercialize technologies that can store energy for 24 hours to multiple days at capital cost less than $1,000 per kw hour
  • $100 billion to reduce the cost of a new electric car to $18,000. $500 billion into research to decarbonize industry
  • $500 billion to decarbonize industry
  • $150 billion to decarbonize aviation

He also plans to spend a lot on public transport

  • $607 billion regional high-speed rail system
  • $300 billion public transport system

Also on replacing petrol by electric vehicles

  • $216 billion replace all long haul deisel tractor trailer trucks with fast charging long-range trucks
  • $407 billion to replace all school and transit buses with electric buses
  • $85.6 billion national electrical vehicle infrastructure network.
  • $681 billion vehicle trade in scheme for low to moderate income families and small businesses.
  • $2.09 trillion to help low to moderate income families buy electric vehicles.

Many other things, for instance to support agriculture including small farmers.


Here is Kennedy’s speech about going to the Moon:

(click to watch on Youtube)

Remember when Kennedy made his Moonshot speech the Saturn V did not exist, not only that, we did not know how to build one of these:

(click to watch on Youtube)

The nay sayers are like people responding to Kennedy's speech saying

"We can't go to the Moon because we do not have rockets anything like powerful enough to do it, and don’t even know how to build such a rocket".

Here is an example of one of those many nay sayers who have weighed in on Bernie Sanders’ plan in the press:

Yes, we could consider Sanders’ plan. But the we would live in darkness. Most of us would never travel. We would be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Most of us would not have access to electronics. Our landscapes would be filled with solar panels and windmills that kill birds. Our rivers would all be dammed. And many of us would starve.

Bernie Sanders’ Green Energy Dystopian Fantasy

That is very ill informed. Passive homes are designed to keep us warm in winter and cold in summer with minimal power use - they will not make us cold in winter or too hot in summer - that is a fundamental misunderstanding of the idea.

Our power grids can be balanced with peaking power from hydro, also with long distance HVDC cables.

For instance there’s a UHVDC line between Norway and the UK under construction that will permit load balancing between the UK and Norway.

Project Sheet

The dots show new storage capacity, e.g. pumped hydro - planned, proposed, under consideration, under construction etc.

This is a 2016 paper about the value of HVDC transmission for reducing US CO2 emissions.

The US has one very long HVDC line ready to go from windy Oklahoma through Arkansas to Tennessee and elsewhere in the South East but it is on hold because of opposition in Arkansas and not enough demand yet. The president of the company, Skelly, said:

“I think that over time, the south-east utilities will want more renewables; they’re just not there yet."

Too many hurdles could kill off US's first HVDC line in 20 years

That would be an obvious first project to prioritize.


Many articles say that renewables can never produce more that x% of energy when there are already countries producing close to 100% power from renewables. They make their arguments by just not mentioning these countries.

So first there are detailed analyses that show that 100% renewables are possible for the US. See Do renewables for power generation take up more land area than fossil fuels? Well - not really!

However t he best answer I think is the energy map which shows many districts and some entire countries in the world that are already 100% or mainly renewable for electricity - which according to many of these pages should be impossible. - all the areas dark green on this map - these are the ones that are low or zero emissions - so - most are doing this through renewables

Some use nuclear power, so you need to focus on the ones that are 100% renewables or close t it are Uruguay, Costa Rica, Tasmania, South Island New Zealand, and Iceland is as well but not shown on that map.

Live CO2 emissions of electricity consumption

Try searching the page for Iceland, or Costa Rica, for instance.

It is just a myth that the world needs nuclear power for zero emissions. Indeed nuclear doesn't help with peaking power and is not a natural complement to renewables as it can't respond quickly enough. Nuclear is good for baseload power. However, renewables don't need baseload capacity - there is plenty of renewable power every day - the problem is that it is often at awkward times of day and night.

So, you need something that can respond instantly to smooth out the fluctuations, especially of wind energy - and that's where pumped hydro storage is the perfect solution, the lowest cost way to do it. It does not require blocking rivers, you can use any two reservoirs, often a lake and another reservoir at the top of a nearby hill, or it can be a pre-existing hydro station - or two levels in a mine shaft, even the sea and a reservoir at the top of a cliff -

This is not even hydro power generation. It is pumped hydro storage. Though if you do have a hydro electric project already that is generating power you can use the project itself for storage if you have a way to pump the water back from below the dam into it as a way of storing power at times when you have too much available.

There are many options but hydro is the most cost effective when available. More on this under “Peaking power” below.

California currently is currently running at about 50% power from renewables and aiming to be 100% carbon zero electricity by 2045 and zero emissiosn for the entire state by 2050. Scotland iscommitted to carbon zero by 2045 for the whole economy and ther UKt to carbon zero by 2050 all with a fully worked out study to show it is possible. We do have an element of nuclear in the UK but for the most part it is renewables.

Other nay sayers will say that you can never have enough renewables because they take up so much more land area. How much agricultural land do solar panels on roofs take up? California could generate 75% of its electricity through solar power from roofs alone.

The potential of rooftop solar energy: 40% of total U.S. electricity generation is possible

Paper here.

Or on brownfield sites, like disused airports and disused opencast coal mines? Or covered car parks and roads? Or floating solar panels on canals, hydro projects and at sea? We now have a few off shore solar projects, and this is a growing trend.

You can mix solar panels with conventional agriculture too, here are some sheep mixing happily enough with solar panels in Belgium:

Solar panels with sheep

Deserts are amongst the most likely places for large future solar photovoltaic for power plants, like the vast new ones in China. There are many areas of desert that are not high conservation value.

Indeed, in semi-arid regions the solar panels can actually be a benefit to agriculture. The grass grows better in partial shade in these regions, helping to increase the grass available for the livestock .Solar panels increase grasses for sheep and cows by 90% (of course many of the best places for solar panels are sunny semi-arid regions).

Then wind turbines take up almost no land, mixing with agriculture with just a few posts here and there for tractors to drive around. Offshore wind takes up none at all.

Hydro projects are often in deserts, as many rivers flow through deserts, and then the water pooling behind the dam takes up no agricultural land either - indeed that’s precisely the reason that deserts are popular sites for hydro power.

Yes the US has plenty of space to run it on 100% renewables. This is an article I did that goes into this in depth, based on a study of the amount of land would be taken up by renewables in the US to power it entiresly from renewables:


His aim is zero emissions by 2050, as for the 1.5 C Paris goal. This is the same end goal as, say, the UK in its recent commitment to zero emissions by 2050, or California, which has committed to a similar goal - but the way he plans to do it is especially ambitious with a lot of early upfront payments by the government itself, borrowing on the future paybacks from the power plants it builds.

You don’t have to do it this way. The UK and California plan to do it through a gradual transition with more and more renewables installed as time goes on, by encouraging commercial power plants.

It is possible to encourage renewables too soon. You often get those who denigrate renewables pointing at various problems that have arisen in Germany with its very fast very early roll out. Remember that as a pioneer they installed renewables when it was far more expensive than for anyone else and they ran into many problems as pioneers that others learnt from.

It is no surprise at all that pioneers run into more problems to solve than those who come in later to the scene!

This is known as the “Law of the handicap of a head start” or “De wet van de stimulerende achterstand. in an essay by Jan Romein

He gives as an example that when he visited London he was surprised to see that it was still lit by gas, when Amsterdam had already converted to electricity. Was that an expression of English conservatism?

But he decided that no, it wasn’t. It was just that London had been an early adopter of gas lighting, and the costs of converting such extensive gas lighting to electricity with the supplies having to run under asphalted streets far outweighed the benefits.

While Amsterdam had no such obstacles because first, it never had the extensive gas lighting, and second, it had old fashioned paving which made the electric cables easier to install. So Amsterdam got ahead by being behind!

So London in it struggle to get ahead in everything technological had actually ended up further behind than the more slowly developing Amsterdam.

De Dialektiek van de Vooruitgang

Google Translate: The Dialogue of Progress

Germany could be like London in that example, and China, say, like Amsterdam.

Same also for Africa, least developed continent, but if it can learn from the others as it industrializes it may be able to do it far more rapidly than you’d expect because it doesn’t have to replace any existing infrastructure - far less, and just install lots of new renewables from scratch.

Perhaps Bernie Sanders’ proposal is at just the right time to replace the US infrastructure widely with low cost renewables.

China and India are using the opposite approach of Bernie Sanders. They built lots of coal fired power plants. They needed them to do the fast industrialization - they need a way to keep the lights on and power running for their industry. But these have low start up costs and high on going costs. As renewables become more cost effective the coal plants can run at less and less capacity and then be retired early. China is already building vast solar panel based power plants and will build more and more, and their peak phase of building will be in the 2020s with lower cost renewables than today. Same also with India.

Bernie Sanders says to do a massive investment in solar, and a government investment starting right now. Which then is paid back through revenue in 2023 to 2035.

You can’t really say that any of these strategies is intrinsically best. It’s a trade off. When is the best time to build your solar plants? To do it now means faster adoption of the renewable technologies, and they are already cost efective compared to solar.

So which is best? Germany was surely too soon. But many countries are already 100% renewables, is it best for the US to go rapidly to renewables right now? Or is it better to commit to zero emissions by 2050 in a phased approach like the UK and California? Or should it ramp up later, as China is likely to do, with a very fast conversion to renewables later in the 2020s and with most fossil fuel plants used at less than capacity?

All would have the same end effect as regards total CO2 emissions. But there are various trade offs that would favour one or the other depending how you look at it.


Solar panels do not kill birds. The big mirrors for solar concentration plants did kill them when in standby but this has been largely fixed. It is old technology now anyway - solar photovoltaic is more cost effective for new plants than those concentrating mirrors and have no risks at all for birds.

As for wind turbines (not “windmills”) that kill birds, that is about early power stations that were built before the potential problems for wildlife were well understood. They did not understand the problems of careful siting.

Nowadays much more care is taken over siting of wind turbines. As for the older turbines, they also can be made more raptor friendly. For instance ones that threaten the American Condor are tied in with a system that notifies if one of them is near by through radio tracking and the turbines automatically power down. Other measures have been used to reduce the effects on raptors of the older badly sited wind turbines.

But for modern ones siting is the main way they reduce effects on birds. Meanwhile turbines are not the only things that kill birds. Actually far more birds are killed by flying into skyscrapers, windows of houses, electrocuted by powerlines, by agricultural activities such as forestry and mowing, and for smaller birds, the domestic and feral cats.

If you want to protect birds, and have a pet cat, you can make a huge difference by putting a cat safe collar with bells on it on your cat to alert birds if it tries to catch them.

Or you can use a brightly coloured collar, similar in effect

(click to watch on Youtube)

This is the study they refer to

Also put stickers on your windows to stop them colliding into them, and place bird feeders well away from them. For more on this:

Wind farms and solar farms need to be sited carefully to protect wild birds, bats and insects - but biggest risk by far is … the domestic cat! Responsible for 63 extinctions, wind farms for 0 extinctions

Meanwhile solar photoelectric panels are harmless to birds. They don’t fly into them and can’t be harmed by them.

One obvious place to invest in is zero carbon emission concrete.


CO2 is emitted in the process of making cement because it is done by converting calcium carbonate to calcium oxide, driving off CO2, and also because it requires use of energy which is usually fossil fuel based.

Cement - Wikipedia (Cement - Wikipedia)

The COSIA Carbon XPRIZE Challenge (Carbon XPRIZE)) is a competition to convert CO2 into products with highest net value from either a coal or gas power plant. In April 2018, ten finalists were given $5 million each to demonstrate their technologies large scale in the real world. The winner gets a $7.5 million grand prize announced in March 2020.

(click to watch on Youtube)

Five of the ten are focused on carbon minerallization technology. One of them is a team from Aberdeen that hopes to use CO2 capture to make the entire concrete industry carbon negative. The Carbon Capture Machine precipitates it into calcium and magnesium carbonates (much like stalactites in caves) as a carbon negative replacement for ground calcium carbonate (GCC) which is needed for concrete. If this works on a commercial scale it can decarbonize the concrete industry, or 6% of the world’s annual CO2 emissions. If they can make it commercially viable, GCC has a market value of $20 billion.

This project seems to be a similar idea

There the geomass refers to “common rock waste and/or industrial waste materials that contain available alkalinity, which recharges the capture solution, and metal ions such as calcium, magnesium, and iron”.

Carbon Upcycling makes new CO2ncrete from CO2 and chemicals, competing directly with the $400 billion concrete industry - in places like California with a carbon tax and mandate for low carbon building materials.

CarbonCure Technologies injects CO2 into wet concrete while it is being mixed. They are aleady in commercial use with 100 installations across the US, retrofitting concrete plants for free then charging a licensing fee. It may take up to 20 years to be used on scale for reinforced concrete, because that’s needed as a durability testing period.

For more on this see Between a Rock and Hard Place: Commercializing CO2 Through Mineralization


For nuclear power plants, he is going to stop renewing licenses, stop building new ones and find a real solution to the nuuclear waste problem.

This contrasts with Yang’s plan which is to increase nuclear power including thorium fission and research into new fusion power.


Coal and nuclear produce a steady base load and can’t easily ramp up and down. But to deal with the fluctuations of renewables we need a power source that can ramp up and down at short notice.

For hydro, then what you need is pumped storage. This does not have to involve damming rivers. More generally it requires two reservoirs one above the other, can even be in abandonned mines underground, and the ability to pump water from one to the other to store power like a battery, then let it run back again to release the power. This has a round trip efficiency of 87% in the best most modern pumped hydro storage systems.

Typical PHS (Pumped Hydro Storage) systems' RTE (Round Trip Efficiencies) range between 65 and 80%, depending on the technical characteristics of their equipment. Naturally older stations have lower RTE, while technological breakthroughs of the last 25 years have resulted in modern systems with RTE up to 87%

Pumped hydroelectric storage utilization assessment: Forerunner of renewable energy integration or Trojan horse?

Open and closed loop pumped hydro from: Pumped-Storage Hydropower

You can do this anywhere, needs no constant supply of water, just two reservoirs with a large enough height difference between them. A natural place for instance is inside a disused mine where you can use two galleries as the reservoirs.

(click to watch on Youtube)

It's used for load balancing. It's like electric battteries. When there is too much renewable power from solar or electric you then take that power from the grid and use it to pump the water to the higher of the two reservoirs. Then when there is too much demand and not enough power, you then let the water flow down from the higher reservoir to the lower one. It responds very fast within minutes to a power demand.

It can store power for as long as you like, hours, days or weeks, while it's hard for batteries to store power for long periods of time. It is much lower cost than batteries.

The main downside is the length of time it takes to construct PHS, some years of work. But you get a huge amount of power stored for much less cost. The bigger the difference in height between the two reservoirs the more you can store which is why e.g. in Australia old gold mines are a great site for PHS.

Another new idea is to use the sea as the lower reservoir. This is especially useful in countries with little by way of fresh water, and a sea coast with cliffs, like southern Australia, for instance.

Okinawa pumped hydro using sea water. Photograph: Roger Dargaville/Agency of Natural Resources and Energy Japan

Seawater could provide the solution to South Australia's power woes

Another way to do it is with molten salt energy storage. This is especially suited for systems where tracking mirrors (heliostats focus heat on a tower.

(click to watch on Youtube)

Australia green-lights molten salt energy storage project

Then electrical vehicles as they become more common can be charged when energy is abundant and power demand low, and they can be set up to sell electricity back to the grid when there is a demand for power so constantly earning an income for the car owner when parked


Conventional hydro dams can also do peak power balancing by the simple method of reducing the power output when the solar power or wind power is high and increasing it when it is low.

That can double the power output of a hydro dam if you pair it with an equal power solar plant such as floating solar panels floating on the dam.

The Chinese build solar plants floating on lakes. China has dozens of collapsed coal mines. They were used until recently but once they fell into disuse, they subsided and flooded.

These disused coal mines form vast lakes on the surface in China, which are ideal for floating solar power - where they take up none of the valuable agricultural land in China. The power plants can also can employ the former coal miners who are now out of work.

That’s why China is developing large scale floating photovoltaic rapidly, which is also increasing rapidly worldwide. It has a very large floating solar panel project the largest floating solar farm in the world, video here .

(click to watch on Youtube)

So far, the largest system to combine solar and hydro power is in China, though this is for use on land. The Longyangxia hydropower plant can produce a total of 1.28 gigawatts of power. The associated Gonghe solar plant is 30 kilometers away with a capacity of 850 megawatts which is directly connected to the hydropower plant through a reserved 320 kV transmission line.

The world's largest solar farm, from space

The 850-megawatt Longyangxia Dam Solar Park. It is built right next to a big hydropower dam - because then in the day when the sun is shining the power comes from the solar powers and the dam ramps down. At night then the dam then releases the water it held back during the day.

Hydropower is the world’s lowest cost way of storing power, far less cost than the vast numbers of Tesla batteries you’d need to back up something like this. The two of them together are able to supply power to the Chinese power grid 24/7 with no curtailment - they never over-deliver. The UK is going to use the same system for its renewables, also Australia and many other places - it’s a natural partnership.

Typically the hydro is reduced in the daytime from 11 am to 4 pm, when the sun is high, and the saved power is delivered in early morning or late night. With Longyangxia , all the power from the hybrid system is fully absorbed by the grid, with no curtailment.

Floating solar has taken off in a big way in just a few years.

Where Sun Meets Water: Floating Solar Market Report - Executive Summary

In the US there are several large dams, e.g. the Grand Coulee dam, which generates a peak of 6.809 gigawatts and a peak capacity of 2.3 GW. It created two lakes, Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake - Wikipedia with a surface area of 125 square miles and Banks Lake - Wikipedia with a surface area of 42 square miles for a total of 167 square miles, or 432 square kilometers.

Or for one further south, Oroville Dam in California, which created Lake Oroville, surface area 15,810 acres or 64 square kilometers.

California, with its sunshine, is an obvious place for floating solar. It’s already being used for water treatment plants, to power the plants. California has potential to supply at least 10% of its total power from floating solar.

One big target there is the California Aqueduct. It’s a canal 400 miles long in a region of the state with constant sunshine, the San Joaquin Valley.

On an anual basis this canal loses as much water by evaporation as the entire capacity of Lake Oroville. A University of California, Davis study in 2015 found that covering a single 80-mile stretch with solar panels could save $1 million worth of water losses every year. Adding in energy production they found it would generate $7.9 million annually with a net benefit over 25 years of $484,389 per year. That was with solar panel prcies in 2015, and they have gone down since then.

Floating Solar Power: A New Frontier for Green-Leaning Water Utilities

They can also be built floating on the sea. This is much more of a challenge but it has already been used in Norway to power a fish farm:

This is sure to expand.One idea is to use floating solar farms much like floating fish farms in areas of the world where the sea tends to be calmer, but where there is lots of sunlight, such as the Red Sea for instance - and use them to make methanol, which can be used for jet fuel. It is one way to make our planes carbon neutral in the future. They would use CO2 from the water, the water itself and sunlight to make methanol which can be used as fuel.

Red Sea - a perfect place for floating solar farms in the sea, with easier conditions for building them than the open ocean.Giant Floating Solar Farms Could Make Fuel and Help Solve the Climate Crisis, Says Study

You can also use floating wind turbines. It is early days yet, but off shore wind farms could become easier to build if we can roll out floating wind turbines like these. They would be situated close to the shore and connected to the shore directly via cables, much as oil platforms are connected with pipes.

(click to watch on Youtube)

The Future is Bright for Floating Wind Turbines - StormGeo - Freedom to Perform

On the land taken up by renewables, there is a lot of "brownfields" e.g. from open cast coal mining, and from abandoned air fields and so on.

Many coal miners have skills that are relevant to renewables. Then in the states tht used to employ coal miners, many of the coal mining brownfield sites are also excellent for solar panels.

This suggests that former coal miners could be employed to build solar panels on brownfield sites. This would employ thousands of former miners to build the solar panels for as long as it takes to complete the project which would take many years. Each power station would take only months to complete but unless you do them all in one go you'd have a large work force that moves from one solar panel project to the next building them on all the suitable brownfield sites, and other sites as well, for as long as that continues.

West Virginia is a coal mining state, and there is an estimate here, there is enough by way of brownfield sites from disused coal mines in West Virginia to build 10,592 MW of solar power using half of the degraded land.

That is enough to offset 10% of the emissions of West Virginia.

Prospects for Large-scale Solar on Degraded Land in West Virginia

It would employ 70,000 people for 16 weeks to build the plants, which could be spread out as fewer people over a longer period of time, e.g. 20,000 for a year, or 2,000 for a decade by staggering the construction. It would likely add 2,000 new full time jobs to keep the plants running, and many former coal workers would have the right skill sets to do this.

That is just solar panels on brownfield sites, and of course you have many solar panels on other sites as well. Including people installing solar on their own houses which needs people to install them for them. Those retrained coal miners would have plenty of jobs to do.

They give several examples of large sale solar farms in West Virginia already. For instance Amazon are constructing solar plants to generate 170 gigawatt hours of solar power a year.

It has detailed assessments of the solar power potential for each site e.g. Jack’s Branch has a potential for 150-MW though it’s likely it has to be smaller because of the steep hills:

Going through all the open case mines case by case they come to this figure of over a gigawatt of installed capacity based on half of the available land.

This is about an example of a Massachusetts brownfield solar on a disused airfield.

From brownfield to solar field: A case study | Solar United Neighbors


In Tehachapi, California, the wind is strongest in the afternoon from April through to October. In Montana, then the strongest winds are in winter. These match the peak electricity demand in these two states fortuitiously. Californians use most electricity in the afternoon in summer. In Montana they use most in winter.

These are the top states for wind power:

Where Wind Power Is Harnessed

Offshore wind especially is strongest in the day time at times when energy use peaks.

Offshore winds are typically stronger during the day, allowing for a more stable and efficient production of energy when consumer demand is at its peak. Most land-based wind resources are stronger at night, when electricity demands are lower.

Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Offshore Wind Energy (US gov)

Ts is a typical windfarm.

Black Hill Wind Farm (C) Walter Baxter

Though it may not seem it ,they are bunched together optimally about as close as they can go because if they are closer they take away some of each other's wind.

It has no impact on farming except the little pillar that supports the wind turbines themselves. We have many of those wind farms now in the UK. In their figure those occupy five million hectares but as far as impact on agriculture, or any other use, almost zero. Only the visual effect.

Any offshore wind clearly has no effect at all on land usage competition.

For more about this:

And yes, we can run an economy on renewables and we can keep an electricity grid running on renewables. The US at present has no leadership from the top.


Under Trump, the government in the US is so against climate change action they have actually archived and stopped updating the central website they used to have on the effects of climate change.

What is left is mainly about topics like air quality, water management and public health.

There is no longer anything there about the effects of climate on the US as a whole,

Instead it now says

“EPA's work on climate change adaptation is limited in scope by our statutes. Visit the links below to see how climate change can affect its programmatic responsibilities.”

Implications of Climate Change | US EPA

However even with this complete lack of any central leadership from the top, overall so far it is not far off tracking the CO2 emissions reductions it pledged. Individual states and cities still have their climate change plans and their projections for the effects of climate change and their flood prevention barrier assessments etc

The US CO2 emissions had a big uptick in 2018. That uptick was due to cold weather and people needing more heating in winter plus upturn in the US economy leading to more emissions but it is only a bit above the level it should be for the Paris pledge. No reason to suppose it is the start of a new trend upwards.

What happened? An unusually cold spell last winter led people to turn up their furnaces. And after years of modest growth, the U.S. economy picked up in 2018. There were more planes in the air, more trucks delivering packages, more offices cranking air conditioners, and more factories burning fossil fuels.

In 2017, California had a relatively wet year, and was able to run water through hydropower turbines when the sun set over solar panels. There was less water to spare last year, so the state turned to gas plants in place of dams.

It was a bad year for carbon emissions, even in California

When it comes to the US internally, the top ten states emit half the total emissions

12.7+7+4.5+4.2+4.1+4+4+3.5+3.2+2.9 = 50.1

List of U.S. states and territories by carbon dioxide emissions - Wikipedia

California’s economy would count as the fifth largest in the world if it was a separate country.

It shows that population and GDP can increase while decreasing emissions:

It’s biggest challenge is transportation which for California produces most of their CO2 emissions and is actually increasing, while CO2 emissions from electrical power generation is down 40% and they are committed to reach net zero electricity power generation by 2045

They need to focus on moving away from petroleum based cars

California Zero-Emission Vehicle Program

They are not only committed to zero emissions electricity by 2045. Brown signed in an exectutive order to target total net zero emissions by 2045.

Another one targets 5 million electrical vehicles on the road by 2030.

This shows the slice of the pie for emissions in 2016, 41% is transportation

The electricty now has very little emissions - not because they don’t use much, but because they have been transitioning towards renewables for many years.

About half of their electricity now comes from renewables (34% smaller projects, 15% from the large hydro dams)


Renewables are growing strongly. Currently they represent 45% of world electtricity generation growth.

25% of global power is now produced by renewables.

TCEP: Renewable power

Global Energy & CO2 Status Report: Renewables


Here are some charts showing the rapid growth in renewables:

Renewable Energy

Renewables are penertrating the global energy system more rapidly than any fuel in history according to BP. They do two a number of scenarios to guide their policy planning. The Rapid Transition (RT) is a 45% fall in emissions by 2040 while Energy Transition (ET) is what happens if we do nothing to combat climate change, emission grow but slowly because of growing population and increasing industrialization but offset by increasing natural transition to renewables.

Their RT is roughly equivalent to the 2 C Paris goal.

For details see BP Energy Outlook 2019 edition

However the UN and many countries are moving to target 1.5 C, and also want to follow the easiest route to get there.

The transition to renewables seems likely to continue at that rapid rate, faster than any fuel in history except nuclear - and soon to exceed the growth rate of nuclear - but that doesn't mean it is impossible.

You could have used the historical growth rate for oil, gas and coal to prove that nuclear power would take a long time to take off, but it didn’t. There is no reason why renewables can’t grow faster even than nuclear power (which had various things that limited its growth rate such as proliferation concerns and nuclear waste disposal issues).


Nay sayers often say that it is impossible to run a country on 100% renewables and often go further and say you can only have a few percent of total power from renewables. But many countries are proving them wrong by doing it:

Iceland runs on close to 100% all the time.

12 Countries Leading the Way in Renewable Energy

The UK expects to have 100% zero emissions electricty by 2025 (that also includes nuclear). It recently ran for a week without coal

Here is where the National Grid Electricity System Operator director Fintan Slye says that he beleives that by 2025 it will have a zero emissions electricity grid.

Costa Rica ran on 100% renewables for two months and plans to transition to 100% renewables by 2021.]

Oil is still needed for the transition but the time is over soon, peak oil demand likely to be some time in the 2020s.

Meanwhile we need to stop the fossil fuel subsidies as we no longer need to encourage growth of fossil fuels.

Robert Walker's answer to What things are going to be Peak X?


Bernie Sanders' plan is here:

The Green New Deal

Hopefully this gives you enough information to evaluate it better than these sensationalist journalist articles by numskulls who do not even bother to do a few minutes of a google research into his proposals.

See also


There is lots of good news here, things we are doing, things we can do in the future.

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