A study by scientists from Stanford University claims that it is feasible for the entire United States to derive all of its power from renewable energy sources.

The team of researchers from Stanford University, led by civil engineer Mark Jacobson, has drafted detailed plans outlining how every state in the United States could convert to 100 per cent renewable energy usage by mid-century using current technology.

Mark Jacobson

Mark Jacobson

According to Jacobson, even if the United States only makes recourse to renewable energy methods which are available at present, it would still be “technically and economically feasible” for the nation to meet all of its power needs by 2050.

Under Jacobson’s plan, fossil fuel plants would be left to gradually go obsolete as a swath of renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower, come on line to replace them.

All of the renewable energy sources outlined in the plan, with the exception of tidal energy collectors for coastal states, are now commercially available.

The researchers’ findings indicate that in California, which is the most populous and economically productive state in the US, wind, solar and hydropower could already be used to satisfy energy requirements 99.8 per cent of the time.

Jacobson’s proposal also contains plans for the abolition of fossil fuel combustion as a means of propelling automobiles. In lieu of carbon heavy combustion engines, vehicles would run on electric batteries or hydrogen produced via electrolysis, thus dispensing with the need for natural gas to run the process.

Jacobson said the plan is a model of affordability as well as efficiency. It would take less than two per cent of the land area of the United States to support all of the renewable energy facilities envisioned by the plan, including the space between individual installations such as wind turbines and solar PV panels.

The plan would also enable the average US consumer to save $3,400 per year as compared to the country’s current fossil fuel-heavy energy portfolio, as a result of anticipated gains in the price of raw materials such as oil and coal, given their increasing scarcity as finite resources.

Other advantages of the plan touted by its developers include savings of $730 billion a year for the US economy in climate-related costs, and savings of between $166 billion and 980 billion a year in savings a year on health care costs, achieved by preventing approximately annual 59,000 deaths from air pollution.

Given the practical viability and demonstrable advantages of opting for renewable energy, the Stanford researchers believe “the greatest barriers to conversion are neither technical nor economic…they are social and political.”

Jacobson nonetheless remains confident that his proposals will eventually be adopted – if not because of the prudence and foresight of policy-makers, then because of the mere fact that fossil fuels are finite in nature and destined to run out sooner or later.