Top ranking energy options that might not destroy us

Stop wasting time with coal, nuclear power and ethanol and look to the wind, suggests a report investigating 12 major energy solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems.

Marc Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, scrutinized a dozen different sources of energy and ranked them in terms of which are the best—and the worst—energy-related solutions to global warming, air pollution and energy security. He took into account everything from impacts on water and wildlife to availability, nuclear proliferation and thermal pollution.

His results—some expected, some surprising—were reported in this month’s Energy & Environmental Science Journal, with the text available here.

The eight he recommends, with the best listed first, are:

1) Wind battery-electric vehicles
2) Wind hydrogen fuel cell vehicles
3) Concentrated solar power battery-electric vehicles
4) Geothermal battery-electric vehicles
5) Tidal battery-electric vehicles
6) Solar-photovoltaics battery-electric vehicles
7) Wave battery-electric vehicles
8) Hydro battery-electric vehicles

Not recommended, but ranked from bad to worse, are:

9) Coal with carbon capture and storage
10) Nuclear battery-electric vehicles
11) Corn-ethanol
12) Cellulosic ethanol

Jacobson wrote, “Because sufficient clean natural resources (e.g., wind, sunlight, hot water, ocean energy, etc.) exist to power the world for the foreseeable future, the results suggest that the diversion to less-efficient (nuclear, coal with carbon capture) or non-efficient (corn- and cellulosic E85) options represents an opportunity cost that will delay solutions to global warming and air pollution mortality.”