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Letterman Interviews Stanford Professor About U.S. Transitioning to 100% Renewable Energy

Christina Sarich
NationofChange / News Analysis
Published: Thursday 24 October 2013
There is enough wind, wave (via energy gleaned from tidal movements) and solar energy to fuel the entire world’s energy needs up to 10 times over.
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It’s a sign of the times when late night talk show hosts take a moment to put Hollywood trivialities aside and ask for an expert opinion about renewable energy. David Letterman did just that this month, talking with Mark Jacobson – a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. He is also the director of the atmosphere ‘watch dog’ arm of the University.

According to Jacobson, more than 2.5 to 4 million deaths occur worldwide each year due to air pollution. Consistent with this statement, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states there are six primary pollutants: ozone, particulate matter (which isn’t always described in full as to its origins), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and lead. The World Health Organization even admits that getting a ‘breath of fresh’ air has become an oxymoron since outdoor air pollution is a leading cause of cancer. You can guess which industries are the primary polluters. 

The good news is that by switching from an energy grid that is supported primarily by using fossil fuels (those which pollute not just our air, but also our soil and oceans) to one based on wind, water and solar power, we can not only sustain our current energy needs, but change the quality of our air, water and soil, while utilizing 100% sustainable and renewable forms of energy.

There is enough wind, wave (via energy gleaned from tidal movements) and solar energy to fuel the entire world’s energy needs up to 10 times over. In the Great Plains of the US, for example, sometimes called the Saudi Arabia of wind, there is a great resource for wind energy, and this is just one geographic location. The wind harnessing power of the East Coast of the US is just starting to be investigated more fully. It is estimated to be one of the largest untapped energy sources on the planet.

Letterman asks an important question of Jacobson, “How do we motivate the fossil fuel people – the gas, and oil people of this country to stop what they are doing – thanks guys we’ve had enough – and start allowing technology development for sustainable energy?” Letterman said, “they aren’t going to give up this multi-billion dollar industry.”

Jacobson agreed and argued that policies need to be put into place that support the welfare of citizen’s health and sustainable energy, instead of those which currently support Big Oil and Big Gas companies. This has happened here and in the UK, as well as in other countries with large subsidies going to companies that provide fossil fuel energy. Fortunately, state level changes are starting to show the possibility for government policy reform that would more appropriately support clean energy technology, including credits for consumers and companies which roll out clean technologies, alike.

In true Letterman style the comedian says, “O.k. Shell, you can turn your gas station into a Yankee Candle company, now.”  You can catch more of Letterman’s humor about this vital issue here.

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