Friday, December 18, 2015

Ipse dixit : "Professor" Jacobson from Stanford likes to play the "Argument from Authority" Fallacy

Yesterday I posted an article in which I criticized "Professor" Naomi Oreskes for her consistent use of logical fallacies, and citing fallacious articles, especially one written by "Professor" Mark Jacobson from Stanford University, no less...

Here's a photo of the perpetrator, The Texas Sharp Shooter

This second person thought it was wise to respond to a twitter argument I started, not knowing that I have been debating these issues for quite a while now. Also he became dismissive as soon as he saw that I had no experience in Academia. Does this mean that I didn't do the legwork to derive some conclusions? No. Does it mean that my conclusions are less valid than his? I don't know, maybe... But it is no excuse to pull the "Argument from [Jacobson's own] Authority" card, twice...

It shows a fundamental dishonesty from his part, dismissing me as a mere "advocate". There are two sides in this story. I will elaborate later on but I will share this quote from "NDT" to make my point (thank you Rational Wiki)

"If you need to invoke your academic pedigree or job title for people to believe what you say, then you need a better argument."

Mark got sucked into this debate because he was cited by Naomi Oreskes, and to be honest, I was hoping this would happen. I saw it coming from a mile away. I baited them by calling them out on their ideological quest. He countered by exclaiming that WWS was superior over Nuclear and that there are scientific reasons to adopt this stance.

Well, I disagree, and I was very keen to see what Mark's arguments would be. It has all the hallmarks of a demagogue. I place myself out of academia for a reason, I'm a commentator. I do my own homework because I am a sceptic by nature, I hate taking things on by faith. That's why I look at research papers with a keen eye and don't accept them blindly. Always realize that a hypothesis may be disproved at some point.

The funny thing is that Mark claims that this only is a feasibility study, but in the meanwhile he attacks nuclear energy almost dogmatically. There's the first double standard, and it shows.

To make any sense of this, let me first explain my own trek into becoming someone who supports nuclear energy. I was trying to figure out how to make my home carbon-neutral. It needed a lot of alterations, additions and special technology to get it done and it would require quite the investment as well. Heat pumps, earth-warmth, Paint (yes albedo), insulation, solar-heat, solar electricity, batteries, led-lights, timers, the whole shebang. After this I wanted to figure out if this could be done on larger scales, eventually ending up looking at it from a world-perspective.

When you do this and look at sources such as BP, the EIA, IPCC, UN, NREL, SEIA and many more, you can easily spot a trend. And you start questioning the feasibility.

Then I widened my search, looked at other technologies that could also fit the bill. I've started to look at all technologies : biomass, hydro, geothermal, natural gas, synthesized fuels and nuclear energy (in all it's forms, not just the contemporary Gen II and Gen III reactors).  After a long period of intense investigation, communication, and debate I concluded that Nuclear has to be a substantial part of the solution.

The combustion economy kills 7 million people annually and is driving civilization towards the cliff. Most people tend to focus on temperature change as it will affect life on the land : diminishing water supplies, more intense weather events and famine. But there's also the most dire threat of all : Ocean Acidification. History tells us that when the ocean was too acidic (approximately 250 million years ago) almost all sea-life went extinct. And this very thing could happen today, we're only one tenth of a percent removed from unsustainable acidity levels.

Hence my motivation to stop people from spreading dangerous nonsense.

There are two technological solutions specifically tailored to addressing the issues of Ocean Acidification and the diminishing water supplies : Carbon Capture and Sequestration (see Alex Cannara's TEAC 7 talk) and large scale desalination efforts. Both of these have not been considered by Jacobson.  So not only is he advocating a cul-de-sac with oblivion sitting at the end, he also disregards the need for additional technological activities that are required to restore the carbon- and the hydrological cycle, which require far more energy than he has reckoned with.

Also note the sincere interest in climatological solutions from a nuclear advocate (Cannara) and consider that Oreskes has the Gall to call us "deniers" and Jacobson even dismisses us...
Eventually Mark resorted to this, enter the loaded question, the way out of this mess.

Which basically means, fuck off, screw you, you're a nobody, you have vested interests, I am an authority and you're a paid quack, etc. This is the pinnacle of academic arrogance... So I responded in kind, which probably offended him, but I don't care and my readers know this : "Never refrain from calling bullshit, bullshit". And do not suppose that "conversation is over" means that you can shut me up, the mute button doesn't work here, and I'll make sure you will notice that.

First of all, my educational research experience is irrelevant. We're not talking rocket science here. The EIA makes clear predictions, the physics of these matters make it trivially easy to do the math and derive some sound conclusions. Sum-total mathematics aren't that hard to do... And the technology involved is not from outer space. But these guys make it a sport to obfuscate the issues, to make it difficult, as if it is necessary. Smoke and Mirrors, some falsification in between - e presto - credibility down the drain, but don't tell anyone I did it, nooo, I'm an expert!

Secondly, he was very keen on branding me an advocate, simply to shut down the conversation, all his rhetoric was easily deflected. But ask yourself this question :  What is he? Isn't he an advocate for renewable/WWS? Or Naomi for that matter? They are writing articles in news-papers, is that a purely academic stance? Or a non-partisan stance? Or a completely objective stance?

The answer is no, and here's why. Let's take a look at the special pleading and Ad Hominem Mark and Naomi like to employ.

A first acknowledgement, does Hillary Clinton have any idea of the implications of this idea? Does she understand that there are resource limitations, and resolving these limitations means large scale denudation of the Earth? Is denuding the Earth from it's living surface really that good an idea? The strip-mining activities required to get all the resources out of the earth are immense. Also her mutterings are of a political sort, tailored to the wishes of the prospect electorate. She might have financial backup? What about other vested interests? I don't value the opinions and promises of politicians that much, and neither should you. But because this message suits your dogmatic views it becomes usable... It shows...

I'm as much of a dismissible non-academic as Hillary Clinton is...

Also look at how quickly he contradicts himself! We should let Hillary confuse the public, but not the scientifically literate James Hansen; Kerry Emanuel, a professor of meteorology at M.I.T.; Tom Wigley; and Ken Caldeira

Consider this, I am someone who has chosen to occupy himself full time to understanding the world around him, look at the issues of our age and try to make sense of them. By deriving conclusions that are different from his [authority] I've rebranded myself an advocate according to him. A Tu Quoque, because at that moment he pulled the plug on our twitter "conversation" and refused to answer any of my questions or statements. He was deflecting and using rhetoric anyway.

But what is this? A double standard? Why should I accept Hillary Clinton's word? What makes her an expert on WWS? Has she more scientific understanding of our world than James Hansen has? Can she tell me how a solar panel works? What kind of materials are required to build a WWS infrastructure? What kind of ancillary requirements need to be met? At least James Hansen has shown an aptitude in understanding WWS and Nuclear and their respective impacts on our world. And that in a quantifiable sense... Which is most important and relevant.

Mark takes it one step further though. Here name-calling is employed again, as Oreskes called Hansen a "Climate Denier", Mark takes it one step further : "Extremist".

So Jim Hansen is an immoral human being for caring about solving the issues that exacerbate Anthropogenic Climate Change? Which he does in a far more rational way than Jacobson does?

Also appeal from authority here

Here Jacobson tries to assassinate Hansen's character, he does this deliberately but forgets that Hansen is A. Scientifically Literate B. Very familiar with technology and C. Far more rational and less biased than Mark himself is. Here he presumes that James Hansen has never read a scientific paper on the matters of energy, is this something you can back up Mark?

Let's take a look at the papers that Mark was trying to sell :

Even though I've read the paper, multiple times, I'm going to cheat (how unscientific) and jump to point 12. The summary :

So let's make a bullet summary of this :

  • 19.8% Onshore Wind
  • 12.9% Offshore Wind
  • 42.3% Utility PV
  • 7.7% CSP
  • 5.6% Residential PV
  • 6% Commercial rooftop PV
  • 0.74% Geothermal
  • 0.72% Wave Energy
  • 0,007% Tidal Energy
  • 4.4% Hydro
If we combine these numbers, Mark suggests that we can run the planet on load from 94.3% solar and wind. With a very marginal role for Geothermal, Wave, Tidal and Hydro Energy. Also he proposes the additional instalment of storage facilities that can handle peak loads, another 108.000 50~100 MW devices.

The funny thing is that if I use the standard formula for getting the annual generation figure (TWh), using the capacity factors shared by the EIA, I only reach 86.000 TWh annual production in Mark's 100% WWS scenario. This can only mean that he has played around with the capacity factors, and this show when he magically ups the capacity factor of Geothermal to ~90%...

When we add these backup generators to the mix, we get a grand total of 101.000 TWh.
Add another ~4.000 TWh from hydro and you'll end up with 105.000 TWh of annual electricity generation in his scenario.

Consider the 2014 numbers (22.000 TWh electricity | source :

His scenario first has to be able to supplant roughly 96% of all electricity in this picture. And then cope with the following figures. Let's take advantage of his work and rework the yield-numbers in such a way that we can revert these numbers back to a 22.000 TWh scenario.

  • 25% Wind / 5MW turbines
  • 53% PV / Sun Power E20 panels (Mono c-Si panels - 327 Watt / 18.6 KG a piece / 1046mm by 1559 mm)
  • 418.000 - 5MW Wind Turbines
  • Mono c-SI panels @ 327 Watt
Current growth rate for wind is approximately 50GW annually / that's about equal to 10.000 - 5 MW wind Turbines annually. By this reckoning it would take 41.8 years to get enough of these wind turbines built to satiate the demand in a electricity as is scenario, without decarbonizing the rest. Mark suggests that we need 1.9 million of these... By this reckoning it would take nearly 200 years to get these built. Now I do not know what magic button he is going to push to increase the production rate of these 5 MW wind Turbines by at least 5 times, but if we continue relying on Neodymium, this is not going to happen. We could also go for the full copper approach, which will strain the market as well, since we're already using copper for nearly everything else.

For arguments sake, let's suppose that the demand is not going to drop as dramatically as Mark proposes, but remains in the EIA range of 850 Quadrillion BTu by the 2040's, which is a reasonable expectation given the fact that the world population will keep growing and as such will remain straining water, food and energy resources. Suppose we hit the 250.000 TWh demand mark by the 2050's.

We would have to build 4.750.000 - 5 MW units... Now we're really stretching it. Building this capacity over a timeframe of 35 years would require us to add 136.000 units each year, 13,6 times more than our current production rate.

Suppose we want to be building the most efficient units that rely on Neodymium, a resource that is limited to about 15 million KG of annual production.

By these figures we would be able to build 86.806 units each year, now that's a whole lot better than those 10.000 we got earlier on, however... We would not have any neodymium left for other applications like electronics, large generators and certain types of BEV motors. This also means that we would not be able to reach the 136.000 figure. About 20% of the current stockpile is being used by the wind turbine industry which basically means that we're capped @ 17.000 - 5 MW units each year. Making reaching the 25% mark within a 35 year timeframe impossible, it would be somewhere in the range of 280 years.

Let's do the same exercise for these Sun Power E20 panels (mind you, sun power is going to become very rich!!!) : panels will be required to build the equivalent energy production projected in Mark's own article. That's 231 Billion. That's 4.3 Trillion Kilo's of panels alone...

Let's consider these figures shall we?

This concerns CdTe panels, there's not much reason to expect the figures to be a lot different for Mono c-Si panels. Each panel has a surface of 1.63 M2 - this essentially means that we will require 2.8KG of Diesel per panel / on the construction site (this is omitting mining, purification, transport) which helps us reach a grand total of  647 billion kilo's of on-site emissions alone i.e. 1.93 Trillion KG of CO2 emissions.

Also do not forget to notice the other requirements, including 0.9KG of copper per panel. We're already in "billion land" here. In short, ancillary copper requirements alone would usurp 11 years of full copper production alone. And mind you, we're running out of goldilocks deposits, that's why the price is going up. By these figures we would be allocating at least 1/3rd of the total copper production per year on solar PV systems.

Also reconsider the 3.000 KG / MW figure for wind Turbines, let's add those to the mix : another 255.000.000 kilograms of added copper use.

And here's the final nail in the coffin for this argument, consider these numbers :

Source :

Let's extrapolate these numbers into the mark's figures, shall we?

  • 53% PV - 132.500 TWh - Tons of Materials
  • 25% Wind - 62.500 TWh -  641.250.000 Tons of Materials
  • A grand total of - 2.820.477.500 Tons of Materials for the brunt of 100% WSS
  • 78% Nuclear - 195.000 TWh -  181.350.000 Tons of Materials
This leaves us with a discrepancy of 2.639.127.500Tons of Materials or a reduction of 93% in required materials. And to cap it all off, the feedstock requirements for nuclear energy are a fraction. Be reminded that there's enough energy left in your much feared "nuclear waste", enough to power the entire civilization for 7 decades. Uranium lasts for another 1000 years, the thorium breeder cycle takes it up to tens of thousands of years and when we crack the code to unlock fusion, we'll be set for the lifespan of the Earth.

Also consider that these are PWR numbers... nothing like Generation IV designs...

Consider these start-ups for instance :

Or consider Bill Gates' Terrapower :

Or consider the fact that China and India are expanding their nuclear activities, with new and innovative designs like the pebble-bed-reactor, and breeder reactors. Also consider the current fleet of nuclear reactors that operate under very stringent conditions. While a leak in one of these reactors probably has no catastrophic consequences, coal-furnaces are unregulated and spew out a toxic brew of chemicals by the tens of millions of tons annually. The combustion economy causing 7 million deaths each year. And yet you have the gall to take up this ludicrously stupid crusade against nuclear energy.

Just contrast the supposed thousands of deaths from Nuclear (including Hiroshima and Nagasaki) to the annual death tolls from smoking, driving, cancer, malnutrition, bad hygiene and you'll get the message. You're making an elephant out of a mouse.

You see, you are already on the losing side of the argument... You and "Professor" Oreskes have placed yourselves on the fringes of science. Not only are you peddling dangerous quasi-scientific nonsense, you're also fear mongering with unsubstantiated rhetoric. And as such you will be receiving a lot of flack. Don't take me for a fool, your feigned objectivity will be shattered.

Now, let's be honest, who is peddling the bullshit here?

In contrast "Professor Jacobson" proposes to chuck the entire - carbon neutral - nuclear energy industry in the bin.

Is it moral or wise to destroy a carbon neutral 2500 TWh a year industry in favour of an incredibly labour intense and even dangerous alternative? Also consider that there are 70 nuclear power plants currently under construction, should we abandon these?

Building Wind Turbines and Solar Plants is more hazardous than working in a nuclear facility. The death print of each respective technology proves it, furthermore an increase in these activities will probably lead to an increase of work-related deaths on a proportionate level.

And then there's the rest of the unsubstantiated rhetoric Professor Mark Jacobson peddles online :

It is inexcusable for a Stanford Professor to remain so wilfully ignorant on such a pivotal matter, while at the same time demonizing people that are rational and know what they are proposing. This is un-academic...

For anyone who is interested in scientifically refuting Jacobson's article, consider this article a small heads-up.

The staggering part in all of this is that we have solved the problems that caused Climate Change, decades ago. The dawn of the nuclear age promised that we wouldn't have to burn carbohydrates anymore. We could have stopped hundreds of millions of tons of toxic coal ash from being produced. We could have stopped the harm of the combustion economy. But we didn't... We kept the oligarchs in their seats, their consumption of our planet's resources has made the world unstable, and almost unable to sustain human civilization. People all around the world are already living in a dystopia. Why? Because of irrational fear? Because of blind antagonism? And to cap it all off, people like Jacobson are wasting time on trying to find alternative and ineffective or even feeble ways to fight Anthropogenic Climate Change. Also consider the fact that he cherry picks facts to support his anti-nuclear stance. This is the hallmark of a Texas Sharp Shooter, someone who dishonestly tries to re-enforce his own bias. Very unscientific.

Where Jacobson and Oreskes claim that we are the ones who are keeping humanity from solving the issues at hand, we can easily deflect this stance. The only significant difference between us? We try to propel humanity into an age of prosperity and optimism and progress, whereas they are advocating a slow and gradual and very limited path to a possible, yet improbable solution. If they get their way, we'll be facing energy poverty, rather than prosperity.

It is safe to assert that Oreskes and Jacobson have chosen to become the protagonists of their own movement and as such abuse their position in academia to push their own agenda. Whereas Hansen takes a more rational stance in which he acknowledges WWS / Renewables, but also is aware of the limitations, and despite all the gloomy stuff surrounding nuclear energy is balanced enough to see its merits, especially in the fight against anthropogenic climate change, which is, after all, the single most dire threat of our generation.

This one is for you Mark, do you think I am scientifically illiterate?
Even a "professor" can be full of bullshit... don't ever think you can rest on your laurels
Because I will call you out on it

This concludes our periodical session of intellectual mentation and mental masturbation.


  1. Thank you for an informative article regarding Mark Z. Jacobson. I recall the advice of "Deep Throat" of Watergate fame. He said to, "Follow the Money!" Here is relevant information regarding the funding of Mark Z. Jacobson, who is funded by (gasp!) the natural gas industry.

    Following the money: who’s funding Stanford’s Natural Gas Initative
    Rod Adams • June 5, 2015

  2. All of this shortsighted, all-renewables, anti-nuclear ideology started with *Amory Lovins*. Jacobson is a successor of Lovins. Their argument is not practical, if the world listens to their *sweet lies* we are going to risk ourselves loosing our precious time and resources available to solve climate crisis.

  3. Speaking as one educated in physics and biochemistry at Harvard, and medicine at UCSD, I vigorously agree with your contempt for Mark Jacobson's arrogant, deceitful, and hypocritical attacks on your right to air carefully researched and thought out opinions. But then, what would you expect from a whore (apologies here to real sex workers, whose work is honorable) and shill for the natural gas industry?

    Solar and wind are obvious frauds and failures when proposed as primary electrical energy sources, both based on theory and on the dismal failure of the ill-conceived experiment conducted by Germany and Denmark. Nuclear power is obviously clean, safe, low-environmental impact, and effective based on the last half decade of experience with it, without even considering the near certain considerably superior 4th gen designs about to be perfected and put into use. Solar and wind, for the reasons you so clearly present, can provide between 5% and 15% of the clean power we need, but the vast bulk of it must come from nuclear energy. The fossil fuel companies LOVE solar and wind advocates, for going ... or attempting to go... that route guarantees dependence on fossil fuel. MHG

  4. Mark Z. Jacobson has the cheek to call you "only an advocate". He's blind to his hypocrisy. Jacobson's an anti-nuclear power, 100%-renewable energy salesman who invents scenarios for renewable energy, delivered with impossible prices, using non-existent technologies, over a ridiculously short time-frame. He has the cheek to call himself a scientist but can't provide proper peer-reviewed studies.

  5. Mark Z. Jacobson has been written up multiple times on the Atomic insights blog. What i see happening is:
    1. A paper. Looks like something a B.S. Engineering student might do for a design project in their senior year.
    2. Alot of "retweeting" and quoting of this paper by non-technical people that need some technical support for their personal agendas.
    3. In this particular case, the author has some charismatic appeal, like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, although he does not appear to have any real life design, construction, operation, or maintenance experience with any of the systems his paper describes.

  6. My expertise is Transmission Adequacy There are at least three major problems with the WWS plan.

    Problem 1) The analysis lacks a specific transmission model. He admits this. Putting a price on transmission does not show the difficulty of actually implementing a national 765 kV backbone grid to make the concept workable. Such a grid will be necessary to transmit the multiple tens of thousands of MW across the US from wind and solar sources to load centers. The grid would be designed to meet NERC rules . This is a very complex process glossed over in the paper. A FERC recommendation to build such a system never really caught on because of the cost and difficulty in building new 765 kV lines . The AWEA says a lack of transmission is currently holding back wind development . However, there is much opposition to wind power states having to pay for the new wind power lines .

    Problem 2) The paper suggests new technologies for energy storage. Battery costs have come down significantly , however my own 100% conversion off fossil fuels simulation for ERCOT still requires battery storage costing several trillion dollars .

    Problem 3) There is an error in Mark's reliability calculations mathematics. In section S1.L., Standard for Reliability: Mark's National Academy of Science paper states: "The electric utility industry standard for reliability is a loss of load expectation (LOLE) of 1 day (24 hours) in 10 years." This is not the correct definition of the LOLE . One day in ten years means there is a brief outage that occurs on-a-day once in 10 years on average, not a 24 hours outage.

    Mark has presented a concept no better than back of the napkin estimates for energy production from wind water and solar. Until the design is complete its just a concept, and probably a non workable one at that.

  7. Thanks for this. Much needed. The other aspect that is being ignored by the WWS advocacy is the enormous landscape that gets degraded. Humanity has another great dilemma to deal with besides AGW, that is the ongoing collapse in bio-diversity. This has been driven to this point almost exclusively by our development footprint. A RE approach will drive that collapse much faster while certainly providing an inadequate rate of decarbonisation. Even if Jacobsons required WWS build out were close to being energetically realistic, the cumulative damage to the landscape should be damming in itself.

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