Good science should spark debate. It’s the nature of the field, after all. You ask questions, search for data and then debate what it means or what actions the data should spur. Such a debate is underway now, and it is adding fuel to an old fire.
In May 2014, Dr. Charles R. Frank of the Brookings Institution published a working paper comparing the net benefits of replacing coal and gas plants with five no- and low-carbon fuels – solar, wind, hydropower, nuclear, and combined cycle natural gas. Avoided carbon emissions and low energy and capacity costs are deemed benefits, whereas higher emissions, energy and capacity costs, and unique fuel-specific deficiencies (i.e. toxic waste from nuclear power, intermittency of wind, solar, and hydro, etc.) comprise costs.
In late July, The Economist promoted several of this working paper’s primary findings, namely that wind and solar are expensive fuel sources with relatively sparse net benefits – compared to nuclear, combined cycle gas, and hydropower – when replacing coal plants.
Many refute the validity of this conclusion, and response from the scientific community was swift. Read More