By Mary Kuhlman
Global leaders in Paris are hammering out the details of a pact to reduce emissions spurring climate change, and here at home new research highlights the feasibility of a transition to 100 percent renewable energy in Indiana and other states.
Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson explains that it's technically and economically possible for every state and 139 countries to switch to 100 percent wind, water and solar energy by 2050.
"Most people aren't aware that it's possible," he points out. "There's very little downside. It's technically feasible. We can do it at low cost. The main barriers are social and political."
The analysis found the transition would save money and add more than 160,000 jobs in Indiana in construction and operation by mid-century.
Critics of renewable energy argue it would raise the price of electricity.
Jacobson says that's only true if you ignore the negative health impacts of air pollution.
According to the research, savings from reduced pollution could cover the cost of Indiana's transition in just about two years. Jacobson adds that fossil fuel health costs are real, even if they don't show up on power bills.
"We are all paying higher taxes, higher insurance rates, higher workmen's compensation rates, because of coal, oil and gas air-pollution health problems - asthma, cardio-vascular disease, respiratory illness," he points out.
And Jacobson argues there is too much at stake to not make a transition, including threats to national security.
"We'd see international conflicts growing because we still have fights over fuels that are overseas, whereas we could have just transitioned to local fuels," he stresses. "And we'd have a higher terrorism risk because we still have centralized facilities, where we'd have fewer with wind, water, solar."