Skip to content Skip to navigation

Mark Z. Jacobson talks green energy with David Letterman

Stanford engineer expresses confidence in U.S. ability to attain all-renewable energy by 2050.

Mark Z. Jacobson talks green energy with David Letterman

October 15, 2013

Who knew David Letterman had installed geothermal heat pumps under his house?

On Oct. 9, the Late Night talk show host discussed his green retrofit with Mark Z. Jacobsonprofessor of civil and environmental engineering and senior fellow with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. The two had a wide-ranging conversation centered on studies Jacobson has led showing the feasibility of converting global, national and state energy infrastructures to all-renewable sources.

“There’s no technological or economic limitation to solving these problems,” said Jacobson, who is director of Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy Program and a senior fellow with the Precourt Institute for Energy. “It’s a social and political issue, primarily.”

Jacobson and his co-authors have published studies on how to switch to all solar, wind and water energy sources for the world, the United States and New York state. They will soon publish a study for California, and they have plans to do studies for all 50 U.S. states.

The plans show the way to a sustainable, inexpensive and reliable energy supply that could create local jobs and save billions of dollars in pollution-related health costs. They outline paths to fulfilling all transportation, electric power, industry, and heating and cooling energy needs with renewable energy by 2050. To do this, they calculate the number of new devices and jobs created, land and ocean areas required, and policies needed for infrastructure changes.

Speaking with Letterman, Jacobson expressed confidence in America’s ability to rise to the occasion. “In World War II, the U.S. produced 330,000 aircraft within five years just because it was necessary.”