When my information changes, I change my mind. What do you do?

In an ideal world, evidence will lead conclusions. So when evidence is updated in, as a good example, a peer-reviewed article, the conclusions will consequently change.

But conclusions often lead the evidence instead. This was obvious in the case of the retraction of a paper asserting that European countries that support nuclear energy in their supply mixes achieve less for the global climate. Upon serious review, the weight of the authors’ evidence actually indicated a contrary, but apparently unwelcome conclusion. Of course, by this stage the paper had generated headlines.

Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.

The most recent major work of Mark Jacobson’s group at Stanford, offering a vision of entire nations perfectly well supplied in energy exclusively  from solar, wind and water based technologies, also came up short following careful, serious and painstaking review. In a dark turn completely outside the peer-review process, Jacobson now intends court action against the journal and the lead author of the critique.


A good summary has already been provided by Keith Pickering, and another by Alex Berezow.

Bulls do not win bull fights. People do. People do not win people fights. Lawyers do.

Here are many of the relevant resources for the context of this case, gathered in one place for convenience:

The 2015 paper proposing the “Low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of intermittent wind, water, and solar for all purposes”

A paper by Loftus and co-workers which included Jacobson’s work as one of the outliers among a number of studies with questionable levels of detail and feasibility

A somewhat prophetic piece in Foreign Affairs by Ted Nordhaus, Breakthrough Institute

A 2017 review of many “100% Renewable Energy” scenarios, including Jacobson’s work, using simple feasibility criteria

A related literature review from the Energy Innovation Reform Project

The “Clack et al.” formal literature critique of the Jacobson Group scenario

Jacobson’s response in the same journal, and as a blog at EcoWatch

Clack and co-authors’ dissection of Jacobson’s response

Context and commentary at

Follow-up work by Jacobson, featuring the abrupt need for 4 billion kilowatts of output capacity from battery storage

There is a suggestions that:

It got into PNAS without peer review. (That journal has a publication mechanism that allows some non-peer-reviewed articles.)

Make of that what you will.

The debate and lawsuit in elegant context, by nuclear reactor physicist and engineering manager Nick Touran.




3 thoughts on “Off-piste

  1. Jacobson still has swathes of public support from academics, media outlets and the public. If his case is dismissed it won’t change those beliefs.

    What happened to the previous post?

    • Let’s see all those supporters proudly and publicly support this development.

      The previous post has been removed. Although I was happy with much of its information, I attended a Finkel-related conference this week and learned several points which convinced me I had published my modelling results too early. In a few months I expect to present much better results.

  2. To me, it’s clear that Jacobsen et al’s paper is a case of fake scholarship whose purpose is propagandistic. The incompetence the authors display is far too selective, and the “errors” they make far too systematic, for me to believe that they are the result of mistakes made in good faith.

    Even if I’m wrong, which I doubt, this paper should be grounds for booting Jacobsen from the academy. He’s either grossly incompetent or dishonest or both.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s