Suing an academic critic isn’t only wrong, it’s also unjust

Hi all,

For those of you who are getting this for the first time, welcome to my semi-regular nuclear energy email (affectionately referred to as River’s nuclear energy propaganda list). I use this list to share articles that are short (~5 min. read), topical, and highlight themes that are not regularly covered in nuclear energy headlines, but should be. You can find my past emails here.

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If you’ve read any article or headline over the past couple years that refers to America’s 100% renewable energy future, you’d likely find a heavily-cited paper in the sources titled

“Low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of intermittent wind, water, and solar for all purposes” by Mark Z. Jacobson et al.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2015, the paper argued that by 2050, the entire continental United States could be run on 100% wind, hydro, and solar energy with no need for natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or stationary batteries. While the paper was well-received and continues to be used as a pillar of many energy arguments within the mainstream environmental community, the claim was contentious to say the least.

This past June, a response paper was published in PNAC by 21 climate researchers claiming that the

“…analysis involves errors, inappropriate methods, and implausible assumptions. Their study does not provide credible evidence for rejecting the conclusions of previous analyses that point to the benefits of considering a broad portfolio of energy system options.”

These assumptions included an unrealistic expansion in hydroelectricity and battery technologies that do not yet exist. Jacobson’s response to the critique? A lawsuit.

At the beginning of November, Jacobson sued Clack for defamation — the only independent researcher within the group who does not have the support of an institutional legal team.

The Stanford Daily recently published an oped explaining the seriousness of a decision like this and its implications for the academic community:

Suing an academic critic isn’t only wrong, it’s also unjust | Stanford Daily