The war for electrification: America can do it

Here is “incredible good news for America” ​​that is grabbing the attention of the White House. Remember how the nation mobilized overnight for the Allied Powers 80 years ago? It’s time to scramble again, but now is to tackle the climate crisis and halve carbon emissions by around 2030.

“We did something like that for WWII, where America came to save the world and produced the bullets, planes, ships, tanks that won WWII for the Allies,” said inventor Saul Griffith. “Now we have to wage a similar war. It won’t be bullets. This time it will be batteries. It won’t be boats, it will be solar farms. It won’t be planes, it will be wind. . “

Griffith was introducing a dramatic approach to slow climate change and create tens of millions of new jobs on American soil. The co-founder and chief scientist of the nonprofit Rewiring America, formed in July, plotted with his colleagues how to ditch fossil fuels for the billion fossil fuel machines involved in the production and use of energy. , which he says account for 87 percent of CO2 emissions in the United States.

Same size houses, same size cars, same American dreams, pollution free and much higher efficiency.

The plan was well publicized since its release 10 months ago in the form of a report, “Mobilizing for a zero carbon America: jobs, jobs, jobs and more jobs”, which preceded several seasons of President Joe Biden’s $ 2.7 trillion, filled with climate and infrastructure American employment plan.

Griffith, engineer, entrepreneur and MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner, took a new turn on Tuesday at the VERGE Electrify 2021 virtual event. Rather than focusing on 25 million potential new jobs in the United States, he provided details on the billion machines to be electrified and how this can happen with existing technologies.

In the style of so many viral videos, Griffith stood in a leafy thicket, leafing through page after page of black-and-white sketches of trucks, tankers, turbines, and other machinery (the basis of a book by coloring soon adult.), with the numbers of government agencies.

Griffith’s steps to “radically demystify” decarbonization begin with supply, the 730 million tonnes of coal mined from 669 coal mines, then all layers of natural gas and gasoline infrastructure. Next is the demand side. Sixty-nine million American homes have gas meters, water heaters, cooking appliances, etc.

“So many little blue flames that we now know harm our children, affect our respiratory health, and aren’t particularly good for the environment anyway,” he added.

Now imagine “7.1 billion barrels of oil, 3 billion gallons that power 250 million vehicles in our garages”, in addition to gas stations, tankers, refineries, pipelines, wells and tankers. .

“They need to be removed, recycled and modernized,” Griffith said. “You can already hear the earth recovering. You can already hear your children breathing easier.”

According to him, what should be electrified? Basically “everything” except biofuels from forestry and agriculture, which can be used for difficult industries such as aviation, long haul, freight and even agricultural liquid fuels.

Electrified technologies are already well understood and many are widely available to consumers, such as electric ranges and heat pumps, Griffith noted. In addition, renewable energy is more efficient than natural gas and coal-fired energy, which lose a lot of heat. So if America can quickly focus on these known tech substitutes and switch over the next decade, the toughest industries can be decarbonized by the 2040 and 2050 targets.

Sketches of the components of the energy system, overlaid on a pale interpretation of a Sankey diagram.

“And because nearly 10% of the US energy economy finds, extracts, refines and transports our fuels to support our fossil fuel economy, there are huge savings as well,” he said. “This adds up to incredible good news for America. When we move from our fossil fuel economy to a renewable, electrified economy, we need less than half the energy we think we use today. Same size houses, same size cars, same American dreams, pollution free and much higher efficiency. “

The speed of electrification depends on the energy purchasing choices of 140 million households, whose buildings and appliances account for 40% of the country’s emissions, he added.

American households hold the purse strings of more than 500 million machines including: “250 million electric vehicles, 70 million electric heat pumps, 60 million electric heat pumps for water heaters, 40 million electric furnaces. electric induction, 20 million electric heat pump tumble dryers, 2 million ovens, 10 million electric motorcycles, “not to mention spas and swimming pools. The remaining machines that need to be modified or replaced include 100 million circuit breaker boxes, 100 million solar roofs, 100 million batteries and 200 million vehicle chargers.

Twenty percent of U.S. emissions come from 6 million commercial buildings, Griffith noted.

Moving quickly after two decades of rampant climate denial and small, insignificant actions for electrification is a tall order, of course. Residential and commercial infrastructure must adapt to support electrified machines. Improved regulations and convenient financing are also essential to enable consumers to buy electric options for their cars, ranges, heating systems and everything in between, Griffith said, insisting that moving in that direction will allow to every household to save at least $ 2,000 a year and to the whole of the United States. savings of $ 300 billion.

Now we have to wage a similar war. It won’t be bullets. This time it will be batteries.

Extensive research he conducted several years ago with Otherlab for the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, mapping in excruciating detail all of the government’s public data on energy use, has contributed to the development of this plan.

The result is much more action-oriented than what can be gleaned by eyeing, say, the Sankey diagrams from the 1976 US Energy Flow, which described petroleum, coal, natural gas, and renewables in use at the time, divided into commercial, industrial, transportation, residential, and electrical categories.

The Rewiring America team includes co-founder Alex Laskey, formerly of Opower; BlocPower founder Donnel Baird; Lynn Jurich, CEO and Co-Founder of SunRun; Property Brothers co-host and producer Jonathan Scott, along with other top names in business, academia, politics and labor.

Griffith, an MIT-trained engineer, holds several patents, started a site that later became Instructables and was recognized by the MacArthur Foundation in 2007 to be “a prodigy of invention at the service of the world community”.

“Don’t believe in alternative lies,” Griffith said. “It will save Americans money. It will save our children. It will save our climate.”


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