Mark Z. Jacobson, one of the world’s leading experts on wind energy looks at broader issues, trying to rank energy sources in order of least social costs to worst. He includes both commercial and prototype technology in his ranking. He ranks wind as the best, concentrating solar (CSP) second, with photovoltaic power further down the list below tidal and geothermal energy. Ethanol, by the way, ranks below nuclear and coal on his list.

Jacobson is one of the smartest and most fair minded scientists working on energy issues. And his conclusions fit my own prejudices. So why do I have the uneasy feeling that an equally scholarly and fair minded expert who had devoted her life to assessing the potential of photovoltaic electricity would have ranked that, rather than wind as the most socially desirable source? Why do I suspect that an expert who had spent his life arguing the case for nuclear power as a clean benign energy source would have ranked nuclear power first?

My inclination is to trust Jacobson. But before I follow that inclination in this case, I am really curious to hear what other experts say about his analysis.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.