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The Rewiring America Handbook

A guide to winning the climate fight

By Saul Griffith, Sam Calisch and Laura Fraser, July 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic showed the world the dire consequences of ignoring science and its predictions of global crises. But the pandemic was just a rehearsal for the climate disasters humanity will face – unless we act now.

In his new book, Rewiring America, Saul Griffith, PhD argues that we can still address the threat of climate change, but only if we respond with a massive war-time mobilization effort to transform the fossil fuel economy into a fully electrified one, run on wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources. Based on the vast data about energy flows in the U.S. economy that his company, Otherlab, has mapped, Griffith details how to not only save us from climate disaster, but to help us enjoy a cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous future.

Griffith–physicist, inventor, engineer, and a father who wants to preserve the planet for his children–offers not only a plan for a cleaner, healthier future, but how to pay for it. It’s a plan that will work. Now.

Synopsis

In this book we approach the climate emergency from a new angle. We look for solutions, not barriers. We outline pathways to success.

We don't begin with the question of what is politically possible, but ask what is technically necessary to make a climate solution that is also the best economic pathway for the country. We need mobilization of technology, industry, labor, regulatory reform, and critically, finance.

This pathway is technology-agnostic; we have used the test "is it ready and does it work?" to understand the ideal way forward. This pathway is best summarized as electrify everything.

We lean on data and an unprecedented analysis of the U.S. energy economy that allows us to look at the consequences of electrifying everything. Will our lives change? The surprising answer is not a lot. Those things that will change, though, are for the better: cleaner air, cleaner water, better health, cheaper energy, and a more robust grid. We can have pretty much all of the complexity and variety of the American dream, with the same-sized homes and vehicles – and we'll need less than half the energy we currently use. This is a success story that casts aside trying to "efficiency" or "deprive" our way to zero emissions.

How do we ensure the lowest cost of energy while electrifying everything? First, we have to rewrite the federal, state, and local rules and regulations that were created for the fossil-fueled world and are preventing the U.S. from having the cheapest electricity ever. Then, we have to finance our transition to a zero-carbon energy system with a low-interest "climate loan." We have precedents and mechanisms for doing this; the U.S. pioneered public-private financing in the past that can help us get the job done today.

The consequence of getting the technology, financing, and regulations right is that we can save every family in the U.S. thousands of dollars a year.

We will need to triple the amount of electricity delivered in the U.S., and we'll discover that the moonshot engineering project we need is a new grid with new operating rules, more like the Internet. We must have "grid neutrality."

The industrial mobilization required will mean an effort similar to WWII's Arsenal of Democracy in size, speed, and scope.

For a world looking to bounce back from a pandemic, there is no other project that would create this many jobs. An analysis shows that there are tens of millions of good paying jobs that will be created in every zip code, suburb, and rural town in the country.

It is by no means easy, but it is still possible. But not for long. Billionaires may dream of escaping to Mars, but the rest of us... we have to stay and fight.

Media coverage

  • Vox
    Vox

    Ezra Klein

    How to Decarbonize America - and Create 25 Million Jobs

    "Griffith’s plan is just about the boldest I’ve seen — and there are real questions about whether our political system is up for the task. But those are, crucially, political questions; part of answering them is showing that they can be answered, and in ways that make working Americans better off rather than worse."