Stanford prof sues critics of article touting renewable energy

Kyle Perisic
Leadership Institute Intern

  • A Stanford University professor is suing critics who challenged his research on renewable energy, seeking $10 million in damages for libel.
  • Prof. Mark Jacobson is accusing mathematician Chris Clack of libel for an article claiming that Jacobson made mistakes based on overly optimistic scenarios, relied on invalid modelling tools, and made implausible assumptions.
  • A Stanford University professor is suing critics who challenged his research on renewable energy, seeking $10 million in damages for libel.

    Prof. Mark Jacobson filed the lawsuit in Washington, D.C. Superior Court, according to The San Diego Union Tribune, claiming that the author and the publisher of a peer-reviewed study that came out this summer harmed his career.

    "Mark Jacobson has decided to pursue this legally as opposed to openly, in the scientific tradition."   

    The publisher of the critical study, The National Academy of Sciences, also published Jacobson’s original study, which argued that the country’s power grid could run entirely on renewable energy by 2050, and operate more cheaply than fossil fuels.

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    The suit names only Chris Clack, a mathematician and chief executive of the grid modeling firm Vibrant Clean Energy, who published an article along with twenty co-authors asserting that Jacobson and his team made mistakes based on overly optimistic scenarios, relied on invalid modelling tools, and made implausible and invalidated assumptions.

    Jacobson’s study spawned the creation of the Solutions Project, which is backed by a number of left-leaning nonprofits including the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Tides Foundation, and the Rockefeller Family Fund.

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    Mike Shellenberger, the president of pro-nuclear energy group Environmental Progress criticized the lawsuit, claiming that it is an “appalling attack on free speech and scientific inquiry,” and arguing that the DC Court should “reject it as grossly unethical and without legal merit.”

    “Jacobson’s assumption speaks to the essential fallacy of the 100 percent renewables proposal. Renewables like solar and wind require vastly larger amounts of land and mining in order to produce power that is unreliable,” Shellenberger wrote. “Under the guise of protecting the environment, renewables destroy the environment.”

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    David Victor, a professor of international relations and co-director of the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation at UC San Diego who was among the co-authors of Clack’s article, was not named as a defendant in the suit, but did comment on the effort.

    “It is unfortunate that Mark Jacobson has decided to pursue this legally as opposed to openly, in the scientific tradition,” Victor told the Union-Tribune.

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    Kyle Perisic

    Kyle Perisic

    Leadership Institute Intern
    Kyle Perisic is a Leadership Institute Intern, and reports liberal bias and abuse on college campuses for Campus Reform. He is originally from Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a double major in English and Political Science. While in college, Kyle was a member of various student organizations, worked in government relations, and worked on several political campaigns.
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