By Felix Kimbrell, Micaela Erickson and Lizzie Stricklin
It’s no secret that the world is feeling the effects of climate change and global warming, as 2020 brings us record-breaking weather and increasingly severe natural disasters. The effects of carbon emissions and pollution have been escalating for years now and hope for change feels uncertain.
With all the proposed solutions to these issues, few options appear as promising as clean energy. Imagine a world where we could replace our gas and oil usage completely, while not only maintaining but increasing American jobs in the same process. The scale of this transformation may seem like an impossible reality. Some may say this isn’t an option even worth considering. But Saul Griffith, a scientist and MacArthur fellow, has spent the last few years figuring out the exact steps we need to take to get off fossil fuels. His answer? Electrifying everything.
Saul Griffith’s innovations include the fields of industrial design, technology and science education. His ideas haven’t always been focused on green energy. In 2007, when he was awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant, he already had patents in optics, textiles, and nanotechnology. He’s also a firm believer in bringing science to the masses – he was a co-founder of Thinkcycle, the forerunner of Instructables, and was a creative force behind HowToons, both of which make science and innovation easy to understand and achieve for creators of all ages.
Now a chief scientist at OtherLab, he has aided government agencies and Fortune 500 companies in understanding how decarbonization – the process of reducing reliance on fossil fuels – actually works. His most recent assignment: help the U.S. government design an intensive map measuring the country’s electricity grid. The grid reveals where energy is being wasted and could very well hold the key to the future of sustainable energy.
Saul co-founded the organization Rewiring America, which seeks to create millions of American jobs while fighting the climate crisis. This work starts in the home, requires grid neutrality, fast permitting for rooftop solar, and more low-cost financing to fund home electrification projects. From there, Rewiring America’s research shows that an aggressive national commitment to electrifying all aspects of the economy would bring a surge of new jobs over the next 15 years. Saul sees this as a win-win: we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels while boosting the economy.
We here at The YEARS Project had the chance to talk with Griffith about his energy discoveries and planning in detail. He shared his ideas on the complete rewiring of America’s energy grid, the act of decarbonizing American homes and communities, and the implications these actions could have on the American job market.
In the first part of our series, Saul Griffith explains what it would mean to rewire America, and explains the incredible effects it could have on our society.
The second installment of this series focuses on the things we all can try and do at home to help and execute the greater rewiring of America. This begins with decarbonizing your home.
The last installment in the rewire series goes into depth about the amount of jobs that can be created when electric energy is prioritized.
Saul knows that we can build a future that is cleaner and better for millions of Americans. It may seem like an audacious task, but if America can’t conquer it, who can?