Sustainable Fossil Fuels

The Unusual Suspect in the Quest for Clean and Enduring Energy

Winner of the 2006 Donner Prize for top Canadian book in public policy

About the Book

More and more people believe we must quickly wean ourselves from fossil fuels – oil, natural gas and coal – to save the planet from environmental catastrophe, wars and economic collapse. Professor Jaccard argues that this view is misguided. We have the technological capability to use fossil fuels without emitting climate-threatening greenhouse gases or other pollutants. The transition from conventional oil and gas to unconventional oil, unconventional gas and coal for producing electricity, hydrogen and cleaner-burning fuels will decrease energy dependence on politically unstable regions. In addition, our vast fossil fuel resources will be the cheapest source of clean energy for the next century and perhaps longer, which is critical for the economic and social development of the world’s poorer countries. By buying time for increasing energy efficiency, developing renewable energy technologies and making nuclear power more attractive, fossil fuels will play a key role in humanity’s quest for a sustainable energy system.

About the Author

Mark Jaccard is Professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University, where he directs the Energy and Materials Research Group.

Price and ISBN

Paperback: ISBN 0521679796 | Published December 2005 | CAD$33.95/USD$24.99
Hardback: ISBN 0521861799 | Published December 2005 | CAD$94.95/USD$70.00


by Jeffrey Simpson, The Globe and Mail 
June 13, 2006: Old King Coal is a long-lived soul

by Mark Jaccard, The Edmonton Journal 
February 11, 2006: Fossil fuel use can be sustainable: All industry must do is put extracted carbon back into the ground

by Juliette Jowit and Felix Lowe, The Observer
February 5, 2006: Fossilised myths: new thinking on 'dirty' coal and dwindling oil

by Mark Jaccard, The Times Higher Education Supplement 
January 13, 2006: The King has not left the building 

Three Part Series by Don Cayo, The Vancouver Sun 
November 22, 2005: Oil, natural gas unlikely to be replaced soon by other power sources, book says 
November 23, 2005: SFU professor flies in face of Chicken Littles of fossil fuels
November 24, 2005: World's energy system is on an unsustainable path, SFU prof. argues 

Two Part Series by Ray Reynolds, The Globe and Mail 
November 30, 2005: Worried about fuel? The end may not be near 
December 2, 2005: Green paradox: Conserve then consume


“Professor Jaccard tackles the two key global energy problems, an apparent shortage of oil and a dangerous build up of CO 2 in the atmosphere, and presents an original perspective on how simultaneously to resolve them with such clarity that it appears obvious – after you have read the book! … The text provides a balanced mix of serious economics and science, presented in easy-to-understand language and with just the right addition of everyday examples and quiet humor.”
~ Dr. Jon Gibbins, Professor, Energy Technology for Sustainable Development Group, Mechanical Engineering Department, Imperial College

"Mark Jaccard skillfully makes the case that those who leave modifying the way we use fossil fuels out of any plan to achieve "sustainability" in our energy systems surely confuse means with ends. If our objectives are to improve energy security and protect the environment at reasonable cost, he makes clear that, with a little bit of ingenuity and resolve, our extensive fossil fuel resources could well be our best friend rather than our worst enemy."
~ Dr. John Weyant, Professor, Department of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University

“Jaccard's well-researched study injects a much-needed dose of reality into the discussion of a ‘sustainable’ energy system. It is the voice of the economist tempered by extensive practical experience in the field and an evident concern for the future of our environment.”
~ Dr. H. Jake Jacoby, Professor of Management and Co-Director of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“Discussions of energy options too often oversimplify the world into good guys and bad guys. In his latest book, Mark Jaccard has done us all a service. He has brought cool analysis and common sense to a complex area of public policy fraught with myth and image management. His objective is to consider what might constitute a more sustainable energy system and in this he considers not only the usual suspects (energy efficiency, nuclear and renewables) but the unusual – fossil fuels. In doing so, he moves beyond the simplistic rhetoric and offers us practical policy recommendations that deserve serious consideration.”
~ Milton Catelin, Chief Executive, World Coal Institute

"Does preventing global warming require an end to fossil fuels?  Jaccard makes a strong case that significant fossil fuel use and climate protection can co-exist, without harming economic growth. Read the book and decide for yourself."
~ David Hawkins, Director, Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Council

“Jaccard’s book offers an important perspective on the major challenges posed by conventional energy. CO 2 emissions from fossil fuel burning must be curbed and oil dependence must be reduced to address climate-change and oil-supply-insecurity concerns. Many understand that this implies making energy use more efficient and increasing renewable energy roles. But few realize that fossil energy technologies can be modified at relatively low incremental costs to help address these concerns with CO 2 capture and storage technologies. This book addresses this issue. It is a marvelous primer showing why this option must be taken seriously by policymakers and the general public.”
~ Dr. Robert Williams, Senior Research Scientist, Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton University

“Mark Jaccard’s analysis of the potential contribution of fossil fuels provides a much-needed contrast to the more extreme views of imminent resource exhaustion.”
~ Dr. G. Campbell Watkins, co-editor of The Energy Journal

“This is an optimistic book. It significantly broadens energy perspectives. In the general discourse, energy is often associated with serious challenges: security of supply, peace, climate change, many other environmental issues, and the unfilled needs of energy services for economic growth and poverty alleviation for a majority of the world's population. This book presents new technically and economically feasible options that promise to address these challenges. There is light in the tunnel, and it is now up to all stakeholders, and our political processes, to realize these options! I strongly recommend this book to all concerned about our common future!”
~ Dr. Thomas Johansson, Professor and Director, International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund University – formerly Director of the Energy and Atmosphere Programme of the Bureau for Development Policy in the United Nations Development Programme.

“Professor Jaccard's book provides a very important addition to the policy debate over future sources of energy in a climate constrained world that is trying to become environmentally sustainable. At the heart of his book is the idea that "Renewables and zero emission fossil fuels will compete for the dominant position in meeting the needs of a sustainable energy system over the coming century". He finds that zero (carbon) emissions fossil fuels are likely to have a cost advantage over renewables and in any event renewables, he argues, "would be hard pressed to overtake fossil fuels by the end of the century". Whilst a number of published scenarios challenge this view, particularly for the period beyond the 2050s, he has marshalled a lot of arguments that are worthy of serious debate and further research. Although I am not convinced, I would urge all involved in this debate to read this important book!  
~ Bill Hare, Visiting Scientist, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research – formerly led the Greenpeace International work on the Kyoto Protocol.