I imagine that I have been appointed the first CEO of a new agency set up by the Federal Government of the United States of America with the explicit goal of actually delivering a Net Zero CO2 Emissions Economy by 2050. My first task is to scope the project and to estimate the assets required to succeed. This is the result of that exercise, and includes a discussion of some consequences that flow from the scale and timescale for meeting the target.
The cost to 2050 will comfortably exceed $12T (trillion) for electrification projects and $35T for improving the energy efficiency of buildings, a work-force comparable in size to the health sector will be required for 30 years, including a doubling of the present number of electrical engineers, and the bill of specialist materials is of a size that for the USA alone is several times the global annual production of many key minerals. On the manpower front one will have to rely on the domestic workforce, as everywhere else in the world is working towards the same target. If they were not so working, the value of the USA-specific target is moot. The scale of this project suggests that a war footing and a command economy will be essential, as major cuts to other favoured forms of expenditure, such as health, education and defence, will be needed. Without a detailed roadmap, as exemplified by the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors that drove the electronics revolution after 1980, the target is simply unattainable.
Imagine we have a net-zero emissions economy in the USA by 2050. Three very large, interrelated, and multidisciplinary engineering projects will have been completed:
- Transport will have been electrified.
- Industrial and domestic heat will have been electrified.
- The electricity sector – generation, transmission and distribution – will have been greatly expanded in order to cope with the first two projects.
A fourth project is to secure the buy-in of the public for what will be 30 years of social disruption, diminished living standards, and living under a command economy. The successful completion of these projects is necessary to meet the high-level target, but they are not sufficient, as I have not dealt explicitly with agriculture and other matters as described below
Current USA energy consumption
The data in Figure 1 give an indication of the energy used over the months from January 2019 to October 2021 for transport, all heat and electricity (in total and the fossil fuel contribution in the USA. I have derived this diagram from the US Energy Information Agency data[i].
Throughout the year, the use of transport fuel is approximately constant, whereas heating energy is 75% higher in winter than summer, and much of the base load heat is of industrial origin. Electricity use peaks in summer caused by the use of air-conditioners for cooling and has a subsidiary peak in winter from heating.
In converting transport energy and heat – currently mostly derived from fossil fuels – to electricity, we will use today’s data, assuming that the growth in demand from population growth will be offset by energy efficiency savings, both at about 10% over the next 30 years. This approximation would have to be revisited in a more detailed analysis than is given here. Note that about 60% of electricity is provided by fossil fuels and that has to be sourced from renewables and nuclear energy.
Figure 1: USA Data on monthly energy consumption for electricity generation, ground transportation and all heat provided by fossil fuels and that proportion of electricity generated by fossil fuels. The average monthly values are 3044 (electricity), 2216 (transport), 2508 (fossil fuel derived heat) and 1781 (fossil fuel derived electricity) all in units of Tera-British-Thermal-units.
DECARBONISING THE ECONOMY
Transport energy is 75% of the value of the average of electricity and peaks in summer. It is nearly all provided by fossil fuels at this time. Because an internal combustion engine converts the energy stored in its fuel into transport motion with an efficiency of about 30%, while electric motors are over 90% efficient at using energy stored in a battery, we will need to increase the electricity supply by about 25% to maintain transport in the USA at today’s level in 2050.
A small part of this transport energy is used for aviation and shipping, the electrification of which is much less advanced than the electrification of ground transport, and will, in the end, be more expensive per journey than implied using aviation fuel and bunker oil today. The extra cost of alternatives to these fuels is not examined here in detail, and this omission allows us to insist that the estimates below are a lower bound on the total cost of delivering Net Zero. The additional electricity infrastructure required is considered in the third engineering project.
We note from Figure 1 that in summer, the USA uses 75% more energy as heat than as electricity. If this heat was provided by radiant heaters, we would need an extra grid equal to the size of today’s just to keep homes and businesses warm. If we use air-source and ground-source heat pumps, with a coefficient of performance of 3:1 – slightly optimistic given the average quality of the thermal envelope of most buildings is high (given the need to keep heat out in summer and/or heat in in winter), then the extra grid would need only to be 35% the size of the present grid, for the heat element alone. Combining this result with the figures for transport in the last section, the grid in 2050 will prime facie need to be more than 60% greater than its present size. We return to this later. However, it may be possible to reduce the amount of electricity required by further insulating buildings.
The US building stock is made up of 140M housing units, 6.9M commercial buildings and 1.3 industrial buildings, with an estimated floor space of 256B, 97B, and 14B sqft respectively[ii]. The current thermal envelope varies strongly by geographic region, and a national retrofit exercise would have to be delegated to states to cope within variation. Such a programme could reduce the amount of green electricity needed, but for this exercise only a gross approximation of the project to bring all buildings to have the highest possible thermal envelope is possible. For example, the cost in the UK can be estimated with reasonable accuracy as there has been a pilot retrofit programme from which the national scale cost is $1T per 15M population[iii], which would cost the US about $22T. Using independent, but equivalent USA data on deep retrofitting, scaled up to 100% emissions reductions, comes to $20T, a remarkably consistent value[iv]. Given the extent to which cold weather climates are already well insulated, this cost may well halve, but we will need to add the improvement of insulation in hotter regions to reduce the use of air-conditioning, and this will take the cost back up again. Also US houses are twice the size of UK houses on average which will take the costs higher to of order $35T. It is a matter of urgency that this estimate be refined based on actual US data on retrofitting of a representative sample of US houses and other buildings.
Industrial heat for the manufacture of steel, cement and other materials has been included above. Electric arc furnaces will accomplish some of the job of decarbonisation, but the highest temperatures still require fossil fuels. This latter implies extra costs for reaching net-zero which will need further consideration later.
The grid needs to be 60% bigger in 2050 than it is currently if the USA economy as we know it now is to continue to function. Clearly, 30 years is also enough time to drive other changes in the economy that may reduce, or, indeed, add to this 1.6 factor.
Taken together, the USA grid has been called the largest machine in the world, 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and 5.5 million miles of local distribution lines. Assuming a scaled-up grid to treble its size, we will need to add a further 120,000 miles of transmission line. This last will cost of order $0.6T based on US data on transmission line costs[v].
The 5.5M miles of local distribution lines will have to be upgraded to carry much higher currents. Most houses in the USA have a main circuit breaker panel that allows between 100A and 200A current into the house, although some new ones are rated at 300A. The 100A standard was set nearly a century ago when the electric kettle was the largest single appliance drawing 13A. In a modern all-electric home, some of the new appliances typically draw rather higher currents, such as: ground-source heat pumps may draw 85A on start-up, radiant hobs when starting up draw 37A, fast chargers for electric vehicles draw 46A, and even slow ones may draw 17A, while electric showers draw 46A. The local wiring in streets and local transformers were all sized to the 100A limit. Most homes will need an upgraded circuit breaker panel and much local wiring and local substations will need upsizing. The UK costs[vi] have been estimated in details at £1T, which would scale to of order $6T on a per capita basis.
The new generation of electricity must include decarbonising the 60% of the current grid that is fossil fuelled as of now. This means that we need 400% of the current non-fossil-fuel grid capacity to be provided by new non-fossil fuel sources. There is limited capacity for new hydroelectricity and the economics of carbon capture and sequestration is unproven. From Figure 1, we will have to be able to deliver the peak electricity even at times in winter when local production in the north of both wind and solar electricity is low. Using a mixture are[vii] of wind (onshore $1600/kW, offshore $6500/kW), solar $1000/kW at the utility level), nuclear ($6000/kW), the capital cost of the new capacity alone is of order $5T. Note: there is no provision here for storage of electricity at the state level for 3-6 months which would be required. Storage will be discussed further below.
We have identified $12T as the cost of providing the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in a net-zero world. Although not all borne by households, the cost is of order $100,000 per household, plus the battery costs (which would dwarf this sum. The current hydropower storage would run the USA for a few hours and all battery storage for a few minutes.
We now consider the human resource requirements to deliver the target economy. Atkins (A UK engineering firm, private communication) estimate that a $1 billion project in the electrical sector implies about 800 years of professional engineering time and somewhere between 2000 and 3000 years of the time of skilled tradespeople. This amounts to 24 or more engineers and 100 or more skilled tradespeople, employed fulltime for 30 years. Scaling up these figures up for the $12T electricity sector projects just described, we will need 500,000 professional electrical engineers and of order 0.8M skilled people employed full-time for the 30 years to 2050 on just this aspect of the net-zero project. There are of order 400,000 licenced engineers at present, so we will need to more than double that number to accommodate these projects. Training this many engineers will take time and will therefore hamper progress in the coming decade during a build-up phase, meaning even more will be needed later on.
In the building retrofit sector, a range of skills – from semi-skilled to highly skilled – is required. Based on the budget, we might expect retrofit sector to need a similar workforce, of order 3M people, to deliver everything from the design of individual projects, through the materials supply chain, to the actual retrofitting work. Clearly these are both major perturbations to the national workforce. There are no prior examples of skilled workers being generated and maintained on such a scale over 30 years.
Bill of materials
The actual costs of the materials required are covered above. Here we consider the quantities required. The transition from fossil fuels to renewables is a move from a fuel-intensive energy sector to a materials-intensive energy sector. There is already considerable popular concern about the role of mining in reducing biodiversity, but this problem is about to get much worse.
As an example, a 600-MW combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) comprises 300 tonnes of high-performance steels. We would need 360 5-MW wind turbines, each running at a mean 33% efficiency, and a major storage facility alongside to achieve the same continuous 600-MW supply. In fact, since the life of wind turbines at 25 years is less than half that of CCGT turbines with a single life-extension refit, we would actually need 720 of them.
The mass of the nacelle (the turbine at the top of the tower) for a 5-MW wind turbine is comparable[viii] to that of a CCGT. Furthermore, the mass of concrete in the plinth of a single CCGT is comparable to the mass of concrete for the foundations of each onshore wind turbine and much smaller than the concrete and ballast for each offshore turbine. A corollary of the multiplicity of turbines or solar panels is that connecting them to the grid is more materials intensive.
A 1.8-GW nuclear power plant and turbine produce about 1000 W/kg of steel in the combined unit, compared with around 2000 W/kg for a CCGT and 2–3 W/kg from solar panels or wind turbines. These factors, of order 1000, show that the use of high-value materials (steels, silicon and long-life polymers for wind turbine blades) is much more intensive in renewables. This effect is offset somewhat by their fuel-free operation. However, the extraction of oil and gas only has a small impact on the earth’s surface compared with the opencast mining of the minerals used by wind turbines and solar farms.
If Ireland were to convert overnight to an electric vehicle fleet, the materials requirements for the batteries alone, compared with annual production today are estimated, by scaling UK estimate by the population ratio, as[ix]
- 1M tonnes of cobalt – almost 20 times the annual global production
- 1.3M tonnes of lithium carbonate (LCE) – over 7 times the annual global production
- at least 36K tonnes of neodymium and dysprosium – nearly five times the annual global production of neodymium
- 10M tonnes of copper – nearly the annual global production in 2018
If the world is to go all-electric in 30 years, we need to convert the USA in 1.6 years, and hence we see the need for a very steep rise in the mining of these materials. Unregulated and child labour is implicated in much mining of cobalt, so there are intense research efforts to replace it without losing too much battery efficiency. Biodiversity will be under even great threat from increased mining.
Fossil fuels are much more effective at storing energy than any known non-nuclear alternatives (Table 1).[x]
One example was prompted by a member of Extinction Rebellion, who assured me that the back-up electricity supply for emergency wards in hospitals would be provided by batteries by 2025. The 100-MW, 128-MWh battery installed by Elon Musk near Adelaide in 2018, at a cost of $100 million, would power the emergency wards – 30% of the total – of Mt Sinai Hospital in New York for 24 hours on a single 80–20% discharge. If a storm took out the transmission lines in the New York for a week, we would need seven such batteries. The back up today is typically provided by diesel generators, which run for as long as there is fuel costing about $0.5M. This means there is a capital cost ratio of 200:1 per day or 1400:1 per week for battery versus diesel. This economic mismatch applies to all other suggested applications of batteries, for example protecting Wall St against blackouts.
There is no short-term likelihood of low-cost large-scale electricity storage. Even hydrogen is very expensive, and the fuel needed to make the hydrogen would be much more effectively used to perform the functions directly that the hydrogen would be scheduled to do.
The global context of USA actions
One can see in Figure 3 the dominant role that fossil fuels have had in energising the world economy since the 19th century. All the efforts on renewables have so far contributed only a slight divergence and fall in the fossil fuel fraction since 1980 – this has been of order 85% for a century, but has fallen to nearer 82% now. An extrapolation out to 2050 indicates a 79% contribution in 2050: there is no sign of a rapid divergence and a zeroing of the fossil fuel fraction in the next 30 years. These and many other developments, such as the quadrupling of the SUV global market in the last decade, all show the world moving away from the net-zero target.
I have made no allowances for radical technological breakthroughs in the energy sector, which might relieve the situation on the timescale of decades. Equally, however, incremental developments, such as those seen in battery technology, might be slower than anticipated, as the intrinsic limits of materials properties are approached. Any such delays would worsen the situation.
The fourth project listed at the outset may be the hardest. It is clear from the public debate that the citizenry has no idea of the scale of the task of a transition to a net-zero emissions economy in 30 years. This is not only a matter of the costs, human resources and materials, but also the disturbance to everyday lifestyles as the target is approached. Opinion polls indicate that few are willing, let alone able, to pay more than very modest sums, and certainly nothing like that implied by the figure of well over $300,000 per household set out above (for electrical and retrofit actions). Worse, there will be no measurable difference in the future climate as a result of all the spending and hardship in the UK. To make a difference we would need the rest of the world, and in particular the developing world, to come on board. Poorer nations, such as India and the countries of South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, would need financial help to do so. If we assume that Europe and North America are to underwrite the rest of the world’s net-zero activities, then the costs to the UK could rise by a factor of 4.5, assuming the same per capita spend globally. The resulting cost of getting to the global target then rises to nearly $1.5M per household, and $200T for the whole of the USA, which is a fantasy in practical terms.
By all commonly understood value-for-money measures, climate mitigation exercises simply do not add up. For homes, the $300,000 per household would be recouped almost 100 years (at today’s cost of energy), far longer than any sensible investor would tolerate. Indeed, we would require a command economy during the period to 2050 to secure the finance, skilled workforce, and the materials needed to reach the target. Further, from where we are today, it is not clear how this public acceptance can be achieved on the timescale required.
Funding for adaptation to an actual changing climate is an easier ask. Using the Thames Barrier in London as an example, extensive flooding in the 1953 storms in the East of England triggered the commissioning of various actuarial calculations. When should a Thames Barrier be constructed such that over its lifetime the value of flood insurance claims avoided was equal to the cost of the barrier itself? The answer was ‘in the 1980s‘. In developed countries with seismic activity, it is easy to set aside and invest multiple billions of pounds to cover future earthquakes, but that is because most people know they could be claimants during their lifetimes. For the slow-burning issue of climate change, however, this is not possible. Instead, the use of appropriate actuarial calculations could allow investment in adaptation to be attracted as and when necessary.
Spend profile and secured finance
Most of the preceding analysis assumes a constant 30-year project. In practice, however, the spend will start from near zero and ramp up. If a 40-year retrofit roll out had started in 2010, one would by now have spent of order 15–20% of the total improving housing and other buildings. In practice the spent was of order 1%. Each year of delay adds more to what must be achieved in the coming decades, requiring even greater flows of finance, human resources and materials. The training of a skilled workforce and building up the supply chain must precede mass roll-out in all sectors. The expansion of the grid must precede the mass uptake of electric heating and transport: having the cars and heat-pumps without the green electricity is the height of folly.
A project on this scale will need bespoke financing at the national level, as it is beyond the scope even of the richest companies in the world today. Even international money markets would struggle if all the world pursued net zero. Completely new economic thinking would be needed, and the Stern Report of 2006 is way out of its depth on this practical point.
A partial list of factors not yet considered
I have given no attention to agriculture, and especially methane emissions, nor forestry, which permits negative emissions while trees are growing. I have not considered aviation or shipping and specific costs there. Aviation fuel will be with us through and beyond 2050, and evolution of electric shipping is very slow beyond commuter ferries in large city harbours. The global economy depends very much on both these forms of transport, and any severe curtailment will be accompanied by falling standards of living of the middle class. I have not considered industrial heat currently provided by fossil fuels for which electrical heating does not achieve high enough temperatures in some refining processes.
I have not included the extra costs of simultaneously running the two new infrastructure systems required to support fuelling internal combustion engines and recharging electric motor batteries. I have not considered the practical choices associated with where and how the extra electricity generation should occur, nor have I factored in the costs of any forms of electricity storage (which are very high, as seen earlier). These issues will need an early resolution, because many of the desired outcomes depend on the new infrastructure being in place. I have not examined the ever-growing costs of balancing the grid, costs which grow dramatically as more intermittent sources of electricity are used.
A major change in peoples’ lifestyles, with reductions in travel, consumption, and food variety could make a dent in the numbers above, but not reduce much the scale of the engineering projects.
A roadmap for Net Zero
The success of the IT revolution over the last 40 years is in no small part due to the existence of the International Technology Road Map for Semiconductors (ITRS). Representative engineers from every part of the sector, and all parts of the world, have gathered every two years to thrash out in great detail what needs to come out of the laboratory into development, and out of development into production, to keep Moore’s law of transistor miniaturisation on track, and with it the increase in computing power. Every player in the field knows that the other players are investing and working day-by-day to the same agreed objective.
Note the contrast between ITRS and international climate meetings. Meeting the 2050 net-zero emissions target is much more complex than semiconductor development and can therefore go wrong in many more ways. Despite this, it is being attempted without any kind of roadmap. The project is therefore more likely than not to veer in the direction of the historical Tower of Babel. No engineer would invest time or money in such a project. Investors should expect better given the scale of the enterprise.
With extra costs comfortably in excess of $35T billion, a dedicated and skilled workforce comparable to of that of the education sector, and key strategic materials demanded at many times the supply rates that prevail today, and all for no measurable attributable change in the global climate, the mitigation of climate change via a net-zero emissions USA economy in 2050 is an extremely difficult ask. Without a command economy, the target will certainly not be met.
The practical alternative
Many in the world are convinced that we face a climate catastrophe in the coming decades if this target economy is not delivered. I suggest we are certain to have an economic and societal catastrophe if we persist on the projects to deliver the net-zero economy by 2050. There is a get-out-of-gaol card, and that is the demographic transition, which started 70 years ago. The average family size in the world has halved, from 5 children in 1960 to 2.5 children now, and is continuing to fall. In developed countries, with universal primary education and more people living in cities than the countryside, the figure is below 2, and indigenous populations are in absolute decline, as it takes 2.1 children per family to maintain a population. Stable developing countries, such as Bangladesh and Lesotho, are already down to 2.5. The Chinese population will peak in the 2030s and the world population in the 2060s. A century from now, when we need copper, we will not mine it, but strip it from abandoned cities.
My analysis requires the climate change community to go back, in all humility, and ask themselves really how bad will (as opposed to might) the world’s climate become? The proposed solution seems far worse for society than the problem. Half of their analyses of the future climate are based on a CO2 emissions scenario (RCP8.5) now debunked as excessively high rather then the more likely RCP2.5 scenario. Their candour at this point would assist those making the case for funding climate adaptation, which will only be carried out when it becomes necessary. In the parlance of the Second World War, ‘Is this journey really necessary?’
I hope this report gives the bare facts about what is implied by committing to a net-zero emissions economy for 2050. Short of a command economy, it is simply an unattainable pipe dream, and we will struggle to get 10–20% of the way to the target, even with a democratic mandate to proceed. I think that the hard facts should put a stop to urgent mitigation and lead to a focus on adaptation. Mankind has adapted to the climate over recent millennia, and is better equipped than ever to adapt in the coming decades. With respect to sea-level-rise, the Dutch have been showing us the way for centuries. Climate adaptation in the here and now is a much easier sell to the USA citizenry than mitigation. There is a very strong case to repeal the net-zero emissions legislation and replace it with a rather longer time horizon. The continued pressure towards a net-zero economy will become a crime of sedition if the public rise up violently to reject it. The silence of the National Academies and the professional science and engineering bodies about these big picture engineering realities is a matter of complicity.
[i] Data from the Energy Information Agency of the USA, with thanks to several members who checked my interpretation of their data to derive Figure 1: all the implications from are by me and they bear no responsibility. Total Energy Monthly Data – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)
[ii] • Number of homes in U.S. 1975-2020 | Statista 140M units
www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=46118 commercial building 5.9M with 97B sq ft floorspace
- Industrial space in the U.S.: total space by type | Statista 10264 msqft warehouse and distribution 3472 msqft manufacturing
- Size of new single-family homes in the U.S. | Statista average in 1970 1660 average since 2500.
United States Industrial Properties | Reonomy 1.3M industrial buildings: 3.472M sqft manufacturing and 10264M sqft warehouse and distribution.
[iii] In 2009, as Chief Scientific Advisor to the then Department for Communities and Local Government, I briefed Lord Drayson, the then Science Minister, about the challenge of retrofitting all existing buildings to reduce the energy consumption and hence emissions of carbon dioxide. I suggested a detailed pilot programme be put in train. This became a £17 million expenditure programme called 3 ‘Retrofit for the Future’, a series of projects in which over 100 social houses (i.e. smaller than the average) were subject to various measures. One group of 45 houses received complete makeovers – double and treble glazing, external cladding, extra loft and underfloor insulation, and new energy-efficient appliances. Detailed studies of emissions before and after for this group showed that for an average expenditure of £85,000, the average emissions reduction achieved was 60%, with only three dwellings achieving the 80% emissions reduction target, and another three not even reaching 30%. Linearly scaling the result to the whole housing stock and a 100% emissions reduction, produces a cost estimate of £4 trillion. See the results at: Rajat Gupta, Matt Gregg, Stephen Passmore and Geoffrey Stevens. ‘Intent and outcomes from the Retrofit for the Future programme: key lessons’, Building Research & Information, 43(4); 435–451, 2015. See https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09613218.2015.1024042
[iv] Report: Deep Retrofits Can Halve Homes’ Energy Use and Emissions | ACEEE
[v] MISO USA: £1.6 million/km for 132kV, £2.0 million/km for 275kV and £3.3 million/km for 400kV line https://nocapx2020.info/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Transmission-Cost-Estimation-Guide-for-MTEP-2019337433.pdf
[vi] The Hidden Cost of Net Zero: Rewiring the UK (thegwpf.org)
[vii] Cost of electricity by source (per Wikipedia):
- gas/oil combined cycle power plant: $1000/kW (2019)
- combustion turbine: $710/kW (2020)
- onshore wind: $1600/kW (2019)
- offshore wind: $6500/kW (2019)
- solar PV (fixed): $1060/kW (utility), $1800/kW (2019)
- solar PV (tracking): $1130/kW (utility), $2000/kW (2019)
- battery storage power: $1380/kW (2020)
- conventional hydropower: $2752/kW (2020)
- geothermal: $2800/kW (2019)
- coal (with SO2 and NOx controls): $3500–3800/kW
- advanced nuclear: $6000/kW (2019)
- fuel cells: $7200/kW (2019)
[viii] Development of 5-MW Offshore Wind Turbine and 2-MW Floating Offshore Wind Turbine Technology (hitachi.com).
a Net Zero CO2 Emissions Economy by 2050 will be really close to a a Net Zero Economy by 2050.
For the UK the cost of imported LNG in 2022 is $120bn more than fracked gas in the USA. Less than half of this goes into electricity and gets covered by the price of electricity. The cost of 300TWh of UK electricity is about $180 bn more per year compared with US . Call that $240bn in excess costs for gas and electricity. That’s 1.3 times the cost of the NHS. because of bad energy policy. Whats the benefit. UK carbon intensity of electricity is 265g CO2 / kWh compared with 270g CO2 / kWh for Virginia. Is this worth it?
Actually much worse!
This was written:
With respect to sea-level-rise, the Dutch have been showing us the way for centuries.
About Sea Level Rise:
A rising sea level would increase the Inertia of the Earth Crust.
More Land Ice is near the spin axis of the rotating earth crust while much more ocean is near the equator where sea level rise would significantly increase the inertia of the spinning earth crust.
Conservation of Momentum would slow the Rotation Rate of the Earth Crust.
The Atomic Clocks were put in place to measure Time Extremely Accurately, in 1972. More Leap Seconds would need to be added more frequently, but Less Leap Seconds have been added to the time every decade since 1972. The last leap second was added in 2016 and none expected to be added.
This is valid Proof that Sea Level is Lower Now than it was in 1972!
Based on Length of Day, Sea Level has Fallen for Fifty Years, yet they say it has risen and the rise rate is accelerating. If sea level Ever Rises, Added Leap Seconds will be an Immediate Indicator.
In reply to the Mark Jacobson’s of the world of 100% renewable fame.
“everything is easy if you dont know what you are talking about”
I believe this graph of TES better represents things. Once wind, solar, geothermal and tidal are segregated out of the renewables category, noted as “other” now, things become “net zero” clear. The graph title states data up to 2019 but shows last updated 26 Oct 2022 and has been buried in the site to reduce visibility over the last 6 months, IMHO.
From this graph search page on the IEA site.
c’est la vie
Everybody knows that China and many other countries are going to use the cheapest power generation fuel available. (As an aside, it’s possible they are on an economic mission to conquer the world.) I just can’t imagine of what China thinks of the John Kerrys and Al Gores. If they did not exist they would have to create them. Do the greens even know that windmills are made of petrochemical based composites, and solar cells, storage batteries and enhanced electrical grid require energy intensively mined and refined metals?
In the long run the only winning game is to manage until we master nuclear fusion energy. If that seems too far away then we might consider offering benchmark prizes to the civilizational heroes who bring it to us.
Ron, It’s a good point about the developing world. They simply will continue to grow their emissions.
Technology is the key to solving this problem. Decentralized nuclear or as you suggest fusion are just two advances.
We could easily convert our transportation fleet to natural gas — cutting emission by a factor of 2.
Pumped storage is vastly superior to battery backups. Why is no one looking at this? Perhaps because government will be required to get the land needed and build the dams.
“My first task is to scope the project and to estimate the assets required to succeed.”
That’s not how it works. The real task is to destroy capitalism, but not the rich people.
As a retired engineer I always believed that the profession will always provide fearless advice on engineering matters. I am ashamed that I have to agree with your statement at the end of your paper “The silence of the National Academies and the professional science and engineering bodies about these big picture engineering realities is a matter of complicity.”
The professions stand to make a lot of money. Not surprising that most stay silent. Strikes me that the integrity part of being a professional is overwhelmed by simple greed. Ditto for many companies that are jumping on the gravy train with no regard toward the well being of the common folks.
I have no qualms with the analysis but one needs to consider two factors. One is normal depreciation. The cost for net-zero economy is minimized should one replace a forced air system or boiler system with a heat pump at end of life rather than before it is due. The same could be said for turnover in the automobile stock where replacement with an electric vehicle at the end of its 12 year or 200,000 mile life should not incur excessive costs to the economy. The second point is that the current fossil fuel industry comprises 8% of the US GDP and employs 10.4 million workers. Logically the capital needs of the fossil fuel industry will decline with transition to renewables, and similarly new workers will not be entering the oil & gas industry and instead be training for jobs which will be in demand. By 2050, more than half the existing workforce will be retired.
The author will also find it difficult to incorporate into his analysis how technology will play out. Currently, there is off-the-self technology which allows load shifting between an EV chargers and electric washing/driers/hot water heaters to permit use of 100 amp service without upgrades. Similarly, utility grade batteries can compensate for building new power lines by shifting transmission to off peak times. Distributed energy resources and consumer demand response will also come into play to reduce the need for investment in transmission.
While we will still need to upgrade the transmission system to handle the increase demand two emergent trends, DER and microgrids will be the future. This adaptor will allow many homes with 100 Amp service save thousands of dollars in installation costs if they are adding an EV charger, battery or solar.
“The heart of our technology platform—the meter collar—integrates between the home’s electric meter socket and the meter itself. From there, utilities and installers can plug-and-play with solar, storage, electric vehicles, and even more.”
The impossibility is now well established. The interesting questions are how and when this impossibility will manifest itself? How will the net zero bubble burst?
I believe world-wide depression will burst the bubble as we collectively run out of money pursuing the fool’s gold promise of controlling the climate.
A plausible scenario for sure.
Only tangentially related. The Guardian predicts oil production every year after 2006. Looks like the Climate Doomers have given up on predicting peak oil, now they want to forget all that and force us to give up fossil fuels.
“About 944bn barrels of oil has so far been extracted, some 764bn remains extractable in known fields, or reserves, and a further 142bn of reserves are classed as ‘yet-to-find’, meaning what oil is expected to be discovered. If this is so, then the overall oil peak arrives next year,” he says.
If he is correct, then global oil production can be expected to decline steadily at about 2-3% a year, the cost of everything from travel, heating, agriculture, trade, and anything made of plastic rises. And the scramble to control oil resources intensifies. As one US analyst said this week: “Just kiss your lifestyle goodbye.”
91 million barrels/day is 34 billion barrels/year.
If we have 906 billion barrels left, at current consumption we will run out of oil in 26 years.
So what do we do after 2049?
The Death of Oil has been predicted many times. Rumors of its demise are greatly exaggerated.
Response below. Basically fracking has dramatically increased recoverable reserves of natural gas which is perfectly fine for transportation vehicles or electric generation.
I believe at the height of Trump’s facking boom natural gas was half the price it is today (because Biden’s rhetoric caused a drilling drought). At that price it was 25% the cost of an equivalent amount of gasoline. In the US, we have gas infrastructure almost everywhere. It is a very cheap conversion for a gas car to use natural gas. Most gas stations are very close to existing gas mains. Most large fleet operators already have switched to gas.
Basically, every scarcity scare of all time has proven to be badly wrong. Most were politically motivated by partisan hacks of course.
Natural gas fracking has been a disaster for the finance industry as the cost of production has exceeded revenue. Low natural gas prices are the result of industry signing speculative leases and then having to produce below cost rather than to take an even larger loss by not producing on the lease. Furthermore, the returns on fracked natural gas are artificially inflated due the value in the natural gas liquids or lease condensates which are then diverted towards oil production. The natural gas fracking industry has essentially dried up in areas where there are insufficient quantities of natural gas liquids, like Pennsylvania and upstate New York.
Just ONE project since the Guardian article has added 1M barrels a day, which is +1% of the Guardian total … Exxon’s Guyana project.
David Wojick asks what will burst the renewable bubble. If the Western economies don’t increase oil industry CAPEX and decrease government regulations to incentivize exploration and development our economies are headed for a choke point. Renewable advocates will get what they have always wanted … super high oil/gas prices to make renewables ‘cheaper’ … but not in the time scale to benefit them. The only Net Zero will be the crashing of Western economic output.
@Jeffry Berner | March 4, 2023 at 8:15 pm |
You are a real piece of work! If shale oil companies were really spending more than they take in, they wouldn’t still be going strong like they are. That 2016 Forbes article can’t change the truth of the matter. Try telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing BUT the truth. No spin!!!
Recommend reading the article before rushing to score internet points. Art Berman is writing about tight natural gas, not tight oil.
As an example of what I’m speaking about Chesapeake Energy, who originated tight gas, went into bankruptcy in 2021.
“Under the leadership of former CEO Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake famously made a big bet in the early years of this century that natural gas was the fuel of the future, a scarce commodity whose market price was destined to remain at high levels for decades to come. That bet proved financially disastrous, as the subsequent discovery and development of major natural gas shale plays like the Haynesville, the Marcellus, the Eagle Ford and the Permian Basin ended the days of scarcity and resulted in a collapse in prices to chronically low levels.”
One bankruptcy does not a failure of the entire shale oil patch make. Chesapeake made a bad bet. Anyone can make a mistake, especially when it comes to predicting the future. Nice try though.
There aren’t 906 billion barrels left. What you are almost certainly referencing is present proven reserves.
First of all, proven reserve numbers change as price changes. Double oil price to $200/barrel and watch the reserve numbers skyrocket.
Secondly, reserve numbers now are low because the industry is not investing capex as in past upcycles.
Your Chesapeake example is a particularly awful one. Chesapeake is a primarily NON-fracking natural gas producer; McClendon mistakenly believed that natural gas prices would not stay below $4/mcf for any length of time because that’s what price is needed for normal (i.e. not fracked) natural gas production to be economic.
What McClendon didn’t understand is that fracked oil is just liquid natural gas; the production of fracked shale oil throws off huge amounts of natural gas basically for free. So the amount of time that natural gas prices were depressed was going to be as long as the shale fracking industry could get bankers to lend them tons of money to drill – which turns out to be about 9 years. Note that roughly 40% of all natural gas produced in the US in 2020 was from fracked oil wells…
Chesapeake bet wrong and kept doubling down.
Zero oil consumption in 2050 may not be a problem. If the Guardian’s figures are correct we will run out in 2049.
The Guardian article was written 2005 and predicted oil production would decline every year beginning 2006. They were wrong. There was a peak in 2019, but that’s due to COVID.
The definition of “oil” has changed in the meantime to include tight oil, tar sands, and natural gas liquids, the quality of which is much lower than what the Guardian was writing about in 2005. Much of US current “oil” production has such low energy quality that it is only appropriate for plastics and chemical products.
Jeffry – I see your point, but it’s not the oil that changed but instead the type of reservoir and extraction methods. That oil still makes diesel and gasoline. That’s what matters.
The lower energy quality of current oil production has yet to be seen by consumers due to substitution where lower quality fossil fuels are used for plastic and chemical production reserving higher quality oil production for gasoline and diesel products. US Government statistics usually only report volumetric oil production and do not differentiate the energy content of oil, bitumen, kerogen and natural gas liquids/lease condensates. The parameter that should be used is useful energy after processing rather than gross barrels of oil.
Good data can be found here:
Jeff – AFAIK, the US doesn’t produce much kerogen or bitumen. It’s not even in the top 15. However, shale oil is high quality oil. Due to technological advances, the cost of production of shale oil has gone down significantly.
You continue to exhibit ignorance.
Fracked oil is just fine for gasoline – it just isn’t fine for diesel.
Plastics – depends on type.
But ultimately the percentage of gasoline usage in the US, for example, vs. diesel – fracked oil being 60% of production is just fine.
Tar sands, in contrast, are the definition of heavy = diesel.
So why shouldn’t the definition be changed, when the usage is appropriate?
Jim2 is right. The US for example has hundreds of years of natural gas at current consumption levels. The situation is probably similar world wide.
It is not.
The presence of natural gas is pretty much colocated with the presence of oil. Not 100% but not 10% either.
The problem is that natural gas is far more expensive and difficult to transport across oceans and land.
Did you know that after Russia, but before the US, Iraq and Iran flare the most natural gas? It is precisely because of the transport issues even within those countries. Algeria is up there as well.
Very good summary. I can’t figure out what this means: ‘while electric showers draw 46A.’ Is that an electric water heater, but it’s too big for that. Other electric appliances, ovens and range tops, and electric clothes dryer can draw equally significant amps. Electric resistance space heating must be pretty big, too.
I believe that he is talking about instantaneous full pressure hot water system and not a storage system. Lots of new residential housing in Australia are using it due to its low cost but it does raise the ADMD which is a problem for the electricity distribution network. Also in the american context the 110v system makes the network issue more difficult due to much larger currents
You are correct David. Michael K
A tankless water heater can require 20 kw.
An impressive piece of work, but unnecessary to prove that a renewable net-zero world will never happen. In addition to all the reasons cited in detail, here are some fatal flaws in the net-zero objective:
1. Batteries are clearly not feasible as backup for many reasons, economic, environmental, performance, and materials.
2. A grid system cannot operate on variable renewable supplies or batteries because of “line inertia”, which is only supplied by “spinning machines”. If you wish to understand this physical phenomenon, there are a number of places on the internet. One is ESPRI. These would be rotating generators powered by renewable fuels (or nuclear), but no one knows of a renewable fuel that is scalable to worldwide use.
3. No one (but me, I think) talks about the petroleum side of the equation. Ships, airplanes, and militaries are not going to convert to electricity, no matter what theoretical trash and small scale demonstrations you may see. Nor are petrochemicals, the sources of virtually everything you see around you every hour of every day that is not a petroleum fuel. No one is EVER going to replace petrochemicals, even though you may get a biodegradable straw with your smoothie.
Of course, activists look forward to the oil industry crashing into the flaming hole they think it deserves. They are willing to (somehow) live without petrochemicals. But that’s not the way a decline of the oil industry would go. Flash forward to 2050. We are net-zero for transportation and utility fuels, at least. That means refining will no longer be possible physically or economically. In an attempt to produce jet fuel and petrochemical feedstocks, a refiner, using the best technology and “twisting the dials” as tight as possible, will still be producing a lot of gasoline, diesel, and other products of crude oil, now by-products. What are they going to do with them? A small 100,000 barrel refinery able to actually do that, will be excreting about 1.2 million gallons a day unwanted, explosive, liquids. Forget storage. Forget burning. Forget sending it to the sun. There it is, gushing out of a 10” pipe 24/7/365.
Obviously, that can’t happen, which means net-zero can’t be achieved, in ADDITION to the analysis done by Mr. Kelly.
Net zero emissions essentially means elimination of fossil fuels and Michael Kelly’s 3 fossil-fuel based “project” list has some serious omissions. Petrochemicals, as Brian points out, is a huge one, representing many thousands of common “plastic” and other products that look to be irreplaceable via electrical energy alone. But there are others too. Explosives and fertilizers are now produced from natural gas. What are the alternatives? Nothing could be more essential to prosperity than mining and agriculture. If there is to be any national or global strategizing on “net zero”, even if only to argue it’s not feasible, then all industries (not “experts”, not academics) using fossil fuels need to collaborate on a truly comprehensive list of how they use fossil fuels now and how they might propose to replace them with other energy or material sources. The value of that exercise is the authority it conveys and/or the avoided cost of futile efforts to do the impossible and/or the possibility of emergence of something genuinely useful in the evolution of climate/energy policy. One can only hope.
Anyone expecting a command economy to hit net zero targets isn’t familiar with 20th century history.
But the date isn’t that important. In the real world many large projects run years or decades over the schedule. If the Left gets a large investment made in the net zero project, it might become politically self-propelled. As so many government projects do.
The Net Zero gravy train, fueled by debt added to already high-debt governments, might be the climax of this economic cycle. Interesting times lie ahead.
People on this thread might want to see this review –
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Michael, per the graphic, the transport sector uses 2,216e12 BTU monthly. This is about 7.8 petawatt-hours of electric power per year. Using your 3-to-1 efficiency difference, that means we’ll need 2.6 PWh per year of electrical energy for transport.
The US currently consumes ~ 3.9 PWh of electricity. This means we will need to increase the electrical supply by 67% for transport alone, not the 25% increase you state.
Please let me know if I’ve made an error somewhere.
Willis, If it is true that the US (as is the case in the UK) uses twice as much energy for ground transport as it does for electricity supply, as you state, you are correct. However the data in my figure 1 indicates that the transport energy is only 75% of the electricity use, as taken from the reference I cite. One or other of us is wrong. Michael K
Another good way to look at this is the Lawrence Livermore US Energy Sankey flow diagram. This shows 26.9 quad BTUs of energy consumed by transport, this compares to 5.65 Quads of transport services. The 90% battery to wheel efficiency for EVs translates to 77% grid to wheel efficiency translates to 7.34 quads of input grid electricity versus currently 12.9 quads of grid electricity. Which is a 57% increase.
Willis, using your ratio of 7.8 petawatthours per year of transportation electricity to your 2216 teraBTU per month and applying it to an estimated 3000 teraBTU per month electricity (blue line on the graphic), I get 10.5 petawatthours per year instead of 3.9 petawatthours per year.
Thanks, Mike. One is electricity supply, and the other is the energy required to generate that electricity.
“Command Economy” – the only one ever really tried was called the “USSR”. That turned out well,…
It’s also been tried in lots of other places like China (Cultural Revolution – Great Leap Forward), Cambodia (start over at year zero), various African countries (scientific socialism) and more and it also hasn’t turned out well.
Mao’s Great Leap Forward was a product of his social vision more than an economic plan.
I thoroughly recommend beth’s serf underground blog to all and sundry.
Curtailing the use of fossil fuels will have no significant effect on climate because CO2, in spite of being infra-red (IR) active, has no significant effect on climate. Radiation from water vapor molecules (they are also IR active) can be in any direction but, at about 2 km and above, because of the steep with altitude population gradient of water vapor molecules, the distance traveled by a photon before it encounters another water vapor molecule is greater towards space than towards earth so the prevailing direction of IR flux is towards space. Energy absorbed by CO2 and other IR active molecules is redirected wrt wave number via gaseous conduction to replenish the energy radiated to space by water vapor molecules. At the tropopause and above, water vapor molecules are diminished so radiation to space is from CO2 and other IR active molecules that do not condense in the atmosphere. Increased CO2 there counters warming. More description is at https://energyredirect3.blogspot.com
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An engineering feasibility analysis must be based on a detailed plan that is affordable and can be completed by finished by the planned completion dat. there is no such plan, nor will there ever be one. Therefore, this article is just speculation with a likely HUGE margin of error.
It would have been better to focus on one aspect of Nut Zero, such as lithium demand for batteries. Already a difficult subject. The timing of developing new lithium mines and producing that lithium would make Nut Zero a pipe dream.
As most readers here know, even a Nut Zero electricity sector will not happen, much less nut Zero anything else.
Each utility will reach a Flounder Limit where they have too many unreliables to consistently meet peak electricity demand, per the Duck Curve.
After reaching that limit, a utility will eventually flounder — with demands for customers to use less electricity, rolling blackouts or unplanned blackouts.
There is no way unreliables can consistently meet peak demand hours without 100% spinning reserve natural gas backup. Or batteries, which are unaffordable.
Right now unreliables have 100% natural gas backup, but as the percentage of unreliables increases, without a matching build of new natural gas backup power plants, the utilities will flounderand we will face blackouts.
All this in spite of NO climate problem?
More CO2 benefits C3 phoy tosynthesis planst
And warming from CO2 will be minor because CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas above 400ppm.
And that warming will be mainly “warmer winter nights in Siberia”.
Most of Antarctica DOES NOT WARM from more CO2 in the atmosphere, so there is no danger of accelerating sea level rise.
So there is no need for Nut Zero
And over 7 billion people live in nations that could not care less about Nut Zero.
The bottom line is Nut Zero has almost nothing to do with science and engineering.
Climate scaremongering and Nut Zero are 99% about promoting more government control of the private sector, with the ultimate goal of totalitarianism.
Anyone who treats Nut Zero as a science-related project to save the planet is a useful idiot.
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“The silence of the National Academies and the professional science and engineering bodies about these big picture engineering realities is a matter of complicity.”
A very interesting observation, especially given that some (all?) of those organizations have published Official Statements agreeing that Climate Change needs our immediate and undivided attention. It is clear that among engineering organizations it is impossible that all members agreed with these statements.
However, as noted, they have so far not mentioned the enormous number of very significant problems associated with the currently selected “solution.”
Our Electric Transport Future. Check my arithmetic.
There are roughly 300,000,000 road vehicles in the USA. Who knows what that will be in 2050.
We travel roughly 12,000 to 14,000 miles/year. It’s lots bigger in WY: 24,000.
Average EV is requiring about 0.24 to 0.32 kW-hr/mile
Average EV battery capacity is roughly 25 to 100 kW-hr
These numbers give
360 000 000 000 miles/month * .24 kW-hr/mi = 86.4 x 10^9 kW-hr/month demand.
= 1.0368 x 10^12 kW-hr/year / 1 000 000 x 8760 kW-hr/nuke-year. [ Note that is for mature 1 000 MWe nukes ]
= about 118 nukes. [ For those tiny 50 MWe SMRs, multiply by 20. Even if the Cookie Cutter Theorem is eventually proved, that’s lots o’ nukes. ]
The hours spent charging can also be calculated. Level 1 requires 40-50 hours ( I also see 11-20 hours, but do not know for certain) to charge all-electric EV from empty. Level 2 about 3-8 hours. And its costs, which will be very significantly higher with green/renewable/sustainable/organic free electricity.
How can charging be accommodated in highest-density inner-city ?? There’s no space to install charging stations in parking garages. They are all designed for max capacity of parked cars. Nor along city streets.
Our all-electric houses.
It is truly impossible for all existing non-all electric houses to be retro-fitted to all-electric. Highly likely for most space heating. 100% turnover for housing has never occurred by intention.
Many USA houses have 2 or more vehicles. 25 % already have 3 or more. We have two autos and one Moto.
The curb-to-house electric lines will very likely need to be upgraded in order to handle EV charging. Even for Level 1 at 15 amp/110-120 volts. Level 2 between 7 kW and 19kW draw will very definitely require upgrades. Level 3 is very likely beyond houses applications.
This leads to the grid running down the road on the power poles. Your typical hi-density development has many houses per mile. Even in outside-the-city roads with fairly city-lot size housing the increased demand will be significant. The Grid will have to be upgraded all the way through to the last mile to the curb.
I think fossil energy-source replacement requirements should all be expressed in number of 1 GW Nukey Power Plants: as like X OGWNPP
Trying to mandate from the top down will not work. To make it work you need to make products that people want to switch to (and get regulators out of the way so that companies can invest their money to provide such products and the power to run them)
This is interesting timing, go watch the Tesla Investor Day video (all 4 hours of it) and dig into the documentation that they posted. They have the view that it will take less power than people think because fossil fuel wastes so much of it’s energy as heat (and even when you want heat, you end up losing a lot of it in your exhaust) and they lay out a roadmap for how to get there. Meanwhile, they are building products that people want, batteries to power those products, and are now getting into mining to get the minerals to produce those batteries.
Now, I am not going to get a Tesla anytime soon (if ever), and I don’t expect that the transition is going to operate as they are thinking (I am one of many people who use their car to store stuff they want/need available wherever they are, you can’t do that with a shared car / robo-taxi), but while I don’t buy in to their sense of urgency, I respect their approach of making products people want rather than trying to scare/shame/command them.
(and before someone brings up government subsidies, yes Tesla takes advantage of the laws that are passed, but they don’t lobby for those laws, and the lawmakers have been pretty hostile to them as a company, refusing to acknowledge their work. Tesla would still be profitable without subsidies, and I expect that they will be raking in so much money from the stupid “inflation reduction act” that they will change the law to cut them off)
Exactly, work backwards from the useful service energy on the right side of the diagram to the new regime services…EVs for transport, heat pumps for space heating…and you need a lot less input energy.
You haven’t grasped the scale issue at all.
First, see and fully read:
Then re-read Michael Kelly’s essay here.
Then enthuse about EV’s.
You are wrong about Tesla not lobbying for subsidies.
It very much lobbies for the ITC credits both in the form of direct subsidies Tesla gets as well as the tax credits which Tesla buyers get.
One of the bigger examples: Tesla gets hundreds of millions of dollars, every year, because of California Air Resource Board requirements for % of EVs sold by every car maker in California. Since Tesla only makes EVs, it sells its extra “EV credits” to the other auto makers.
As for waste heat: yes, the ICE engine is only 30% efficient in converting gasoline to motion. But a significant part of the remaining power goes to powering the electrical system: air conditioning, heating, lights, entertainment system etc. This is why ICE cars don’t lose mileage when it is hot or cold or if you’re charging phones or whatever.
The same cannot be said for an EV. I’m equally sure the videos you saw didn’t mention that at least 10% of electricity is lost in the transfer of electricity from grid to the battery, and the engine in turn is only 85% efficient in converting electricity to motion.
So the real world comparison isn’t 30% to 90% as the author above notes, it is at best 30% to 75% and very likely 30% to (70% or less).
The extra weight from batteries and regenerative braking also has an effect on efficiency: batteries + regen braking + electric engine are far, far heavier than ICE engine + gas tank + normal brakes.
Lastly, the above thought experiment is pie-in-the-sky because there is no way in hell that there will be sufficient materials, at affordable cost, to convert even just the 200+ million cars in the US into EVs.
Wolfi – we can quible about the relative % of energy converted to motion with ICE v EV’s – though your primary point remains valid. EV advocates omit lots of factors in the pro EV computation and cherrypick the data in the ICE efficiency computation to make ICE look worse.
The second issue you raise regarding tax credits is also valid and misunderstood by most advocates. The common theme is that the tax credits make EV’s more affordable for the consumer. That is a huge myth. An understanding of the supply and demand blows a massive hole in that myth.
Tax credits for the buyer artificially shift the demand curve upward, such that the seller receives most of the benefit of the buyers tax credit in the form of higher sales price for the EV. The buyer is still purchasing the EV at the market price (net of the tax credit). Not all the benefit goes to the seller, though depending on the level of demand, a reasonable estimate is approx 80-90% of the tax credit goes to the benefit of the seller.
Anyone can make 500$ a day…Yes! You can make $100 more than you think working from home on the internet. y33 I’ve been doing this job for a few weeks now and my salary was exactly $25,370 last week.
COPY THIS PAGE OPEN HERE… http://ezywork1.blogspot.com
You’d have to derail all the trains… most locomotives already are electric but the electricity is produced by a big 2000 to 4000 HP diesel engines.
Great dissection of this problem and trends. We need something like a counter-bible to argue and forward this message to the wider public. Even though I have a different input on the relative energy content for fossil vs. electrical transportation, and the cost cited for nuclear power generation, a bit of further back-up citations for the author’s points and expansion on the topic would make a great book! How about it, Mr. Kelly? Some salvation for the future should be Thorium molten salt nuclear reactors. Much Uranium for the US is now in Russian hands and it becomes scarcer in the near future. China has built a more commercial Thorium reactor, based on the proof-of-concept that was run for 20,000 hours at Oak Ridge. China is already gobbling up Thorium, like in Greenland, where they also enlarged a harbor for unimpeded raw ore access.
Australia has vast quantities of uranium which it (madness) refuses to use but will sell to overseas buyers.
“I imagine that I have been appointed the first CEO of a new agency set up by the Federal Government of the United States of America with the explicit goal of actually delivering a Net Zero CO2 Emissions Economy by 2050.”
It seems only way to do it, is becoming spacefaring civilization before 2050 AD.
Hurry up, exploring the Moon, and then explore Mars, and be finished exploring Mars well before 2050.
So, offer a prize of 100 million dollar for artificial gravity space which can test artificial of Mars gravity for 6 months.
100 million to be first to build it, and indicate it works, and another
100 million to use it, to test it with crew of 3 more for 6 months.
Next offer another prize to deliver water to orbit higher than LEO up to 1000 tons of water and delivered within 10 years- and upon delivery pay 1 million dollars per ton [1 billion dollars for the 1000 tons]. Prize ends in 10 years or when total of 1000 tons water have delivered by one or more parties. Or first delivery determines orbit, other will be delivered to, unless 100 tons or more is delivered to another orbit.
There comes a point though where adaption is no longer possible. At least two of the big five mass extinction events were most likely due to runaway greenhouse gas induced warming. Net Zero isn’t an option, it’s a necessity.
1. Runaway GHG-induced warming is not in prospect. 2. We have technology and resources not available in mass extinction events.
“Net Zero isn’t an option, it’s a necessity.”
It has been two years since the climate activists took control of the US federal government.
We have yet to see a credible plan of action from them for just how Net Zero can be achieved for the United States on any time scale whatsoever, let alone one which achieves Net Zero for the United States by 2050.
Nor have we seen a credible strategy and plan for convincing China and India to abandon their reliance on fossil fuels — for any time scale whatsoever, let alone to achieve that goal by mid-century.
Is there some compelling reason why the climate activists who control the US federal government haven’t published a credible plan of action for reaching Net Zero by 2050?
If so, what is that compelling reason?
I have a quibble with the assumptions made in the transport sector.
In particular, while I understand why the full lifecycle of gasoline (from oil) vs. electricity (from various forms of generation) are not examined – the assumptions of respective engine efficiency are wrong.
In particular: gasoline once at the gas station transfers to gas tanks and thence to ICE engines for combustion at the ~30% level you note.
However, the 90% electrical engine is wrong in several ways.
1) The electricity consumed by an ICE car is literally free from the ICE engine. It is not free from the electrical vehicle as it detracts directly from mileage.
2) The losses from grid to battery to engine are not zero as you are basically assuming. It should be at least 10% and probably closer to 20%. Even your 90% number is wrong because electric motors are only about 85% efficient at converting input electricity into physical force – the rest becomes heat, but not enough heat to power secondary heat engines as ICE engines do.
So the comparison should be more like 30% vs. 75% which in turn changes the grid requirement from +25% to +50%. This is much closer to what Willis had estimated.
NetZero will break most people.
In the molecules camp sit things like gasoline, natural gas, fuel oil and propane. In the electrons camp sits electricity. Since the latter can be derived from zero-emission sources like renewable and nuclear power, using that to displace fossil fuels in more applications is central to decarbonization. Doing so doesn’t just require a mental leap — bidding farewell to little blue flames, for instance — but remaking more than a century’s worth of fixed assets. Think of the energy transition as the biggest, gnarliest renovation project imaginable. The check will be commensurate. That doesn’t mean it’s unaffordable.
People who wrote this article think power lines are the biggest impediment to “green” energy. That’s because they don’t understand how the grid works. And not, yet again, it’s just more and more money down a blacker and blacker hole.
The biggest impediment to the US achieving a cleaner power grid isn’t climate deniers or fossil-fuel lobbies; it’s a lack of transmission lines. The country badly needs more conduits to cart wind and solar energy and hydropower to cities.
For more than a decade, multibillion-dollar power-line projects have struggled to advance, slowed or halted by bureaucracy, NIMBYism or general industry stasis. Now suddenly, several are progressing — and with them the prospect of newly unleashed clean energy as well as more resilient grids in the face of ever-dangerous storms and extreme heatwaves.
Germany has a keen eye on our future …
Germany’s ARD public broadcasting network is funded to the tune of more than eight billion euros by compulsory fees levied on every German household each year.
But the network has gone far beyond its original charter of keeping the public informed and educated, and now appears to have even drifted past being an paternalistic institution with the self-assigned role of properly upbringing the masses of the working uncouth.
Let them eat worms
Today, if the latest is anything to go by, it seems the massive ARD network has gone yet a step further and now sees its viewers as Cinderellas who are to be exploited and relegated to live under forsaken conditions. Not long ago one highly paid and pampered ARD commentator even gleefully welcome the energy price shocks and seemed glad that the uncouth masses would soon have to wear rags and live in attics. “That’s good!” said Detlef Flintz.
Tesla cuts base price of one of its models to a mere $100,000. Warren Buffett loses shirt on his EV bet. Losing bets that “green” energy will prevail will become more common, even for legendary investors.
A Tesla Inc.-inspired price war among electric vehicle makers in China is taking a toll on even the most resilient players, as evidenced by BYD Co.’s staggering $18 billion drop in the past month.
The US-listed shares of the electric-vehicle maker that’s backed by Warren Buffett have declined 14% since the start of February, underperforming Tesla’s 9% advance. In comparison, a gauge of global EV makers fell 9% over the same period.
$100,000 cars? Common people can afford a new car anymore, gas or electric. Maybe why electric bikes are expecting to double their production in the next few years from 40 million/yr. to 80 million/yr.
“Up to 130 million electric bicycles (using all battery technologies) are expected to be sold globally between 2021 and 2023. E-bike sales are expected to reach 40 million units worldwide by 2023, generating approximately $20 billion in revenue.”
Sidewalks are the (pending) new mass-transit.
I’m seeing additional bailouts of auto makers in our future.
Virtue signalling gets more expensive and is a legal mine field.
But the pool of Article 9 products is shrinking fast. Asset managers removed the tag from 40% of the market in the fourth quarter alone after stricter regulatory guidance. Julia Vergauwen, an attorney at Linklaters who advises the fund industry, said several of her clients don’t want to touch Article 9 funds due to new and shifting ESG rules. And analysts such as Luke Sussams at Jefferies warn that 2023 is turning into a lost year for Article 9 issuance.
Managers are steering clear because of “the risk of greenwashing accusations, because of the level of scrutiny on Article 9,” he said. At the same time, clients can’t get enough.
“Our numbers show that capital flows to Article 9 products in Europe were positive every single month of 2022,” Sussams said. “That is a staggering statistic.” So “those who manage to stay the course and keep Article 9 products on the market in Europe look set to benefit.”
In the meantime, China, not our friend by any means, is building coal plants to beat the band. We can’t let this continue. We have to re-embrace fossil fuels.
50 GW of coal power capacity started construction in China in 2022, +50% increase from 2021. Many of these projects had their permits fast-tracked & moved to construction in months. 106 GW of new coal power projects were permitted – equivalent to two large coal power plants/week.
More CO2 means more greening. But keep an eye on what is actually greening the most. Sometimes it’s stuff we don’t want like toxic oxygen eating algae.
“The work involved studying satellite images obtained from NASA’s Aqua satellite over the years 2003 to 2020. By comparing such blooms over time, they found them to be growing at an increasing rate of 59.2%, globally. They also found that as of 2020, the combined size of all ocean-based algae blooms was 31.47 million km2, which, they note, is approximately 8.6% of total ocean surface area.
The researchers also found patterns of increase—the areas where the water temperatures were rising the fastest were the same areas where the algae blooms were growing the fastest.”
Is that CO2 or runoff into the ocean causing those blooms, Jack?
Does it make any difference? Behavioral economics predicts we are going to keep increasing both CO2 and pollution till something breaks. On the margin I suppose this year’s deadly Red Tide in Florida might be a bit worse because of last year’s hurricane too.
Is it the worst red tide around Florida in the history of the world, Jack?
“In the meantime, China, not our friend by any means, is building coal plants to beat the band. We can’t let this continue. We have to re-embrace fossil fuels.”
China is an issue, but billions of people are burning wood and dung.
Burning Coal is not as bad as burning wood or dung.
No shyte gbaikie!
China energy is all things to all people. Yes, they build a lot of coal. But they also build a lot of solar PV, wind, hydro and nuclear.
That’s because China’s priority is more about enabling affordable and ever greater amounts of energy for its people and economy as opposed to fulfilling climate change diktats. The 164 nuclear power plants which China has publicly announced to be built in the next 20-30 years is primarily because it is extremely unlikely that China can afford to import the energy otherwise necessary to continue improving standards of living.
Being able to say “we’re fighting climate change” is almost certainly falling out of the above stated goal of energy security as opposed to driving it.
David Wojick says above: “The interesting question is how this impossibility will manifest itself? How will the bubble burst?”
The bubble will not burst in the sense that it will grow larger and larger until it suddenly pops with a rapid collapse of the Net Zero fantasy bubble membrane.
In the cultural west of the US, Canada, the UK, the EU, and Australia, too many people with too many financial, political, and philosophical objectives are too deeply invested in Net Zero for it ever to be suddenly abandoned.
An expectation that the pursuit of NetZero will be suddenly abandoned when technical and economic reality dawns is in the same category of thinking as an expectation that climate science will suddenly abandon its focus on CO2 as the alleged driver of climate change if the earth begins to cool.
Neither of these expectations will be realized within the lifetimes of most of the people who are regular readers of this forum.
What will happen instead is that the western democracies will enter a long period of economic, social, and political decline while China and India continue to make steady progress in achieving a better standard of living for much of their population.
The push for Net Zero is one factor among several within the larger picture of the long term decline of the cultural and economic west, a factor whose relative importance will be growing over the next thirty years.
Over on WUWT, reader ‘observa’ said this about the upcoming closure of the Liddell coal-fired power plant in Australia: “They’ll kill off one too many and then the Greenouts will occur in earnest.” Observa then cites this article:
It won’t be a matter of the next plant closure becoming a definitive tipping point between a reliable if expensive power grid and one which is unreliable and even more expensive than it is today.
As the price of electricity steadily rises — and as the supply of electricity steadily declines — industrial, institutional, and residential consumers will gradually learn how to get by with less electricity than they consume today.
A good part of the necessary energy conservation measures will come in the form of energy-intensive industries pulling up stakes and moving to more friendly economic environments in Asia.
Here in the US, that is what we should expect to see happen over the next twenty to thirty years as the Net Zero juggernaut picks up speed. Higher prices for electricity and less of it available — the only question being how much higher the price and how much less the supply.
The trajectory you forecast assumes the elite will remain in power, in spite of the economic carnage they create. I think that is highly unlikely, with the next U.S. election cycle once again re-setting the trajectory towards a more common sense approach. Europe, on the other hand, will likely continue down the road towards economic oblivion or perhaps become even more of an irrelevant anachronism.
Nice piece but you overlooked that there are currently Federal agencies already tasked with doing the impossible- decarbonizing transportation. Those would be EPA and NHTSA.
Current CO2 emissions/fuel economy standards (mathematical inverses) in light duty (Class 1 and 2) vehicles have already been set to try to eliminate internal combustion engines from cars and light trucks and there are Congressional mandates to do it for medium and heavy duty (Class 3 through 8) also however those regulations have hit the twin pillars of illogic that state that 1) EVs are best at light load while ICE is best at full load meaning EVs are totally inappropriate for anything involving work, and 2) CO2 is not a pollutant. Rather it is the desired outcome of combustion (along with water and Nitrogen).
Going CO2-less is quite literally impossible and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
I assume the conclusion in SFA!
“We note from Figure 1 that in summer, the USA uses 75% more energy as heat than as electricity>”
Are we sure this is the right way round?
“We note from Figure 1 that in summer, the USA uses 75% more energy as heat than as electricity.”
Are we sure this is the right way round?
Very nice analysis.
Given that he slight shift in global temperatures, and the increased CO2, is a boon for agriculture, the only real downside to warming is sea level rise, mainly because we built right along the coasts. But as with any basin that might overflow due to thermal expansion of water or ice melting, the solution is simply to pull some water out or make the basin bigger.
So years ago I priced out how much it would cost to just control global sea levels by pumping massive amounts of ocean water uphill onto areas in the arctic and Antarctic, where it will remain frozen through the next glaciation period (when everyone can rue the day I decided to make more ice).
The amount of water to pump per cm of sea-level is a simple calculation based on the surface area of the oceans. The height and distance to pump it is a choice based on the nearby terrain and goals. The efficiency of a centrifugal pump is about 85%.
Basic high-school physics (or any water pump sizing calculator) then lets you calculate how much power would be required to lower the oceans by X mm per year. The power requirements let you price the powerplants based on available market data, as a powerplant doesn’t really care what the power is used for. All the powerplant financing data just maps right over to the new application.
Any engineer can do all the calculations in under an hour, and depending on the rate of hypothetical sea-level rise to be offset, it comes out to be a lot cheaper than many boondoggles we’ve paid for in the past, and is far less than the annual US defense budget, especially if the pumps were powered by coal plants.
But the problem is that it would shift money from virtue-signaling apocalyptics who fly to climate conferences, to engineers in hard hats who like building powerplants, while simultaneous destroying the current doomsday industry.
They don’t want a simple, direct solution, they want to get credit for working towards an unimaginably complicated and expensive solution and making everyone sacrifice for it. It’s more of a test of religious faith and doing penance than problem solving.
*cue the comedy video of the girl with the nail in her forehead wanting to talk about her pain, instead of getting the nail removed*
As another note: Moving rocks from the ocean and dumping them on land is a more permanent (non-melting) solution to making the ocean basin bigger, but pumping water just requires hitting a start button on a pumping station, whereas moving rocks and dirt requires lots of manpower and heavy equipment operators.
It was Cicerone that gave it all up. I was there.
A pathetic Bloomberg article essentially equates the COVID pandemic with “climate change” in terms of damage to humanity. The depth of lies we see about CC is unbelievable. The Climate Doomers are working overtime.
The Covid-19 pandemic’s health toll and its impacts on the global economy take a lot of the blame, but greenhouse gases are adding up and they’re already starting to slow down progress. Climate change “is genuinely the greatest threat to the future of development,” says Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Development Program, in an interview of the Zero podcast. “So a very dark scenario if we don’t act.”
It’s an anachronism to think that “development” is defined by a certain level of income per capita, says Steiner. Instead, it is a continuous pursuit of human progress. That means today’s development includes not just access to basic needs like food, shelter and clothing, but also to healthcare, education, and electricity. It also includes ensuring people are protected from communicable diseases, extreme weather disasters, and other global threats.
That means avoiding catastrophic climate change is now at the center of the development agenda. And it’s what makes climate change “the greatest opportunity,” says Steiner. Acting on climate change means moving from “an extractive, polluting and often depreciating pathway to how we have grown our economies.”
The UN might like to do something useful for a change and inform the rest of the human race exactly what parts of the WHO’s own policy until 2020 (No lockdowns, No school closures, No masking) it actually got right at any time during the pandemic. It may also like to inform the public what damage inappropriate vaccination has caused to individuals virtually forced to have them or lose livelihoods. It may then like to inform us why we should trust it ever again.
They hate on coal until they get cold.
The UK grid issued a rare warning that power supply will be tight on Tuesday and asked coal plants to stand by as a snowy cold snap strains the system.
The shortfall is as much as 980 megawatts, bigger than the current contingency requirement of 700 megawatts, according to National Grid Plc. The network operator has asked four out of five contingency coal units to warm up in case they’re needed to boost supplies and will decide if households should be asked to reduce demand on Wednesday.
Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t act as a blanket which rises the average surface temperature by +33 oC.
Alarmists present the temperature difference associated with greenhouse gases to be as big as possible, because to do so increases the importance of greenhouse gases.
As a retired oil and gas engineer with years of project management experience I found the article excellent. Ref. a quote from an earlier comment: “I just can’t imagine of what China thinks of the John Kerrys and Al Gores” well, Michel J. Kelly should replace them both.
The oil industry in the US is thriving.
“We do see a hunger and a need for more oil,” Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Simonelli said in a Bloombert TV interview. He added that while growth is leveling off in North America, it’s a different story overseas, where demand is outstripping supply.
Is this guy just trying to scare us? I know for a fact you can refrack wells dozens of times!
Pioneer CEO sees peak in Permian oil output in 5-6 years
March 6, 2023
“Production of oil in the Permian Basin will peak in five to six years as the best acreage for drilling and fracking is used up, according to the head of Pioneer Natural Resources Co., one of the biggest operators in the region.”
Meanwhile, in India coal is getting some love.
NTPC Ltd., India’s largest power producer, is making a rare move to buy domestic coal in the spot market, underscoring rising concerns about a potential squeeze on summer energy supply.
The state-owned generator plans to issue a tender for 3 million tons in the next week or so, according to people familiar with the plan, who asked not to be named as the information isn’t yet public.
I am largely sympathetic to your central thesis and have no quibble with the figures you provide.
However, useful context would include cumulative GDP for the U.S. over the next 30 years, which the Bureau for Economic Analysis (and thank you ChatGPT…) estimates to be 1,022 trillion U.S. Dollars over that time frame.
Expressing 30 year costs as a percentage of 30 years of GDP makes the prospect somewhat less daunting.
“ thank you ChatGPT…”
I see a trend emerging…and only very recently. Seems like AI has been with us for a very long time in the abstract but the conversation about it has picked up by quantum leaps just in the last few weeks.. Fascinating stuff.
I saw the movie 2001 when I was in Bangkok in 1968 in a very modern theater. A wow moment for me. Maybe we have arrived.
“AI” has existed since the first cross reference index or simple book index was written. Self care stepped processing algorithms were used in book formats in the sixties by GPs and are easily incorporated into crude triage. Any algorithm is a series of logical steps or data tests..
The better written processing algorithms (that connect up the question and answer to make the response seem personal) are ancient too. Standard letters personalised to fit a writer’s enquiry for example.
Impressive as AI may seem it is all about good algorithms (which all algorithms should be but sadly are not), careful indexing of material and the quantity and quality of that material all make it work and work well in many cases, but there is no actual intelligence involved hence the use of the word artificial.
I am still waiting for instant subtitles that are accurate for more than a couple of sentences or lines of text, even when trained with the ideal just the one voice. Likewise a universal translator would be better than gold dust for humanity but is sadly a long way away. There are reasons why these things are beyond programming success and they are all about complexity and how you unravel it to see it logically. Somethings are simply illogical and that is where the program and the machine will fail. Humans have something a machine just cannot copy.
Humans also do hyperbole far too easily and far too much these days especially when talking about green clean electricity generation in a NetZero paradise and we do not need machines aping them and adding to our delusions thank you very much.
Just wait till an AI program cures cancer, Alzheimer’s or repairs Telomeres. Who should own the patents, humanity(public domain), an algorithm or a corporation?
Jack, I am waiting and keeping my fingers crossed. So far, I can’t tell if the AI is God’s or Devil’s gift.
The author of this post suggests that implementing the accelerated net zero realization will require a command economy. That suggestion implies acknowledgment of the political sides of the proper and best approach to mitigating any negative effects of climate change.
Certainly the left judges a major role for the the government in mitigation and does not generally account for the inefficiencies that command economies historically have had. Given the leftward stance of the current intelligentsia those inefficiencies will not be taken into account by those in official positions making cost estimations or those in the media and academia who might normally be critiquing the process.
Your article hints at something but doesn’t assert it. I will, here. THE WHOLE POINT of “climate crisis” is to create a command economy, where “experts” can boss us around “for our own good”. There, I’ve said it.
After years of deterring investment in oil and gas, Europe had no alternative but to burn coal to keep the lights on when Russian gas stopped flowing. But by continuing to hit the oil and gas industry with “punishing” measures like the European Union’s windfall tax, things will only get worse, Woods said Tuesday.
“What we saw in Europe should be a wake-up call,” he said. Exxon “stepped back and reevaluated” its investment strategy in the continent, he continued. Meanwhile, it’s plowing ahead with new projects in the US, where the Inflation Reduction Act offers incentives for companies rather than punitive measures.
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