Life in a fossil-fuel-free utopia

Life without oil, natural gas and coal would most likely be nasty, brutish and short.

Guest essay by Paul Driessen


The drumbeat for a fossil-fuel-free energy utopia continues. But few have pondered how we will supposedly generate 25 billion megawatts of total current global electricity demand using just renewable energy: wind turbines, for instance. For starters, we’re talking about some 830 million gigantic 500-foot-tall turbines – requiring a land area of some 12.5 billion acres. That’s more than twice the size of North America, all the way through Central America.

But where it really gets interesting is what life would actually be like in a totally renewable electricity world. Think back to Colonial Williamsburg – the good old days. The way they really were. Not the make-believe, idyllic version of history they teach in school these days. Read on, to take a journey to the nirvana of the “stabilized climate” future.

Al Gore’s new movie, a New York Times article on the final Obama Era “manmade climate disaster” report, and a piece saying wrathful people twelve years from now will hang hundreds of “climate deniers” are a tiny sample of Climate Hysteria and Anti-Trump Resistance rising to a crescendo. If we don’t end our evil fossil-fuel-burning lifestyles and go 100% renewable Right Now, we are doomed, they rail.

Maybe it’s our educational system, our cargo cult’s easy access to food and technology far from farms, mines and factories, or the end-of-days propaganda constantly pounded into our heads. Whatever the reason, far too many people have a pitiful grasp of reality: natural climate fluctuations throughout Earth history; the intricate, often fragile sources of things we take for granted; and what life would really be like in the utopian fossil-fuel-free future they dream of. Let’s take a short journey into that idyllic realm.

Suppose we generate just the 25 billion megawatt-hours of today’s total global electricity consumption using wind turbines. (That’s not total energy consumption, and it doesn’t include what we’d need to charge a billion electric vehicles.) We’d need more than 830 million gigantic 3-megawatt turbines!

Spacing them at just 15 acres per turbine would require 12.5 billion acres! That’s twice the land area of North America! All those whirling blades would virtually exterminate raptors, other birds and bats. Rodent and insect populations would soar. Add in transmission lines, solar panels and biofuel plantations to meet the rest of the world’s energy demands – and the mostly illegal tree cutting for firewood to heat poor families’ homes – and huge swaths of our remaining forest and grassland habitats would disappear.

The renewable future assumes these “eco-friendly alternatives” would provide reliable, affordable energy 24/7/365, even during windless, sunless weeks and cold, dry growing seasons. They never will, of course. That means we will have electricity and fuels when nature cooperates, instead of when we need it.

With backup power plants gone, constantly on-and-off electricity will make it impossible to operate assembly lines, use the internet, do an MRI or surgery, enjoy favorite TV shows or even cook dinner. Refrigerators and freezers would conk out for hours or days at a time. Medicines and foods would spoil.

Petrochemical feed stocks would be gone – so we wouldn’t have paints, plastics, synthetic fibers or pharmaceuticals, except what can be obtained at great expense from weather-dependent biodiesel. Kiss your cotton-polyester-lycra leggings and yoga pants good-bye.

But of course all that is really not likely to happen. It would actually be far worse.

First of all, there wouldn’t even be any wind turbines or solar panels. Without fossil fuels – or far more nuclear and hydroelectric plants, which rabid environmentalists also despise – we couldn’t mine the needed ores, process and smelt them, build and operate foundries, factories, refineries or cement kilns, manufacture and assemble turbines and panels. We couldn’t even make machinery to put in factories.

Wind turbines, solar panels and solar thermal installations cannot produce consistently high enough heat to smelt ores and forge metals. They cannot generate power on a reliable enough basis to operate facilities that make modern technologies possible. They cannot provide the power required to manufacture turbines, panels, batteries or transmission lines – much less power civilization.

My grandmother used to tell me, “The only good thing about the good old days is that they’re gone.” Well, they’d be back, as the USA is de-carbonized, de-industrialized and de-developed.

Ponder America and Europe before coal fueled the modern industrial age. Recall what were we able to do back then, what lives were like, how long people lived. Visit Colonial Williamsburg and Claude Moore Colonial Farm in Virginia, or similar places in your state. Explore rural Africa and India.

Imagine living that way, every day: pulling water from wells, working the fields with your hoe and ox-pulled plow, spinning cotton thread and weaving on looms, relying on whatever metal tools your local blacksmith shop can produce. When the sun goes down, your lives will largely shut down.

Think back to amazing construction projects of ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome – or even 18th Century London, Paris, New York. Ponder how they were built, how many people it took, how they obtained and moved the raw materials. Imagine being part of those wondrous enterprises, from sunup to sundown.

The good news is that there will be millions of new jobs. The bad news is that they’d involve mostly backbreaking labor with picks and shovels, for a buck an hour. Low-skill, low-productivity jobs just don’t pay all that well. Maybe to create even more jobs, the government will issue spoons, instead of shovels.

That will be your life, not reading, watching TV and YouTube or playing video games. Heck, there won’t even be any televisions or cell phones. Drugs and alcohol will be much harder to come by, too. (No more opioids crisis.) Water wheels and wind mills will be back in fashion. All-natural power, not all the time.

More good news: Polluting, gas-guzzling, climate-changing cars and light trucks will be a thing of the past. Instead, you’ll have horses, oxen, donkeys, buggies and wagons again … grow millions of acres of hay to feed them – and have to dispose of millions or billions of tons of manure and urine every year.

There’ll be no paved streets – unless armies of low-skill workers pound rocks into gravel, mine and grind limestone, shale, bauxite and sand for cement, and make charcoal for lime kilns. Homes will revert to what can be built with pre-industrial technologies, with no central heat and definitely no AC.

Ah, but you folks promoting the idyllic renewable energy future will still be the ruling elites. You’ll get to live better than the rest of us, enjoy lives of reading and leisure, telling us commoners how we must live. Don’t bet on it. Don’t even bet on having the stamina to read after a long day with your shovel or spoon.

As society and especially big urban areas collapse into chaos, it will be survival of the fittest. And that group likely won’t include too many Handgun Control and Gun Free Zone devotees.

But at least your climate will be stable and serene – or so you suppose. You won’t have any more extreme weather events. Sea levels will stay right where they are today: 400 feet higher than when a warming planet melted the last mile-thick glaciers that covered half the Northern Hemisphere 12,000 years ago.

At least it will be stable and serene until those solar, cosmic ray, ocean currents and other pesky, powerful natural forces decide to mess around with Planet Earth again.

Of course, many countries won’t be as stupid as the self-righteous utopian nations. They will still use fossil fuels, plus nuclear and hydroelectric, and watch while you roll backward toward the “good old days.” Those that don’t swoop in to conquer and plunder may even send us food, clothing and monetary aid (most of which will end up with ruling elites and their families, friends, cronies and private armies).

So how about this as a better option?

Stop obsessing over “dangerous manmade climate change.” Focus on what really threatens our planet and its people: North Korea, Iran, Islamist terrorism – and rampant poverty, disease, malnutrition and early death among the billions who still do not have access to electricity and the living standards it brings.

Worry less about manmade climate cataclysms – and more about cataclysms caused by policies promoted in the name of controlling Earth’s climate.

Don’t force-feed us with today’s substandard, subsidized, pseudo-sustainable, pseudo-renewable energy systems. When better, more efficient, more practical energy technologies are developed, they will replace fossil fuels. Until then, we would be crazy to go down the primrose path to renewable energy utopia.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow ( and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death. (August 2017)


218 thoughts on “Life in a fossil-fuel-free utopia

    • “Add in transmission lines, solar panels and biofuel plantations to meet the rest of the world’s energy demands – and the mostly illegal tree cutting for firewood to heat poor families’ homes – and huge swaths of our remaining forest and grassland habitats would disappear.”

      Isn’t that the planet where the Mad Max movies were filmed? Every movie after the original was in an environment that was more and more decimated in every possible way.

      I grew up with gardening to stock the pantry shelves. People are returning to that now, partly because it’s just a good idea. I can buy fresh eggs from a small operation down the road from me.

      What part of ‘get yer silly hands off my world’ do the fanatics not understand? I do NOT wish to live in the world of Mad Max, but that’s what these morons are aiming at for us. The elitists mentioned? They would n’t survive more than a few years, either. In order to feed, clothe and treat them for diseases, there has to be a viable environment to create those substances.

      I sincerely hope that, some day, these idiots get their comeuppance, because it is long overdue.

    • Don’t worry, be happy. It will never happen. We’re all too comfortable and selfish to give up the good life, and that. Includes the likes of Al Gore.

    • Yes, this is right on point. Perhaps worth adding that the fossil fuel free world will only be able to support a preindustrial sized population. Assume roughly 7.5 billion people must now become about a half billion, and then imagine the trip from here to there. It will not be pretty. Every tree will be potential fuel every living thinks potential food and the world will be awash in conflict and misery till the population falls to the carrying capacity of a preindustrial world. The environment will truly look post apocalyptic, which may actually be quite satisfying for the environmental religionists as it will fulfill their prophecies, but not for the reasons they claimed.

    • The author took liberties to make a point, and that is fair in an opinion piece. But I wonder; has anyone actually figured out what the world would look like with C02 emissions cut back to 20% of what they were in 1996 (or whatever the latest fashionable date is to peg your reduction targets on)? With only solar, wind, hydro, biofuels, and tides to power society, how many kW of electricity a year per person does that work out to? If the world had until 2050 to achieve that, what would the build out look like? If each living unit had a battery pack good for a couple of days, what would the costs be? And how does all that change when the allowable residential electricity consumption is lowered to half of what it is now?

      I am sure it would be possible to run a modernish society on nothing but renewables and moderate storage, but what would society have to give up? Smartphones, Netflix, big screen TVs, air conditioning, personal vehicles, living spaces over 1200 sq ft, individual homes, imported food some or all of these things? This would be a large but important project to work out. People really don’t have a clue what they are calling for because the alarmists assure everyone they can have it all and do it with windmills. It is time to find out the truth, and put it out there.

      • A society run only on renewables would have drastically fewer people – hint, most would have to die…any volunteers? no? the required death list will be interesting, and the enforcement even more so. BTW, hydroelectric is a renewable even though the eco-nuts can’t accept it.

      • As the OT mentioned, the biggest problem is that power would be intermittent. Think about hours long rolling blackouts. There is no known storage technology which can reasonably be deployed in the next 30 years that could prevent that. The biggest causality would be refrigeration. Our civilization literally can’t survive without that.

      • I’ve been thinking about the intermittancy problem the last few days. I think it may be expensive but much more doable than I had expected. Here’s some food for thought.

        In Arizona, average January solar energy hits earth around 6 KwH per day per square meter – a little more with tracking. Instead of using PV arrays, use arrays of parabolic mirrors. For 1GwH for 24 hours a day, my back of the envelope calculation (considering 50% efficiency converting steam into electricity – I’m no engineer so substitute your own numbers) might require around 2 miles square (4 sq mi). ‘But, the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day, etc,’ you say.

        Absolutely! But, since we’re collecting the heat in a hot fluid, now we’re talking about storing heat, rather than storing electricity. To store the heat, you’d need a VERY big reservoir of fluid (maybe flowing through gravel) with a LOT of insulation on all sides. I’d make the reservoir large enough to store maybe 3 weeks worth of solar array output (add more insulation).

        Then, once you’ve stored 3 weeks worth of heat, every day after that you can remove the same amount that goes in each day, and drive a steam generator power plant. Or, let the temperature get hot enough (more insulation) and now you can make steel and aluminum. The oversized reservoir could smooth out the availability to cover non sun hours and cloudy days.

        Would this be economically practical? Possibly in southern Spain (Spain’s electricity costs around $0.24 / KwH) and maybe even in less sunny Germany, where electricity costs around $0.30. Or, maybe it would need an even higher number. But, my musings were not about whether it ought to be done – they only were about would it be possible to power our world only with solar, albeit with the lower standard of living coming out of more expensive electricity.

        I think, technologically, it’s very doable. Economically feasible? I wouldn’t want to invest my money in such a venture unless the costs of the various materials came down a lot.

  1. In Colonial America, you traveled by wagon. Roads were muck. Every few miles you had to get out and help push the wagon out of the mud or fix a broken wheel. A common source of fatalities was being thrown from a horse or wagon. Farmers worked 12 hour days and farm fatalities were high. In the winter there were no fresh fruits or vegetables since everyone was a locovore.
    People who push this stuff should be required to go live that way for a year before pestering the rest of us with such nonsense. But it is worse than pestering because they influence public policy.

    • In the 1920s you travelled by Model T. Roads were graveled at best away from major cities. In wet weather you stopped every few miles to push/pull your car out of the muck. Tires only lasted a few hundred miles, and punctured easily, but they were skinny so you could carry several spares. However extra wheels were bulky and expensive, so after the first flat you likely had to dismount the flat tire off the wheel yourself, and pump up the new one with a hand pump. Model T used gravity fuel feed, so you had to back up steep hills. A 30-minute drive between towns today would have taken all day back then.

      • Roads were graveled at best away from major cities.

        My favorite road sign was: Watch for holes in pavement.

      • Around 1930 my grandfather took the family from Atlanta to Knoxville. Gravel all the way –took 3 days.

      • My mother’s family moved from South East ID (Pocatello) to Santa Rosa, CA. during the 30’s. In a Model T. (Look up stories on driving the Model T.) At one point Pappy got sick. Since he was the only one who could drive, they stopped at a ranch until he got better. They stayed in the barn. From what I have read, they were not exceptionally poor. THOSE were the Good Old Days!

      • And the roads were gravel. At best. Having driven over the Sierra Nevada at Donner Summit on IH 80, it’s quite a view. Their trip over Donner Summit was a lot closer to what the Donner Party experienced than my experience.

    • Not yet, at least not in the US. Build CCGT, is most economic at present. If Natural gas price rises enough due to increased consumption and LNG exports, build HeLe USC coal. That way we have several decades to properly develop and deploy Gen 4 nuclear. Gen 3 doesn’t cut it here in the US, as the Voglte and Summer fiascos have just proven. Gen 3 doesn’t cut it in Europe, either, as Hinckley Point is proving.

    • seaice1

      Why build nuclear?

      Plenty of cheaply available fossil fuels still available.

      And their CO2 emissions do us nothing but good.

      Nor can nuclear deliver the promised “free energy forever” first promised, that justifieding build hugely expensive (but efficient) nuclear plants.

      I agree with you though. We should be building nuclear but not at the cost of the Hinckley C white elephant that has taken over 20 years of planning and environmental opposition to build in the UK.

      Forty years to plan and build one, single, nuclear power plant. It’s insane!

      • beat me to it…

        CO2 sustains ALL LIFE ON EARTH…

        even the CO2-hating alarmists, unfortunately. !

    • We should be developing fuel cells burning gasoline – or alcohol at least. That should increase the efficiency of power generation – even in electric cars – about twice.

      • Nonsense – we have been developing them or over a century so far – as is the notion of doubling “efficiency” whatever the latter means. I am an engineer who was involved in F. C. power generation for both stationary application and for cars (BMW, Toyota, …)

      • Same as today, but we would use it twice more efficiently.

        Efficiency means a thermodynamic efficiency. For the best combustion engines it is around 50% today. A fuel cell has much better theoretical limits – about 85%. Theoretical. Today we can use hydrogen, but nothing with a more complicated chemistry.

      • The problem with fuel cells is that they burn fuel slowly, not bang-bang-bang that you need for pistons. There is a general tradeoff of efficiency and power in all energy systems

    • @ seaice1

      We should be building nuclear.
      [on that we agree -mod]

      We are building nuclear generators. Small nuclear generators that produce enough electricity to power the US Navy carriers with 5,000 sailors on board. And it doesn’t take 40 years to build one.

      So, why not build several thousand of those “small nuclear generators” to power towns, counties and small cities or parts of large cities ……. instead of 4 or 5 gigantic generators that each require 40 years to be operable?

      • If there was a credible long-term comittment to build large nuclear plants, it could be done. It would require a long, steady process to buildup the supply line for the materials and equipment, and the education of the people who would build them. It is not something that could be done well, quickly. The first dozen plants will be expensive, as the builders re-learn the skills. There will have to be standardization of design, at a level that has been achieved in only a few places. That will be one of the most difficult issues, because there will be a lot of organizations lobbying for the chance to make money with their new, never-before-done solutions.

        And the best reason to not use up all the gas and oil and coal is that they are more valuable as transportation fuel, as feedstock for fertilizer and plastics, for process heat in areas like glass manufacturing and metal refining, home heating, and all the other uses we have for petrochemicals. To get really high thermal efficiency, you need high temperatures and expensive materials, but nuclear electricity generation does not need really high temperatures, because fuel efficiency is such a very small part of the overall cost.

        And of course, during all of this there will be the nay-sayers out there, writing op-eds about how they are so much smarter than anyone else, looking for whistle-blowers to prove that the technology is dangerous. And politicians trying to protect their favorite supporters.

        Once we get good again at building nuclear electical plants, maybe we can turn the attention of the engineers to using nuclear heat to convert coal into transportation fuel and petrochemicals. We should be using the gas to make the nuclear infrastructure that will be sustainable, long-term.

  2. I have to agree, an excellent article. Too bad it won’t get to those who need to read it. Too bad they wouldn’t read it even if it were available to them.

  3. our cargo cult’s easy access to…everything

    Notice there’s only two types worried about global warming…

    The ones that get paid..
    …and the ones in affluent societies that have the leisure time to think about it

    Global warming it a product of affluent societies

    • The belief that Gorebal Warming is an existential threat, requiring urgent action is the product of a dumbed-down education system.

      The belief that fossil fuels and nuclear power can be replaced by “renewable energy” is the product of a “participation trophy” society.

      The belief that the world can painlessly transition away from fossil fuels is the product of an affluent society.

      It’s a combination of STEM ignorance, a sense of entitlement and affluence.

      • all true….but people that are worried where their next meal is coming from don’t even think about any of it
        ..only people that have leisure time have the time to think or ponder about any of those things

        With one caveat…..unless they are told they are going to get paid

      • More completely, it is the product of a democracy that is failing due to complacency regarding the practical matters that underpin society. We raise kids to look down on labour and trades and technology and seek university education regardless of its practical benefits.
        This education suits kids who grow up detached from chores and oblivious to the thousands of things that need to happen and work for their lives to be comfortable.
        We protect kids from these things and also from the family financial realities that can be sensibly extended to national economic policy. For people who grew up during the 30’s and understand how harsh reality can be, this is all madness. And they are right!

  4. The artificial green blight vs the organic black blob. In a rational world, they would each be selected to fitness and purpose.

  5. The link is broken.

    they rerouted the link a their end.

    They know they crossed the line.

    This should be the head news story domestically, but the MSM will drown it out with ‘other news’.

    Climate Depot has the blog post by John Gilkison in full.

    • Apparently, the video is to convince me that back to nature with the horses is the way to go. I’m afraid it failed miserably. The French need to try harder. Is this connected to or associate with the breeders of the workhorses? I’m guessing it is.

      (In an aside, when you look through Wiki for information on this, you also find other horses breed for meat.)

      • none of them were cart breeds so i thought they did rather well in the circumstances
        the machinery needed some adjustments it made the job harder for them. the baler especially.
        laugh all you want
        thered be a damn sight more employed healthy people if we used less machinery, ive tried to buy old implements for similar uses and its so high priced i cant afford it
        why? because people ARE using the better stuff,
        and the other which would be restorable is sadly used as ornaments in well off peoples bloody gardens!
        i have a tiny tractor and its good, but it makes me ill breathing the fumes for a few hrs
        id rather have a quiet few hrs breathing the soil n smell of horse even if took 3x as long

      • Those who think they will rule an unmechanized agrarian society in France should think about what happened the last time the French became seriously upset with their decision makers.

      • ozspeakup: Feel free to breathe in soil and horse smell. Those of us with allergies to horses will pass and use the tractor. To each his own.

        (I admit that for a vacation, or a very short period of time, old time farming could be “fun”. However, year after year might start to wear.)

      • I took the Long Suffering Mrs. Jewett to Paris some years ago. We were walking near the Hotel de Paris (City offices) and saw a butcher shop with gilded horse heads above the windows. Didn’t bother me, but Mrs. Jewett went “ewww”. She was also distressed on Saturdays. In the butcher’s window, they had bunnies and ducks in their “clothes” to make a Frenchman’s Sunday dinner. If you read any French history, you will note that during the Little Ice Age, they had a number of famines. I understand WHY they eat garden slugs. They are not bad as a vehicle to deliver garlic and butter. Amphibian appendages are OK, but a little tough. They taste like chicken.

      • There’s a thesis for some enterprising history grad student: “The Effect of the Little Ice Age on the Development of Nouvelle Cuisine, 17th Century Style”!

        Horse meat shops in France advertise “cheval americaine”, because we take so much better care of our horses than other nations. Yet there is no longer a horse slaughterhouse in the US. We have to take horses to be slaughtered to Canada.

        There was still one in TX, but my horsey friends tell me it closed. Used to be one here in the Pacific NW.

      • That’s the idea.
        Billions would have to go.
        The primary tenet of Green Philosophy is that human populations must be reduced.

      • Why don’t the greenies practice Self-immolation to show us the way, if they really believe what they espouse? I don’t think it would add anymore CO2 to the planet, than their continued life. If it was good enough for the Buddhist monks in Viet Nam….

    • It is far too low. I just looked it up. The AWEO rule of thumb is 50-60 acres per megawatt, or a range of 60-150 acres per 3 MW turbine depending on terrain details. Wind Watch says 50 acres per MW. Google can be your friend.

      • Also, wouldn’t that many turbines ( I realize its ridiculous) have a serious effect on the weather by wind reduction? That is energy coming out of the atmosphere after all, though I suppose most of it finds its way back eventually.

    • Wind shadow is real. Then tip vorticies play into the effect as these are corkscrew in translation with the wind. There are practical density limitations so 15 acres per MW is real.

  6. A result of the California definition of Renewable Energy==>no nuclear, hydro, and wind and solar only, would lead to most of the population dying off. This is the goal of some of the hard-core greens, and their definition of Utopia is a very much smaller population by whatever means required.

    • Either they have an overly optimistic view of the “good old days” or have no clue what it takes to maintain an advanced technical society.

      • They somehow think they can enjoy their current lifestyle while the vastly reduced number of peasants serve them. Curious how elitists always think they are going to be one of the elite in the future.

      • An indication of which it is can be gained by reading the lyrics to Jefferson Starship songs like “we built this city on rock and roll”–where they really think hippies built San Fran and they imagine hippies building a starship. “wow man, look at the exploding rocket!! far out”
        Back in the day I visited some communes/back to the earth places. They always had some source of outside money to keep them going. One was from a rock band, one from an insurance settlement for a car accident. The only self-supporting back to the land society are those like the Amish–but the progressives don’t imagine they have to give up their phone and internet. The Amish also benefit from the existence of highways, national defense, etc that they don’t pay for.

    • “Life without oil, natural gas and coal would most likely be nasty, brutish and short.”

      Yes, but that is the Utopia many leftists and greens pine for. They want large segments of the population to disappear. Of course, they don’t think life would be all that bad for themselves in their Utopia. That’s because they plan to be among the ruling elites. Even in North Korea, the ruling class can be fat and happy while everyone else goes hungry.

      For some reason, all the useful idiots think they will also be living in the farm house with the pigs in this green utopia. But that will not be the case. They will be out in the dark, leaky barn with the rest of us and performing manual labor during the day. Just because the useful idiots helped put the pigs in power doesn’t mean they will get to share equally in the scarce resources available. That wouldn’t leave enough for the ruling class to live in comfort. Would Al Gore give up his comfortable lifestyle if he ever succeeds in convincing the world to give up fossil fuels? Not a chance.

  7. Good rant, Mr. Driessen! But you’re “singing to the choir”. If the numbers that will not change had made any difference to those who’ve led us down the “wind and solar” path, we wouldn’t be up to our eyeballs in solar and wind. Two numbers that will never yield are “energy density” (which limits economy of scale) and “output consistency” (which necessitates reliable backup – either generation or energy storage). Poor energy density means “too much physical material for too little power output” and that translates into “too expensive”. Add in the cost of dispatchable backup sources of generation or storage and that translates into devastatingly expensive.

    • They should also ponder this,
      Kilowatthour generated per unit of fuel used:
      1,842 kWh per ton of Coal or 0.9 kWh per pound of Coal
      127 kWh per Mcf (1,000 cubic feet) of Natural gas
      533 kWh per barrel of Petroleum, or 12.7 kWh per gallon

      The current record holder for the [manpowered watts/]Hour Record is Ondrej Sosenka and the website has an estimate of his average wattage during his Hour Record at 430 Watts! If Ondrej’s bike were attached to a bicycle generator and it was super efficient, Ondrej would have been generating enough power to light up 7 60-Watt light bulbs! Since I pay about 10 cents/kWh, if I were to pay Ondrej for the energy he produced over the hour he was pedaling he would have almost earned a whole nickel (430 Watts • 1 hour = 430 Watt-hours = .43 kWh)!

      So a pound of coal will get you 900 watts-hours of power and the world record (2011) of human power 430 watts-hours (your results will be less).

      The Rail Freight Industry calculated they could move 1 Ton of goods 530 miles on a gallon of diesel fuel. That was total fuel purchased and total tons moved total miles. Diesel fuel, retail at a truck stop across the street is $2.499. Want the job of pulling 53 tons for 10 miles for $2.50?

  8. Anyone else having problems getting ‘tips’ to open?…it just sits there for me
    CTM…I know this should be there, but I can’t post it

    Scientists discover 91 volcanoes below Antarctic ice sheet
    This is in addition to 47 already known about and eruption would melt more ice in region affected by climate change
    Scientists have uncovered the largest volcanic region on Earth – two kilometres below the surface of the vast ice sheet that covers west Antarctica.

    • “Anyone else having problems getting ‘tips’ to open?”

      I just opened it up with no problem. Using Firefox and script blockers.

  9. The Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is warning that the introduction of wind and solar to the grid is cutting the income of coal and gas production plants. Income that is required for plant maintenance. Adding more renewable resources endangers the ability of coal and gas plants to stay on line 24/7 to supply adequate backup when renewables go off line.
    Law of unintended consequences.

  10. I’m quite sure none of this is about energy or even replacing oil, gas and coal. It’s more about billionaires and energy companies making all the money they can and then fleeing. Without tax breaks, there appears to be no reason to put the turbines up. When the PTC was temporarily halted, so was wind construction in many places. Put wind and solar on a level playing field, without tax breaks, RPS’s, etc and it dies out almost immediately. It’s not about energy, it’s about money.

      • It was utterly pathetic.

        Frank Skinner, comedian turned DJ, was revealed as an apologetic sycophant with no journalistic integrity. Not that one would expect him to have any journalistic integrity, or credentials, he’s a comedian. So one comedian interviewing another.

      • A comedian interviewing a very dangerous and influential man. He (US) can even influence student curricula in another country (UK).

  11. Thinking about all the new manual chores that would be required without fossil fuels,
    made me so tired I had to stop reading and take a nap.

    The author is a good writer, and able to ridicule the global warmunists in a pleasant way.

    On the other hand, when I meet up with a warmunist, I slap them upside the head with a rolled up New York Times, and tell them they are delusional about CO2, which is not so pleasant ridicule.

    The warmunists are so busy virtue signaling,
    and patting themselves on the back,
    that they never think about the reality
    of a fossil fuel free existence.

    That would be a tough life.

    Maybe I could hook up a generator to my wife’s bicycle
    and she could pedal-in-place to generate electricity for our home?

    I’ll be the coxswain, using a megaphone to encourage her to pedal faster
    — I think this could be a good substitute for fossil fuels
    — “Wife Generators”
    — why pay someone else for electricity, when you can generate your own?

    Climate blog for non-scientists:

      • HotScot
        We had dinner last night with two female friends of the wife = three women and me.
        One of the friends shocked us with her “new” well maintained 1980’s Mercedes S 500
        a stretched version so huge it would never fit in my garage.
        I commented on the huge car, with double-pane windows,
        and how much fossil fuel it must burn.

        During an unusually pleasant global warming conversation,
        I proposed “Wife generators” (see my above comment)
        as a substitute for fossil fuels and was then
        banished to the kitchen to “go wash the dishes”!

        These “modern” women have no sense of humor,
        and I’m pretty funny at times.
        My wife always compares me to Rodney Dangerfield.
        She sez: “You look just like Rodney Dangerfield”.

    • Richard

      Ah! Now there’s your big mistake, you ought to have a dishwasher. Frequently derided as the spawn of the devil by the climate alarmists, it heats only the precise amount of water (6 Litres I believe) to wash the days dishes, of a family of four, in one go. We would otherwise be washing 3 loads of dishes by hand per day, using more than 6 Litres of water from a central tank each time. It also heats the water to a temperature that kills most, if not all, pathogens, and dries the dishes. Once washed, the metal cutlery is so hot it’s uncomfortable to handle.

      But then I guess unless I adopt your “Wife generator” principle I may well be forced to return to wasting water, energy, time, and risk bacterial infection from dishes washed in tepid water.

      Although I’m not sure I would want to generate another wife, one’s enough thanks.


  12. This makes total sense to me. It would even be worst as there are 200,000 ppl more every day!
    Did not even touch about how it would effect food production. Lots energy is need to produce food. Also fossil fuels are used in fertilizers , herbicides and pesticides! With out them food production could be reduce to a 1/3!
    In short, massive starvation!!

    • Try reading Harry Harrison’s ‘Make Room, Make Room!” for such a dystopia. This was filmed as “Soylent Green”. And SF followers would remember just WHAT this rationed foodstuff was made of!

  13. “Suppose we generate just the 25 billion megawatt-hours of today’s total global electricity consumption using wind turbines. … We’d need more than 830 million gigantic 3-megawatt turbines!”

    I am not following the math. 830 million times 3 MW is 2.49 billion MW. At a 33% capacity factor, there are 2920 hours of equivalent full production. That makes 7270 billion Mw-hr, 290 times the stated value.

    • Right. We’d need 8.3 billion three-MW windmills to replace 25 billion MW-hours of electricity consumption.

      At only 50 acres each, that is 2.6 billion square miles. The total surface area of earth is 197 million sq mi. And over much of that, the wind doesn’t blow sufficiently to generate a lot of energy. Plus, the average wind plant, even with ideal siting, works only about a third of the time. And we’d need long cables to bring power onto land from the 70% of the planet covered by water. Not to mention batteries.

      Wind and solar to replace fossil fuels doesn’t even make the cut for a pipe dream.

      Please check my arithmetic, just in case.

      • There was a recent article here suggesting that 20% wind penetration would be prefectly achievable without any problems for the grid. I don’t thnk anybody is seriously suggsting that we suddenly switch to 100% renewables overnight. A modest carbon tax would shift the incentives so we get a bit more renewables and a bit less fossil fuels.
        So even if there is absolutely nothing to AGW at all, this talk of going back to the pre-industrial age is simply alarmism.
        “Also fossil fuels are used in fertilizers , herbicides and pesticides! With out them food production could be reduce to a 1/3! In short, massive starvation!!”
        ” they never think about the reality of a fossil fuel free existence. That would be a tough life.”
        “Why don’t they advertise a hunter-gatherer lifestyle?” etc etc.

      • Here is my go at the maths.
        Wiki says there were 21,000 TWhr globally in 2012. This is in energy units. There are 8760 hours in a year, so that is 2.4 TW, which is in power units (TWHr/Hr=TW). This is 2.4 x 1000 x 1000 MW
        We would need 1,000,000 x 2.4MW turbines to generate this at 100%. So allowing for 3MW turbines and 30-odd% capacity we need about 2 million turbines.

      • seaice1 August 13, 2017 at 1:53 pm
        There was a recent article here suggesting that 20% wind penetration would be prefectly achievable without any problems for the grid. I don’t thnk anybody is seriously suggsting that we suddenly switch to 100% renewables overnight. A modest carbon tax would shift the incentives so we get a bit more renewables and a bit less fossil fuels.

        But here’s the problem, from a comment upthread:

        czechlist August 13, 2017 at 10:58 am
        The Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is warning that the introduction of wind and solar to the grid is cutting the income of coal and gas production plants. Income that is required for plant maintenance. Adding more renewable resources endangers the ability of coal and gas plants to stay on line 24/7 to supply adequate backup when renewables go off line.
        Law of unintended consequences.

      • There is no lie so silly, that Griffie won’t repeat it ad infinitum. Germany’s grid is connected to the rest of Europe.
        Your comment is like claiming that since you are able to generate 30% of the power for your house using, renewables, obviously the whole world can do the same.

    • The math contains a glaring error — the author divided a quantity in one unit (25 billion megawatt-hours) by a quantity in a different unit (3 megawatts) and came up with a unitless number (830 million). Obviously, that’s wrong.
      To get the correct answer, the units have to be made consistent. The key to that is to correctly express the first quantity as “25 billion megawatt-hours PER YEAR”. That simplifies to “2.85 million megawatts” (1 year = 8766 hours); doing the division correctly then gets the answer 2.85 million megawatts / 3 megawatts per windmill = 950,000 windmills (a lot, but not absurdly so).

  14. Hate to be a party spoiler but 830 million x 3 MW (wind turbine namplate power) = 2490 million MW = 2490 TW. Assume a realistic capacity factor of 0.20 (20%) on an annual basis and you get 498 TW of installed power capacity , or something like 450 times the currently installed power capacity in the U.S. So land need would only be 12.5 x 10^9 / 450 acres or little less than 280 million acres or 0.45% of land area in US.

  15. Or a simpler version – all life on earth ends during the next cooling period, as CO2 falls below 150 and C3 plants stop growing.

  16. Loved the article. Just a couple of things to add. Using the MW production number used and the 3MW capacity per turbine, results in 8.3 Billion turbines required to meet that demand. Then using the acreage per turbine results in 125 Billion acres. I have done some research and the average amount of land needed for a turbine is as little as 30 acres per turbine and as much as 111 acres per turbine. There is a lot more to add. But you get the picture.

    • Hi John!
      You have all hours of the year to produce the 25.000TWh so you should divide by 8760 at 100% efficiency or 1750 at 20%. Still many windmills required but not as extreme

  17. Wind and solar are not the alternatives to fossil. With aneutronic Focus Fusion we could supply ALL the world’s energy needs via electricity, including intense heat for processing materials, plasma torches for eliminating all pollutants and at less than a tenth the cost of coal. Yes, it needs more research. But we have made great progress on a research budget of $600,000 a year. If we spent 100 times that much on this research it would be less than the world spends in 20 minutes on oil. See more here:

    • Greetings Mr. Lerner!
      I have followed your story for several years and I am very impressed by the scope and depth of your approach to fusion. Unfortunately, governments and their agencies are more interested in photo ops and big project job creation like impractical “Green Energy”, so you and similar small scale fusion developers like General Fusion and others are left to fend for themselves. I believe that you are doing important work which will hopefully lead to a successful fusion machine and also will provide important new information on fusion control. I will update myself on your progress and I wish you great success going forward!

  18. Another Driessen masterpiece. Thank you Paul.

    Loving the comments…

    “Curious George on August 13, 2017 at 1:10 pm:
    Why don’t they advertise a hunter-gatherer lifestyle?”


  19. Left-wing Liberal Democrats and the Main Stream media have no sense of numbers, science and reality.
    That’s why they think we can power the world’s economy on wind mills, solar panels, and squirrel cages.

    Left-wing Liberal Democrats seem to have never been in factories or farms and think food
    comes from grocery stores, electricity from wall sockets, and “clean energy” from magic.

    The media is run by Left-wing liberal democrats and they treat
    it like a propaganda machine instead of an information source.

    Time was, people warning the world “Repent – the end is nigh!” were snickered at as fruitcakes.
    Now they own the media and run the schools.

  20. Utopia for some, high electricity bills for the rest
    Wind farms paid millions not to produce electricity
    “More than £300m has been paid in compensation for wind turbines to lie idle in Scotland, sparking calls for an end to the green energy ‘subsidy junket’.
    Scotland’s 3,000 wind turbines produce more energy than is needed north of the border. The remoteness of many wind farms means the power they generate cannot be transported to England and Wales.
    Consequently, turbines are routinely powered down to avoid producing excess energy, yet operators are still paid generous subsidies via consumers’ bills”

    • You do know that when UK power grids need to curtail power for any reason, they usually turn off wind, since its easier than powering down (e.g) a coal plant? The turn offs are often to do with grid requirements not to do with wind itself.

      besides, the UK is actively upgrading its HVDC lines out of Scotland so that when there is ‘excess’ wind, it can now be shipped south. The Western link opens this year…

      • As ever Griff, your mastery of perverse logic and dissembling are both manifest. What happens currently is that most of the time coal is kept on the back burner (expensively and sub-optimally) and other faster response generation is used to balance the erratic wind. Wind has not replaced coal burning, gas has (and some bio). If it weren’t for the windmills, and the investment had been put in anything else, we could have easily closed all the coal by now. How ‘turning off’ wind and still paying for it, is sensible or something to boast about, only you would know. Also good of you to bring to our attention the enormous cost of upgrading lines to connect the remote wind as well – another vast expense caused by wind – the most pointless and expensive electricity generation ever devised.

      • A more bass-akward assessment of the “virtues” of wind energy cannot be imagined beyond what Griff has offered. In reality ( write this down, Griff), wind is fantastically impractical and fickle, in particular-not blowing when high pressure systems bring hot days or cold nights.
        Therefore, it cannot be counted on for base load power as even Green people like to have heat in winter. As a result, reliable power MUST be made available from, coal, gas or nuclear stations so that it is available when NEEDED.
        So, no matter how much wind energy we attempt to tap, it requires a duplicate amount of reliable power to be available. And paid for!
        This essentially means that we ALWAYS PAY DOUBLE for construction of “Green” solar or wind energy. This is a capital cost which has time value and burdens the grid cost structure ever after.
        We pay for power we do not get. It is an impractical idea championed by impractical people for a multiplicity of reasons which include; Greed, stupidity, virtue signalling, political opportunism and a sprinkling of misplaced idealism. It hurts people. Mostly the people who struggle already.

  21. Our side scare mongering? Please… The article would have been much better had the author hadn’t taken to flights of apocalyptic fantasy.
    The available electricity will be diverted to manufacturing. There will be enough power to mine, smelt and forge. That’s part of the 25 billion megawatts in use already. Yes, there won’t be enough real estate for all the 3 megawatt turbines and solar panels. The author is figuring that technology will not go forward between now and when the last coal/oil/gas furnace is shut down.
    Forget growth. Forget air conditioned homes. forget 24×365 electricity for home. We will become a daylight society – any battery capacity will go to necessary services – hospitals, charging farm equipment, and keeping government vehicles on the road. Ships will be gone – government will not allow nuclear technology from the Navy ships to be put in non-navy vessels. And producing nuclear fuel is terribly energy consuming, from mining to refining to usable nuclear fuel.
    We won’t be back in 1900, but we won’t be mobile, nor will we have many of the luxuries we call daily needs. Surely what electricity would be available won’t support an increasing population. Famine and disease is how nature culls the herd. Glad I won’t be around for that eventuality.

      • Take a look at the scuzzy freighters running around the world under flags of convenience and then tell me how good an idea it would be if they all had reactors in them!

      • There have only been four nuclear-powered merchant cargo ships, of which just one remains:

        Savannah, United States (1962–1972)
        Otto Hahn, Germany (1968–1979; re-powered with diesel engine in 1979)
        Mutsu, Japan (1970–1992; never carried commercial cargo)
        Sevmorput, Russia (1988–present)

      • I had two friends who worked on the Savannah. It worked, but it was only a demonstration that the power plant was feasible. It was never intended to make money. So, it didn’t.

    • considering a number of mines today already use solar power, I’m quite sure there’s always going to be enough power for the electricity used in mining.

      • Griff, down here in South Africa, we have a LOT of mines. And, because of assorted (probably illegal) faffing around, our power system can be – let’s say – somewhat erratic. And when a mine’s power fails, so does the hoists and the ventilation. Therefore, to avoid killing THOUSANDS of underground workers, most deep mines here have now installed their own generation systems. Fossil fuelled, of course – just think of the power requirements to force cooled air into a mine, and to lift thousands of tons of men and material out! AND all this has to be done 24/7/365 – erratic power (e.g. renewables) simply don’t make the cut.

  22. According to the CIA factbook,total global production of electricity ( for year 2014, not up to date though) was 23.14 trillion-kWhours for the whole year and total global consumption ( i.e. the demand ) of the same was 21.36 trillion-kW-hours for the whole year. Dividing both numbers by 8760 ( = 24*365 hr/year ) give us the production and consumption in thousand ( 1 kWh = 1000 Wh ) of TW-years so 23.14/8760 ~ 0.00264 (x10^3) = 2.64 TW-years and 21.36/8760 ~ 2.44 TW-years , and from same source the installed global genration (nameplate) capacity fot electricity ( in 2014 ) was 6.3 billion kW or 6.3 TW. At full 100% generation for a year that means 6.3 TW-years , so the real combined capacity factor for all types of generation is ~ 2.64/6.3 = 0.419.. or c.a 42%.
    The author of the article probably meant 25 billion megawatt-hours of annual electricity not 25 billion megawatts of real power capacity and then bothched his calculations , to generate 25 billion mW-hours of annually you only need around 2.85 TW installed real capacity of current mix of generators or 2.85/0.42 ~ 6.8 TW of namplate capacity. If all were wind of course then at least 3 and more liklely 5 times of nameplate capacity would have to be available so we would need >> 30 TW of wind nameplate capacity and that translates to (30 TW) / (3 MW) =(30×10¹²) / (3×10⁶) turbines = 10⁷ turbines or 10 million turbines not 830 million turbines.

    • And 10 million turbines x 15 acre/turbine = 150 million acres ~ 607 thousand km². About the area France ( deduct few swimmingpools to equate )

    • Yep. I came up with a need for about 3 million turbines. No problem, Paul Driessen is only off by a factor of 300 or so.

      David MacKay (Physics Prof and Chief Scientific Advisor to British DECC) has an excellent online (and published) book on renewable energy. He discusses the renewable power on the human scale – per person. When the book was published (2007), onshore wind in Britain provided about 2 W/m2 (2 MW/km2), off-shore 3 W/m2, and the new larger turbines about 30% more per unit area since they need to be spaced further apart. So perhaps today we can get 3 MW/km2 or 1 turbine per km2. There are 247 acres/km2. So Paul is off by another factor of 10 or so – in the opposite direction this time.

      Above Ristvan cited advocates of wind power who claim that one can get by with 1/5 to 1/2 as much land per turbine. Google is your friend, but only when you know who to trust. MacKay shows calculations based on real wind farms.

      “The AWEO rule of thumb is 50-60 acres per megawatt, or a range of 60-150 acres per 3 MW turbine depending on terrain details. Wind Watch says 50 acres per MW. Google can be your friend.”

      MacKay has an interesting approach to renewable energy – breaking it down to energy per unit area per day or energy per day per person. MIght help with Driessen’s errors of orders of magnitude. MacKay likes units of kWh/d/person, with kWh being familiar from electricity bills. A typical person in the developed world is using about 100 kWh/d (250 kWh/d/p in the US). Driving 50 km/d consumes about 40 kWh/d (4 L) of gasoline.

      • MacKay sadly passed away last year…

        however his pioneering work, with the emphasis on real figures, has now been outdated by developments in the technology… e.g he didn’t allow for the standard offshore UK wind turbine being an 8MW one, with 12MW designs coming soon, nor for the amount of energy saving or demand reduction, advances in tidal power and much else.

  23. But few have pondered how we will supposedly generate 25 billion megawatts of total current global electricity demand using just renewable energy: wind turbines, for instance. For starters, we’re talking about some 830 million gigantic 500-foot-tall turbines.

    You have the numbers wrong Paul

    3,2 million 3MW windmills with 30% utility factor are enough to produce 25 billion MWh annually.

    Not 830 million.


  24. It’s said that during the centuries following the destruction of Rome, people lived amongst the ruins believing they were built by giants.

    I’m fairly old now, I remember being taken to see the movie Destination Moon in the early ‘50s, the popular culture of following decade full of comic books movies etc. featuring space fantasy, it was an exciting image of the future full of promise that in many respects was realised.
    I pity the kids of The First World today, poorly educated in a general sense and fed a vision of a dismal future, I blame my own generation.
    Great essay.

    • There is an excellent museum at the ‘Crypta Balbi’ in Rome which is essentially the history of just one city block…

      Highly recommended – but to get to the point, it has reconstructions of the site in the 7th/8th century showing tiny wooden Gothic farms amongst standing ruins and columns 50 foot or more high…

      ‘enta geworc’ or the work of giants, in the Anglo Saxon.

      (I do not expect a similar scenario to repeat due to renewable energy – but this piece of the past is truly fascinating)

    • Venezuela is only a Socialist paradise. That’s just half as bad as the eco-Socialist one that’s being foisted on us.

  25. I haven’t checked the math on the windmill land area, but will assume it is correct. What would be the environmental impact of taking that much energy out of the air? It strikes me that it would locally reduce the air velocity at the surface to the point at which transport of spores, mold, yeast, pollen, and nutrient dust would be impaired. What would be the effect on weather? Evaporation of water from the ground would slow, as would convective cooling of the ground. A reduction in airborne particulates and even bacteria would have some effect on cloud formation, which requires such nucleation sites. Do we even know the full range of questions to ask? It wasn’t until recently that we discovered that bacteria in the air have an effect on cloud formation. I doubt that we understand even the rudiments of the convectively-driven ecosystem.

    There may be no effect, or just a small one. But if the latter, it would seem likely that when done on such a vast scale that whatever effects there are would accumulate non-linearly. I leave it to the imaginative reader to create a suitable apocalypse scenario.

    In the meantime, I’d just sit back and shake my head in wonder when a swarm of tornadoes took out 10% of the US power grid, and started us on our death spiral…

  26. Good article.

    We knew this 30 years ago and published the following conclusions 15 years ago.


    The following numbers are from the 2015 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, for the year 2014:

    Global Primary Energy Consumption by Fuel is
    86% Fossil Fuel (Oil, Coal and Natural Gas),
    4% Nuclear,
    7% Hydro,
    and 2% Renewables.

    That 2% for Renewables is vastly exaggerated, and would be less than 1% if intermittent wind and solar power were not forced into the grid ahead of cheaper and more reliable conventional power.

    This is not news – we have known this energy reality for decades. As we published in 2002.

    “The ultimate agenda of pro-Kyoto advocates is to eliminate fossil fuels, but this would result in a catastrophic shortfall in global energy supply – the wasteful, inefficient energy solutions proposed by Kyoto advocates simply cannot replace fossil fuels.”

    We also write in the same article, prior to recognition that the current ~20 year “Pause” was already underway:

    “Climate science does not support the theory of catastrophic human-made global warming – the alleged warming crisis does not exist.”

    Regards to all, Allan

  27. Calling Professional Dreamers (aka inventors & entrepreneurs) with a vision for “better, more efficient, more practical energy technologies” to “ replace fossil fuels.”
    Earth is finite. Fossil fuels are finite. They provide the essential bridge gap fuels or bicycle “training wheels” for us to learn, grow and prepare for sustainable futures for our grandchildren.
    What is essential to replace today’s bridge gap fossil fuels for sustainable future with cost effective power and fuel?
    Invert Pessimist Driessen’s distopia to provide dispatchable solar power cheaper than coal.
    E.g., the magnitude of the tasks needed:
    “25 billion megawatt-hours of today’s total global electricity”
    Double that to say 50 B MWh to provide for economic development.
    Double that for 50% incident solar collected.
    Multiply by 2.5 for 40% conversion to electricity to 250 B MWh thermal or ~900 B GJ incident sunlight.
    At 9 GJ/m2 in high desert regions need about 900 B m2. Or 900,000 km^2.
    Say 50% ground coverage, gives about 2 million km^2 needed.
    I.e., about 22% of the 9 million km^2 covered by deserts.
    Yes that is a challenge, but its not impossible.
    For detailed studies, see Desertec and similar efforts on solar power in deserts.
    Include hydro and add nuclear to help baseload reliability etc.
    Yes we do need Eeyores (See Winnie the Pooh), and Puddleglums (See CS Lewis’ The Silver Chair) to test ideas.
    Don’t despair. Take a hard nosed look at what is needed.
    As a research engineer, I see that its possible.
    Lets go out and do it.

    • What do you mean by “Earth is finite” and “sustainability”. Lots of people use these nice sounding but vague terms but don’t seem to bother explaining what they actually mean. Fossil fuels are finite, that is true, but so is sand. To me “sustainable future” sounds like energy poverty for most of the world. I don’t want my children to live in a future of increased poverty and government intrusion. Real question is how much coal, oil, and gas we have left? I noticed that enviromentalists never seem to ask this question. Possible because all their previous predictions of “peak oil” and resources running out have been horribly wrong. Just like Julian Simon said in his book “Ultimate resource” Free market and the people themselves are the ultimate resource and the last thing you want to do is to harm the people with disasterous policies.

      Fossils fuels are not perfect but just like the article said, neither are these renewables and we should stop worshipping them. Cheap energy is one of the most important requirements for a good life. Won’t the better solution be to let cheap energy, free market and people’s own minds do the trick, instead of forcible transfer of fossil fuels to more expensive and less reliable renewables when these are not ready?

      • And if fossil fuels cause global warming and “climate disruption” (which is still disputed) richer world will be able to cope with it better. Nature is not our friend. Its has never been, it never will be. Our ancestors hid in caves in order to get away from nature. We should stop this silly superstitious nature worship and focus on improving human lifes. It’s weird how it’s wrong if humans pollute with factories, but if nature does the same thing with volcanoes, it’s fine. Same with earthquakes and meteor strikes. All these cause massive damage but you don’t see enviromentalists protesting these and demading government intervention! I think the key is adaptability not mitigation. People die from storms and earthquakes because they are too poor to protect themselves.

      • To clarify: real question with global warming is not do humans cause it, but how dangerous it will be. Do the cost outweight the benefits? This is still heavily disputed. However poverty and what it causes is clear.

      • fredar
        Evauate what I said, not what I did not address.
        By “Earth is finite” I mean fossil fuels are limited, will peak and decline.
        By sustainability I mean supply for >1,000 years.
        On coal resource e.g., See Höök, M., Tang, X. (2013) “Depletion of fossil fuels and anthropogenic climate change: a review”
        Energy Policy, 52: 797-809 URL:
        They suggest global coal/fossil fuels may peak around 2040-2060. See fig 6, 8.

        Jianliang Wang Lianyong Feng Xu Tang Yongmei, Bentley Mikael Hook, 2017.The implications of fossil fuel supply constraints on climate change projections: A supply-side analysis PII: S0016-3287(15)30069-0
        Fig 1 suggests fossil fuels peaking around 2030.
        Fig. A1 and Fig A2 suggest oil and gas constraints by 2020 and mid 2030s.

        That suggests we need “all hands on deck” to develop alternatives asap.

      • Capitalism has always found solutions to issues of scarcity. Only the interference of government ( peopled by non-expert control freaks) can slow Industry and Creativity in this regard. Reducing government interference to a minimal, necessary influence is how we continue to move forward.
        This from someone who is barely a capitalist but understands the strength of its mechanisms.

    • By “dispatchable” solar presumably you mean we just rotate the planet at will, right?

      Storage doesn’t have an answer. Or maybe we have TW links spanning the globe with 3-4x nameplate capacities to make up for it. Sounds cheap and easy.

      Or we could realize nuclear energy is the ultimate primary energy source and stop screwing around.

      • There are many types of storage. All have been developed to the point where they were found wanting – till magic money trees sprouted in the deserts of wind turbines and solar panels.

      • Chris How do you make high pressure nuke’s cost effective?

        [After two nuclear plants in South Carolina were cancelled:] “We continue to believe that the problem with new nuclear (small modular units excepted) power plants is not that they generate electricity with nuclear fission. The difficulty is economic. The nuclear units are expensive, base load generating units in a world where production of electricity is becoming less expensive and increasingly decentralized. Base load power plants (and especially nuclear ones) are, in general, must-run, inflexible price takers. Going forward there will be less need for those facilities regardless of how they are fueled. Furthermore, the builder of a nuclear plant must bet an enormous sum on the need for electricity a decade hence, when the plant is completed. Given the uncertainty in power demand and prices, that is a gamble uncompensated in the regulatory process.
        By Leonard Hyman and William Tilles for

        U.S. Nuclear Comeback Stalls as Two Reactors Are Abandoned
        Possibly mass produce small modular low pressure units?

    • Solar only works in some places (not Canada, for example). No sun at night so batteries are needed–massive massive batteries which have been “just around the corner” for 30 years. OR we need the same capital equipment (coal or gas) for night time that we have now–which then becomes inefficient ($/Kw). All the countries with the highest renewables fraction have by far the highest electricity costs (e.g., Denmark, Germany). By the way, Denmark and Germany can only function with such a high fraction because they are linked to the nuclear in France by their grid.

    • Please explain where all the copper will come from for all these wind generators and their attendant interconnection. Also what will be their lifespan and so, what portion of society’s resources (labour and material) will be required to keep them operating.

    • David L. Hagen wrote:
      Calling Professional Dreamers (aka inventors & entrepreneurs) with a vision for “better, more efficient, more practical energy technologies” to “ replace fossil fuels.”

      Hello David,

      At this time, 86% of global primary energy is from fossil fuels, and the remaining 14% is mostly hydro and nuclear – solar and wind power account for less than 2%, and would be near-zero if they were not forced into the grid ahead of much cheaper, reliable dispatchable power.

      Sooner or later there will be better energy systems, but first we have to reverse the lunacy of forcing non-dispatchable wind and solar power into the grid ahead of reliable, dispatchable cheap energy. This idiotic practice should stop now, because it is utterly imbecilic and counter-productive.

      All it does is drive up energy costs and reduce the reliability of the grid. It does nothing to reduce CO2 emissions, which, btw, do NOT cause dangerous global warming.

      Regards, Allan

      • Hello David,

        Dispatchable means you can turn the power up and down based on demand. In the absence of grid-scale storage, how can solar or wind power be dispatchable?

        Having said that, 2-3 cents/KWh is encouraging, IF it turns out to be real. I have always held out more hope for solar than for wind power, because solar has more room for technological improvement.

        At current natural gas prices in North America, 2-4 cents/KWh is what fully dispatchable, gas-fired power costs, Still no contest, imo, until solar is somehow made dispatchable for the same price – that is the Holy Grail.

        Regards, Allan

  28. “…500-foot-tall turbines…”

    I guess they would use a wind/solar charged battery powered flying device to conduct maintenance?

  29. I can handle how they corrupt data and science. It also happens in other fields like medical studies, social psychology, … Science can recover from that because science is fundamentally constrained by the real world.

    Climate hysteria, attracts so many scientific illiterates to the activists ranks. Illiterate, in one way or another, in the: science, engineering, economics, or politics. The policies they promote are so harmful to human welfare. That is what scares me.

    I don’t think anyone realistically sees a billion wind turbine world. Renewables are just their argument against fossil fuel and nuclear power. They have a kind of Luddite ressentiment of prosperity. In practice you’ll get Germany with its coal power and (soon to be) 8-year period of no real reduction in CO2 emissions but triple the electricity price of the USA or China. Somehow this hippy argument against fossil fuel (renewable energy) became government policy. Insane government is about as insane as humanity gets. Very scary.

  30. You are welcome to come live with those of us who chose LFTRs for energy. We had to buy the first bunch from China as they were selling them cheaper than we could make them but they run great.

    PS. You don’t have bring thorium as we’ve got lots :)

  31. Well, OK. If i all happened as prophesied… maybe. But isn’t the above a bit like the CAGW screed? Only the other side of the coin??

    • You are correct Greg. It a hoot that many WUWT posters think that the pack of lies on one side of the issue can be negated by whoppers on the other side.
      Paul Driessen is not in the energy industry but in the misinformation industry.

  32. “instead of 4 or 5 gigantic generators that each require 40 years to be operable?”
    Just for the record, nuke and coal stationary steam plants are not very big. About the size of a Walmart.
    The amount of electricity produced is gigantic. The is the beauty of steam.
    How do I know? For the last 8 years of my career I was part of the ‘new reactors’ design team. This included working at a almost completed 1600 MWe nuke plant in China.
    Like me, about a third of the design group, got there start as US Navy operators. The biggest difference is that stationary power plants have a containment building and the navy operates reactors out at sea away from people.
    When it comes to fossil fuel, it is not that we are running out of coal or gas but the huge and vulnerable infrastructure to deliver it to the power plant.
    Think of nuke plants as a hedge against failure of the fossil fuel delivery system.
    In the PNW, fossil fuel for power plants is imported and near capacity. For this reason, the wind farms are useful in meeting the need for power and reducing natural consumption. I would have preferred that the 4 nuke plants started were finished.

    • “… the wind farms are useful in meeting the need for power and reducing natural consumption …”.
      “Reducing natural consumption” what’s that mean, pricing electricity used for heating etc. out of reach of the less well off?

    • Are you allowing for the low capacity factor of wind? How about the fans needed to charge batteries for when the wind doesn’t blow?

      • That is taken into account. 830 million is one for every nine people on this planet. Do you really think nine people with average energy consunption in the world use as much energy as a 500 feet Windmill produce?

        One such windmill produce enough electricity for 300 houses

    • I agree Jan. The article should be corrected. I am about a week late for this artical. This artical is a fine example of many peer reviewed papers that get published that shouldn’t have. Some very knowledgeable commentors missed your very easy sanity check you made below. One giant win turbine for every 9 people on the earth is a bit much. I hate to admit that I didn’t catch the huge error either. Glad I didn’t jump on the comment bandwagon to soon, I would hate to have to apologize to Griff. A similar thing happened many months ago with a determination of the number of power plants required in the UK to replace ff heating and power electric vehicles. We don’t want to be like the CAGW crowd that blindly accepts wrong information. I hope by inserting Anthony Watts name here that it will be noticed by him or his moderators and be corrected.

  33. Well lets see – Germany, UK, Denmark, Spain, Italy -highly industrialised modern, developed countries running on up to 35 to 40% renewables, no collapse, no grid failures, whole country not covered in turbines.

    • “Griff August 14, 2017 at 12:26 am

      …Spain, Italy -highly industrialised…”

      Really? Spain, ~25% unemployment. ~45% unemployed youth, Italy, similar. And now these countries are turning away their major source of income, tourists!

      • “Griff August 14, 2017 at 4:30 am”

        When industry shuts down due to expensive energy, what do you think happens to employment rates? Spain, Italy and South Australia (SA) have been following the same path, SA ahead by a long margin in the race to the bottom. GM Holden, pulled out of SA citing energy costs as one of the drivers. And you say renewables have nothing to do with that.

    • UK is in no way 35% renewables. Denmark and Germany have 3X the electricity prices as US (and rely on France nuclear to stabilize grid). 3X price means my $1800/yr electricity bill becomes $5400–ouch!

    • Germany keeps burning lignite. Being tied to the European grid, there is NO way to tell how much they rely on renewables. The number is bogus. Always has been. (Germany and Spain are smaller than some states in the USA and tiny compared to China. Maybe look at a LARGE country and see how that works.)

      • Except that imports and exports of electricity, by country, to/from Germany are tallied.
        (It now exports more to France than it imports)

        And the first lignite plants are now on the closure schedule.

      • Griff: Interesting how we both read the news and your conclusion and mine are so very different. As far as I have read, more and more lignite plants are going to keep the grid from collapsing. As far as wind and solar, physics says it’s not feasible. If it were, we would never have changed to oil and gas. You can’t make energy from weather work without bending reality to fit the scenario. It is what it is.

      • Sheri – there aren’t more and more lignite plants in Germany…

        The last German coal plant, ever, Dateln 4, is 75% built and they are arguing about whether to even finish it.
        The power companies in the majority of EU countries have pledged ‘no more coal plant’ from 2020.

        There is a list of coal plants for retirement.

        Yes, we seem to have different streams of information… I look at websites for the electricity, coal and power industries for my information, not news sites.

  34. Yep…. This ecofascistic anti hydrocarbon movement is akin to the “Xhosa Cattle Killing Movement” back in 1856-57….. They killed all their cattle and burned their crops and houses to appease the Gods and purify themselves so that the Europeans would be driven from the land by the ancestors….. Predictably, the Xhosa starved in their tens of thousands and rendered themselves utterly destitute….

    Seems we have a group that wants to do the same thing, but with our energy production rather than cattle and crops.

  35. Total energy used in 2014 according to wiki was 109,000 TWh/y, which puts a steady state plant generation at 109,000/(365×24) = 12 TW, not 25,000 TW.

    12 TW is around 4,000 medium sized nuclear plants, world wide. Very doable.

    12TW is around 4,000,000 square kilometres of wind turbines. About half the USA. At an average of 1MW per turbine output (NOT nameplate capacity) that would be around 12 million wind turbines.

    Of course it would require MASSIVE storage to cope with the intermittency.

    The fact remains that of low carbon is what you want, you have no choice but intermittent renewables plus pie-in-the-sky storage at astronomical costs in REAL terms – not magic money tree terms – , OR nuclear. Sh1tloads of luvverly nukes.

    Which is why post the Late David Mackay, Britain is committed to at least some nuclear power. Fracking will help in the shorter term, but in he long term the nucleus promises thousands of years of fuel, and all you need is access to seawater in the limit.

    Generating enough imprimatur energy with nukes is actually the easy part, its deploying it in areas other than mechanical energy and heating that is the problem.

    Carbon based fuels are used as reducing agents to smelt metals, and make e.g. cement, as portable fuel sources for off grid power, and fotr other industrials feedstick purposes.

    In the paper I cited earlier*, I made a reasonable case for synthetic carbon based fuels from nuclear energy water and CO2. Not ideal, but at a high cost, these might suffice.

    The fact remains that fossil fuels will become uneconomic at some point in the future compared with nuclear power.

    Ex of government interference making the problem worse by insisting on even more expensive renewables and storage, the natural market forces will tend to simply switch anything to nuclear electric that is in fact cheaper than fossil fuels.

    All we need to ensure is that the West still understands nuclear technology, and does not end up as deeply indebted to china as it now is to Saudi Arabia, for oil, and all the political issues that has entailed…

    Having so ensured, what will slowly happen is that nuclear power will replace existing plant, and more and more things that can be plugged into an ever expanding electricity grid, will be. I envisage a 50 year plus period in which this slowly takes place. I won’t live to see it.

    This isn’t a crisis, but its a direction things will tend towards. In due course. In the meantime no hurry. Plenty of frack-able gas and mine-able coal, and nuclear made massively expensive due to over regulation…


    • And yet almost nobody is building nuclear power…

      2 out of 4 under construction in the US suspended this month and another one in trouble… S Korea and France going to reduce future use of nukes..

      • Griff is right!

        Almost nobody build power plants of any kind. It is a small industry. How many of you know so someone who works in the power industry? If you live in places like Richland, Washiongton; or Lynchberg, VA lots of you you have neighbors in the power industry. People in NYC not so much.

        For the most part the same companies that build wind turbines build build nuke plants.

        We build steam plants because our customers need electricity. We build wind turbines because politicians mandate it.

        We do not build a lot of nuke because the produce a lot of power and run a long time. My first commercial nuke is the equivalent of 60,000 wind turbines when it comes to actually making electricity.

        For more than 20 years, nuclear power has provided 20% of US power.

        Wind power is like the hula hoop. It is a fad. Every other generation thinks if cool but they soon lose interest.

        As a mechanical engineer I think the modern wind turbine is a marvel but not compared to a steam plant.

  36. Paul Driessen is exaggerating quite a lot.

    The numbers of humans that will experience the long term effects of the demise of fossil fuels will probably be less than15% of humanity.
    The other 85% will be dead in less than a couple of decades from the short term effects of a fossil fuel free utopia.
    Full employment will be the order of the day for that couple of decades, digging graves by pick and shovel and shovelling ashes.

    Give perhaps a half a century and the mega cities of today with their 20 millions plus inhabitants will be down to Rome size at its peak, about a million inhabitants.

    Earth’s less developed areas and a even a lot of rural areas in the developed world might still have a significant percentage of their inhabitants who have access to food and water supplies and who know how to grow food crops albeit living a life that bears little or no resemblence to the comfortable well fed life style of today.
    The real fossil fuel free holocaust will be deep inside of the big cities where there is no longer any concept of how food is produced or where it comes from, where there are no natural fuel and heating sources, where there is no natural large volume water supplies and where there is a piping system for water and sewerage but no city centred treatment system for their raw output and therfore disease control.
    Nor the absolutely essential electrical power needed to drive the great pumps that are the main essential item that keeps both water and sewerage systems operating today in the big and mega sized cities.

    And then there will be the total break down in societal structures and public mores and law and order as desperation and hunger sets in amongst the millions who never ever had any connection with or understand at all the city’s complete reliance on the natural world outside of the city limits and who know nothing at all of the role that energy and its great distrubution systems, transport systems, food production and distribution and water and sewerage systems all play in keeping disease at bay and human life today at a tolerable level of comfort and ease.

    • It seem highly likely that the more specialised a species becomes the less change it is able to tolerate in its environment. Western City Man is probably the most specialised of all our forms and the most vulnerable to environmental change. Country Man will live at a lower rate, grow & harvest food, draw water from wells and live in unheated / uncooled houses. Far too busy to read a book, look at the internet, shop on line or travel. Much as most of man has lived for most of time.

      Alternatively and perhaps more likely: mankind, who to date has been very inventive, will solve the real problems as and when they arise. The cost of going hydrocarbon free before you have to is just too great and assumes it is THE answer. It may be the wrong answer or perhaps there is no question to answer just yet.

  37. On another note, it seems to me that the law of unintended consequences could come into play here. AFAIK, no one has done any research on whether windmills are likely to have a negative impact on, well, wind. In reducing wind around the world, is it even remotely possible that this could affect the rotation of the earth, or cause other weather anomalies, as in the butterfly effect?
    Just sayin…

    • I keep researching this. You’re right, there’s not a lot of data out there. Winds have slowed, but it cannot yet be attributed to a specific cause. I’m guessing since skyscrapers and large cities affect wind speed, turbines probably do to. The harvest of wind becomes less and less as more and more turbines go up, it seems. (Again, I am not saying the turbines caused it, only that the wind is slowing, in contrast to Al Gore’s contention that things are getting worse and more extreme.)

  38. Just a peeve: I wish people would stop calling hydrocarbons ‘fossil fuels.’ Fossils came much later than the beds of algae we get HCs from, and there’s not much carbon in them.

  39. I was liking this article until the final paragraph, when we are informed that the greatest threats are Iran, North Korea and Islamic Terrorism. I would ask the author the question, how many terrorist attacks in the west have been carried out by Shi’a Moslems (ie from Iran)? Answer – zero. How many countries has North Korea attacked? Again zero. Has NK been attacked? Yes, by the United States, which carpet bombed the country from end to end, with no regard to civilians. I am frankly surprised at how the author has fallen in with neo con ideology.

  40. On Driessen’s math errors, a 2012 pro-wind article in US News on a Stanford study estimated 4 million turbines for half of electrical energy needs in 2030. Half. By the way, the pro-wind article has the good sense to recommend that 50% of electricity is a max and recommends other sources of energy. And here we are at WUWT discussing how 100% could be reasonable? And for what solid reason would we want to do this?

    I also saw the number of wind turbines in the world in 2012 placed at 225,000 in response by a pro-wind group to the question of how many, (4 million divided by 225,000) 18 times the number of turbines in my region is still oppressive and perfectly capable of much of the environmental damage Driessen writes. So, 18 times the subsidies and 18 times the price hikes not counting the environmental damage and economic costs of the battery storage necessary for even 50% wind? Why? Because we can? And then double our dependency again? By way of reasonableness, I have already run my own numbers for what it would take to replace the single Illinois nuclear power plant near me with wind (permitting impermissible interment wind production) It would take a 96% increase n the number of turbines officially listed in Illinois in 2013, the fourth largest wind state in the US. In short, way, way too many to replace just the nuclear plants in Illinois.

    BTW, wind industry success requires the demise of other sources of energy currently existing and the exclusion of any that might be developed in the future. And we’re paying them to do it? OOOFM. (Out of our minds.)

    Side note: Do you suppose GE would withdraw from competitive technologies if planning on making 4 million turbines by 2030? And maybe another 6 million more by 2050? It’s helping make other technologies more expensive as we sleep.

    • 25 years.

      The world’s first offshore wind farm just got dismantled after successfully producing power for its 25 year design life.

      solar panels however are now expected to last 30 years with minimal degradation

  41. If @Coach Springer August 14, 2017 at 9:31 am is right and we need 4 million wind turbines for 50% power in the US, then 100% would need 8 million.

    Okay, I know, the wind does not blow all the time.

    So, you need to study seasonal wind patterns by area to see how many area ‘wind farms’ you you would need.

    Lets say, you can split the states into 3 areas, east, mid and western areas, and the wind may not blow in one of them for 2 weeks.

    You will need to build sufficient additional turbines in all areas to be able to supply an area that is currently without wind.

    Also, beef up the grid lines to be able to supply double or triple power to cover for windless days.

    Getting a bit expensive now?

    Then you ask, what about grid stability, synchronizing, black start etc.

    Wind turbines can do that if you only run them at 50% of their available power, so you always have more to deliver when required.

    To make up for the 50% power loss to the system, we have to double the number of generators again.

    The one thing I can’t get round currently is how to provide power to a turbine when it is disconnected from the grid due to a grid fault?

    Offshore turbines have emergency diesel generators which kick in when the grid is disconnected to tower. This enables the safety systems, turning, feathering, breaking, oil pumps, cooling etc to keep the generator safe until grid power is returned. Where does the diesel fuel come from ? Replace with batteries?

    So we could do it, but it would cost so much, despoil so much and not guarantee a 24×7 supply.


    When you get one number wrong, the rest of it goes to shît, quick. Specifically, the conversion between kilowatt-HOURS and kilowatts of generation.

    Everything is off in the wild claims, therein.
    It doesn’t even survive the first sniff test.

    25,000,000,000 megawatts is 25,000,000,000,000,000 watts. Divide by what, 7,500,000,000 people and you get 3,333,333 watts per person. Sorry … I don’t know what’d I’d even do with a megawatt. Seriously.

    IF however, you divide 3,333,333 by (365 × 24) you get the more reasonable “380 watts per person at any given time, average”.

    So, they confused kilowatt hours and kilowatts. And that dastardly 8,760 hours per year.

    if 35% of our present-day total world energy were PV
    & 50% of our … is wind
    & 15% is hydro, then

    20,000 km² needed for the PV at (20% efficiency, 15% daily availability), of the cells. Maybe 2× the land area? 3×? Whatever… its not hundreds of millions of hectares. Over 1,200,000 windmills needed in the 5 megawatt super-giant class. And hydro – worldwide – would need to be about 1,000 GW plate output, and about 500 GW average. 24, 7, 365, “50%” duty cycle.

    Its nowhere near as bleak as the math-tard that put together this hubris-n-hyperventillation article is on about.

  43. World population before the fossil fuel revolution: less than a billion.

    Now: going on eight billion.

    Population is roughly proportional to fossil fuel use.

    ‘Nuff said.

  44. “We’d need more than 830 million gigantic 3-megawatt turbines!” (to generate electricity equal to current global usage)

    This is one 3-megawatt turbine per nine people on Earth, a result that doesn’t pass the giggle test. You really ought to be embarrassed to uncritically quote such obvious nonsense.

  45. Ce pamphlet très intéressant sur l’utopie des énergies renouvelables est à rapprocher de la réflexion de Christian Gérondeau dans son livre : “Un Mythe planétaire”
    Celui’ci dit que la réduction de nos énergies fossiles, que certains pays s’efforceraient d’engager, serait de toute façon vouée à l’échec. Car d’autres pays, notamment les plus pauvres, — ceux qui ont le plus besoin de ces énergies-là –, consommeraient ce que les autres n’auraient pas voulu utiliser.
    Lorsque nos prophètes réaliseront que celà est irréalisable, peut-être réviseront-ils leur jugement sur la catastrophe climatique auto-suggérée !?!
    …..Ce serait une bonne chose sur la sérénité d’un débat indispensable, et finalement positif, sur le climat et sur l’utilisation de l’énergie !

    Climatiquement vôtre. JEAN

    [I couldn’t have said it better myself! -mod]

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