“There Has Never Been An Energy Transition”

Guest laugh by David Middleton

If this wasn’t funny enough…

Primary Energy

This is too fracking funny.!

Richard Newell, Daniel Raimi

Aug 17


Despite renewables growth, there has never been an energy transition

Since 2010, the costs of producing electricity from solar photovoltaic systems have decreased by more than 80%. Wind and solar now vie with natural gas to provide new electricity generating capacity. To some, these trends signal the world’s latest energy transition: away from fossil fuels and toward a renewable future.

The big picture: These historical changes in the energy system, however, have been a matter of addition, not transition. Although the percentage shares of biomass, coal and oil in our energy supply have fallen with the rise of alternatives, their total use continues to grow. The world has never experienced an energy transition, but the challenge of climate change means that, for the first time, one will need to begin.


The bottom line: To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, renewables and new technologies will need to do more than build atop CO2–intensive fossil fuels — they will need to push out incumbents while at the same time expanding global energy access and reducing the system’s environmental footprint.

Richard Newell is president and CEO of Resources for the Future. Daniel Raimi is a senior research associate in RFF’s Energy and Climate Program.


“Expert Voices” wake up and smell the fossil fuel-fired toast!

One of my favorite sayings is, “We didn’t leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones.”  Technically we never left the Stone Age because we use more rocks now than we did in the Stone Age.

And we never left the “Wood Age.”  There was no energy transition from biomass (wood) to fossil fuels. Coal piled on top of biomass, oil piled on top of coal and natural gas piled on top of oil…


It’s a fossil fueled world.


If wishes were unicorns, we’d all have a merry energy transition.


To the extent that “renewables” are replacing anything, it’s mostly been nuclear power.

Fossil Fuel World

(Yes, “fueled” is spelled wrong. I’ll edit the graph when I get around to it.)

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September 20, 2018 6:23 am

They have (re)discovered Jevon’s Paradox.

Reply to  RegGuheert
September 20, 2018 1:18 pm

” we use more rocks now than we did in the Stone Age.”

Nice one, I’d never looked at it like that.

“Guest laugh by David Middleton” . I once accused you of a guest rant ( which I think was an accurate description ) , since then you now seem to have adapted this idea for nearly every post. I’m glad you were inspired. I appreciate the humour. I enjoy most of you posts.

Reply to  Greg
September 20, 2018 10:06 pm

As with ships, some people seem to use rocks for ballast in the cranium. We read about a lot of them here.

Sam Pyeatte
Reply to  Hoser
September 22, 2018 7:39 pm

More people are “stoned” now than ever before.

Tom Gelsthorpe
Reply to  Greg
September 21, 2018 5:49 am

“We use more rocks now than we did in the Stone Age.” Witty, insightful, and true. I wouldn’t be surprised if modern riprap along Riviera shorelines — not including other uses of stone in construction — used more stone in the last 200 years than thousands of Stone Age years before civilization began.

Reply to  Tom Gelsthorpe
September 21, 2018 9:22 am

Don’t forget the rock we make; concrete.

September 20, 2018 6:26 am


Thanks a lot for posting that last graph again…





September 20, 2018 6:31 am

Solar is cost competive, only if you ignore all the other costs needed to provide solar power. Such as storage and 100% backup needed for when the sun doesn’t shine and your batteries have gone dry.
It doesn’t include the massive levels of subsidies, nor does it include the mandate to buy solar when it is available which makes all other forms of power more expensive.

Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2018 6:51 am


Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2018 7:01 am

Back in the late 1970s, we thought when photovoltaic dropped to $0.50 per peak watt (in 1970s money), it would be economic. We passed that a long time ago. LOL

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  commieBob
September 20, 2018 7:18 am

It’s economic — for some purposes — e.g. running emergency phone service at remote rural locations. It is just not economic for electric grid operation. There it is diseconomic. And always will be because, even if the cells were free ($0.00) the system would be unaffordable because of the cost of back-up, whether batteries (ha-ha) or gas turbines.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
September 20, 2018 8:45 am

Even in the 1970s it was economic compared with the alternative which was a weekly helicopter trip to haul batteries. The system payed for itself in way less than a year.

Reply to  commieBob
September 20, 2018 9:57 am

Same reason they built a NPP in the Antarctic.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  commieBob
September 21, 2018 12:46 am


The whole point is that it was cost-effective. That doesn’t mean ‘cheap’. It was ‘worth it’, not ‘cheap’. ‘Cheaper’ is good too.

ferd berple
Reply to  commieBob
September 21, 2018 4:30 am

Even in the 1970s it was economic compared with the alternative which was a weekly helicopter trip to haul batteries.
Sound like a case of solid gold boat anchors. It makes the platinum boat anchors seem like a bargain.

The fuel you used in a single helicopter trip could have powered a small generator for many weeks for a fraction of the price of the solar panels, with much better reliability than the solar panels.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
September 20, 2018 3:17 pm

exactly, solar is a great technology for niche applications. Force fitting into the power grid makes no sense unless the goals have more to do with rent seeking or virtue signalling rather than providing a reliable power grid.

Reply to  commieBob
September 20, 2018 10:25 am

Well, the good old Commie Republic of California has mandated that ALL new housing built after 2020 must be outfitted with an amount of solar PV so as to provide no less than 50% of the monthly power said household is nominally expected to consume over time.

And the same goes for new construction on apartment complexes and office buildings.

MEANWHILE, the largest single consumer of electricity in the Great Purple State of California is … you guessed it … not crypto currency mining, not chip making, and not even outsourced server farm facilities, but indoor POT growing. Marijuana. Kind of shows where our priorities are.

I’m betting that the business-use license for pot growing indoor nurseries will skyrocket in the next year in anticipation of having to — post 2020 — plant an untenable number of PV panels on said indoor farm roofs. Just saying.


Reply to  GoatGuy
September 20, 2018 11:05 am

They already have so many mandates that housing is absurdly expensive. Just add solar panels to new housing to make it cheaper (not).

Hoyt Clagwell
Reply to  GoatGuy
September 20, 2018 12:31 pm

So pot growers will put solar panels on their roofs to collect sunlight, to transform it into electricity, to power grow lights, which replicate sunlight, to grow plants? Sounds like the long way around. Will they be artificially increasing the CO2 levels as well?

Reply to  Hoyt Clagwell
October 4, 2018 2:46 am

Co2 is used in greenhouses at up to 25x normal to srimulate growth.

Reply to  GoatGuy
September 20, 2018 1:29 pm

Kind of shows where our priorities are.

It also explains why the priorities are that way.

I was wondering if California is suffering from the munchies. California snack food consumption information is hard to find. Hmm. Are they hiding something?

Komrade Kuma
Reply to  commieBob
September 20, 2018 10:52 pm

Oh shut up man, the fuzz are watching… and listening, man and man… just knowing….


You got any a those cookies left?….


I gotta take a leak, man….. can I pee on your plants man? I’m kinda freaked about going outside man…. the fuzz have those drone things man…..and I get sunburnt so easily these days… my skin is soooo pale… no wonder they call us white…. did you put acid in those cookies man… oh wow… Jerry Brown for President man… you know it makes sense man….whhsssstt….


Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2018 8:58 am

Speaks volumes that the cost of solar photovoltaic power generation has decreased 80% since 2010 and it is STILL NOT cost competitive.

Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2018 10:04 am

And IMHO the ONLY reason it is now is that renewable energy uses the grid as a massive backup power source, which doubles the cost of electricity for users obtaining power from utilities using renewable power.

Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2018 11:33 am

“Solar is cost competitive, only if you ignore” the fact that the market value of the solar energy is often negative since it is often available when it it is not needed and cannot respond to demand.
It is also generally unavailable during peak demand such as the coldest nights in winter.

Reply to  Billy
September 20, 2018 2:03 pm

As a retired electric utilitiy engineer I am well aware of contracts by utilities to wind farm builders/owners that PAY the utilities so that guarantee a market for their power. Many contracts are positive but they are NOT making a profit on electricity, they are making a profit on subsidies.

Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2018 3:41 pm

Exactly – solar and wind costs MUST include the costs to ensure 100% availability 24×7.

Reply to  MarkW
September 21, 2018 8:13 am

Nor does it include the massive damage that would be done when grid scale battery storage fails and goes boom.

Tom Halla
September 20, 2018 6:32 am

Oh goody! As the purported cost of wind and solar has come down “80%”, they must be price competitive with conventional sources. Given that, all the mandated purchase rules and other subsidies are no longer required, so they should be revoked.
It might require both foam earplugs and hearing protector muffs to reduce the sound of the green blob screaming to a hearing-safe level.

kent beuchert
Reply to  Tom Halla
September 20, 2018 6:51 am

Wind costs have not declined 80% – the claim was only that solar power has, but that claim is misleading, since at one point solar was so expensive that it could only be used on spacecraft.
The statement “costs down 80%” is meaningless and cannot be used in any argument about relative costs. It is a mark of sloppy thinking. Renewable generators are not similar to dispatchable generators (including hydro) and their costs require calculations of side effect costs, which are very substantial, since they require spending lots of money to maintain backup generation capacity, even if seldom used. Batteries do not magically transform renewables like wind and solar into dispatchable generators. Basically renewables require duplicative capacity that dispatchable generators never require.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  kent beuchert
September 20, 2018 9:22 am

Agreed x97 million.

Non-dispatchable, unreliable, unpredictable, inconsistent power generation like wind and solar (with the small-scale exceptions noted for remote “off grid” low power applications) are WORSE than useless. They have massively NEGATIVE value.

Reply to  kent beuchert
September 20, 2018 9:36 am

The only purpose for batteries is to give you enough time to get the backups online.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2018 9:46 am

Oh, come on, MarkW – they give you “fossil fuel free” power for a few minutes at least. So that we’re, you know, “doing something.” /SARC 😀

Bob boder
Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2018 9:55 am

Or for powering my phone

Reply to  Bob boder
September 20, 2018 12:20 pm

around the world across countless time periods, give people access to coal and a mineral ores and in no time they’ve made tools and got some industry underway.

I was thinking, I wonder if we gave the modern super advanced green intelligentsia a pile of photovoltaics and the same piles of ores and dropped them on an island what they would achieve with it all ? I suspect they’ll all have fully charged phones and be arguing whether it was safe to plug in their espresso machined or whether they should wait for an electrician to do it for them.

but seriously, toss the idea into a group of greens – If PV’s really were such an advanced source of energy and with them supposedly being so cheap and so advanced and easily available.. how is it there’s no users of such tech using the PV’s to build more PV’s ? .. using an energy source to build more energy is a pretty good indicator that it’s effective – PVs never seem to have achieved much in all the years they’ve been with us.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Bob boder
September 21, 2018 8:13 am

I know it is possible to arc weld using a lead acid battery, and know someone who did it: repaired a gas line on a car in the middle of nowhere using carbon rods from dry cell batteries, but…

Where is there a useful battery-powered arc welder? When industry starts using them routinely, we will have solved the storage problem and PV will be a viable competitor. I would also accepting recycling aluminum as another example.

Reply to  kent beuchert
September 20, 2018 11:10 am

It is not “sloppy thinking” it is deliberate misrepresentation.

They know that revealing the current cost of solar energy would be a disaster, so they spin the cost as lower than it was.

Reply to  Tom Halla
September 20, 2018 10:37 am

Good science project for HS Jr’s seniors.
Buy a UPS for a computer system, a LARGE one.
After a full day charge time how long the computer stays on line with the UPS Auto Shutdown disabled on the PC.
After a full day charge replace the PC system with the average sized Flat Screen TV in use today ~32 inc or so. Time how long the TV stays on after removing power from the UPS.

I suggest this “experiment because I have been having a lot of intermittent power outages recently. Some even dim the lights for a few seconds, which is definitely not good for a TV. Wanting to prevent destroying my TV before I had it Paid for I placed it on a 1500 VA UPS. Solved my problems for the intermittent brownouts and momentary blackouts. However, one day when the power went out for an extended period, even though there were fully charged, new batteries in the UPS the UPS shut down the TV on low battery voltage at after about 12 to 15 minutes.
This also makes me wonder what is going to be the cost to Renewable power users in replacement electronic equipment. Even my Non-Dimmable LED lights are self destructing from these random electrical problems, @$15 to $20 a POP. Have had to replace four in the two weeks we have had these random outages. Ready to put the incandescents back in.

Jeff in Calgary
Reply to  usurbrain
September 20, 2018 12:54 pm

I had a small UPS that I used to power my high speed internet modem, Wi-Fi router, and VoIP router. Until the UPS’s batteries died, I never had my internet go down. Once during a power outage, I was the only Wi-Fi detectable; our laptop’s (with their batteries) were able to use the internet just fine. This worked great for me because those items are low current users.

September 20, 2018 7:29 am

As mildly pointed out we have had several energy transitions. We started out using mostly wood, and then when wood got scarce (and there were tax incentives as well) in England coal was used. Coal tars and gases were used for locomotion and lighting among other things. Small engines were made to power things like sewing machines – these engines eventually went into cars – and we transitioned to oil/electricity – with the electricity being generated by coal, but with Natural Gas, hydropower and some nuclear power .

Seems like there have been several transitions. Of course almost every old technology is still used in some form somewhere – there are places that still rely on wood as England did 500 years ago.

Reply to  marque2
September 20, 2018 7:43 am

“…there are places that still rely on wood as England did 500 years ago.”

Such as the Drax Power Station which burns wood pellets imported from the US?

Reply to  David Middleton
September 20, 2018 11:19 am

These so called “renewable energy sources” are not in any way a “transition” when it requires fossil fuels in one part of the world to provide this metal, more fossil fuels in that part of the world to mine this mineral to make this part and another part of the world uses fossil fuels to refine this raw material into this shape to make this part…etc… That they are even called “renewables” is a misnomer. That they even sell them as “Clean Energy” is a misnomer. When to make them requires producing more Carbon Dioxide in other parts of the world, defeats the narrative of them being “renewable clean energy” in another part of the world, based upon the misconception that CO2 is a pollutant they are trying to reduce. By adding CO2 to the environment today, does not reduce CO2 tomorrow.


Reply to  David Middleton
September 20, 2018 1:04 pm

I maintain that this has happened at least twice in history. It is never 100% – how much electricity and how many homes are being heated by wood today in the USA or Western Europe? Not many at all. How many cars/machines/transportation devices are run on coal today? Unless electric – just about none.

Bull Durham
Reply to  XY
September 21, 2018 7:57 am


Your comment shows your experience is limited to urban neighborhoods. (To be fair, until we moved to a rural area after retirement, I would have agreed.)

In our rural Texas county, easily half of the homes are heated by wood burning. Almost all have forested areas from which they harvest wood during the summer (and winter if they run out due to colder-than-normal weather [NOT climate]) Homes built in the last 5 – 10 years tend to heated by electrical resistance or propane burning. A few are reported to have their own natural gas wells, but I cannot confirm that. There is NO large-scale natural gas distribution due to low population density and large distances between houses, barns and hatching facilities (large chicken raising facilities are common).

In Europe, the situation is not much different, unless their Eco-Freaks have forced all those in homes I personally visited (in the 70’s & 80’s, it is to be admitted) who heated with wood and coal stoves to convert to other means.

It also should be noted that fireplaces and stoves for heating, both gas and wood-burning, are a common feature in many, if not most, upscale urban dwellings as well as some low-income housing.

Bottom line: There ARE many homes in the US, Eastern AND Western Europe who still use wood for heating.

Reply to  Bull Durham
September 23, 2018 3:03 am

I’m in rural France, almost every single home has a wood burning stove, even new builds. The woodpiles harvested and stacked at the side of forestry areas are vast, obviously the best stuff is kept for timber, but the majority is firewood. The also stack the rubbish wood to be chipped, for making OSB/chipboard panels and wood pellets.

John Endicott
Reply to  marque2
September 20, 2018 10:59 am

marque2 it’s not a transition if you are still using the “old” as much or more than you ever did. Wood never went away as an energy source. Just ask the Drax Power Station or anyone who has (and uses) wood burning stoves and fireplaces. Or the US power plants that have switched to using wood alongside or in place of coal https://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/09/wood-burning-power-plants-misguided-climate-change-solution/

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  marque2
September 21, 2018 9:22 am


There are about 400m people dependent on coal for heating and another smaller group dependent on wood (for heating). About 3bn people depend on solid fuels for cooking.

What is to me the most surprising is how many of those three groups live in Europe, defined as the subcontinent, not the EU.

These people often have choices – electricity being the most appreciated – but choose to continue as they do for a variety of reasons. They are essentially ignored as a group with ‘needs’. Those needs are assumed to be waved away with the wand of renewables. After all, who can most easily adopt an expensive and inconsistent energy source, right? Right?

Now who’s the rube?

J Mac
September 20, 2018 7:39 am

Is that a unicorn I see peeking out of the ‘renewables’ pie slice? How apropos…

September 20, 2018 7:42 am

Some (most?) of us never left the Teen Age because we still say and do foolish things…

Reply to  David Middleton
September 20, 2018 10:19 am

David Middleton

“I have been dead for billions of years and it caused me not the slightest inconvenience”

Einstein (allegedly?).



Reply to  David Middleton
September 20, 2018 10:20 am

Everyone is gonna die, whether they grow up or not. No solution from Mr Mellencamp.

John Endicott
Reply to  JimG1
September 20, 2018 11:01 am

How do you life forever? by not dying.

September 20, 2018 7:43 am

There was a deafening silence at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle when Bishop Curry said that the world is powered by … combustion.

Prince Charles is still in rehab.

Reply to  climanrecon
September 20, 2018 10:21 am


“Prince Charles is still in rehab.”

Permanently with any luck.

Useless waste of space.

bruce ryan
September 20, 2018 7:47 am

Is that really BP’s chart…. the one with a unicorn picture in the renewable’s pie slice?
too funny.

Reply to  David Middleton
September 20, 2018 10:22 am

David Middleton

WKD! 🙂

Bruce Cobb
September 20, 2018 8:02 am

It’s becuz Big Fossil won’t allow us to transition. Hahahahahahaha!
It’s becuz of Big Fossil-funded denayers. Hahahahahahha!
It’s becuz of Conservatives, who hate the planet. Hahahahahaha!
It’s becuz The Scientists can’t communicate Climate in a way that The People can understand. Hahahaha!
Etc. /sarcnado.

Bryan A
Reply to  David Middleton
September 20, 2018 10:14 am

Ditto, Tritto and Quadritto

Ron Long
September 20, 2018 8:08 am

David, it sounds to me like you are inviting Richard and Daniel to go frack themselves.

Robert W Turner
September 20, 2018 8:09 am

Wind and solar costs have come down 80% since 2010? That’s like boasting that Chicago’s murder rate is less than yesterday.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Robert W Turner
September 20, 2018 9:27 am

In other news, your local government announced that tax increases have been reduced by 80%. LOL

Reply to  AGW is not Science
September 21, 2018 7:08 pm

So true…tax cuts are really lesser increases than the earlier over bloated opening gambit. The old bait and switch.

Steve Reddish
September 20, 2018 8:46 am

Next time someone claims photovoltaic power is ready to replace fossil fuel power, ask them why hospitals in Arizona haven’t replaced their emergency generators with solar panels and some batteries. Lots of roof area for cheap panels, lots of free sun, lots of lead time to get their batteries charged up…


Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Steve Reddish
September 20, 2018 9:06 am

That brings up an important question. Can anybody do a list of energy requirements whereby even if we went 100% nuclear for electricity, with 100% electric vehicles; what are the industries/products that will never be powered by anything except fossil fuels. Emergency generators have to be at the top of that list. Another one would be blast furnaces that are producing a product that needs high enough temperatures whereby electric arc furnaces just wont do the job. There must be dozens of other examples like this. After accumulating the list, then we have to assign total energy usage requirements per year for each and then total that up to get a minimum % of fossil fuel usage whereby it is impossible to go any lower. In other words NOT only 100% green is impossible but probably we will find that 80% green is impossible.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
September 20, 2018 9:20 am

Aircraft. And launch vehicles.

Yes there have been experimental electric aircraft. And they worked. Scaling is a real bitch, though. Aircraft take-off weight fraction is a significant factor, and therefore energy density of the propelling agent is an important factor. Propellant / oxidizer energy density is even more critical for launch vehicles.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
September 20, 2018 9:42 am

I recall from Evan Boberg’s “Common Sense Not Required: Idiots Designing Cars & Hybrid Vehicles” his discussion of how much of the gas mileage “advantage” of hybrid cars was not from the “hybrid” power train, but rather from the other “tricks” they use, like using aluminum instead of steel for hoods, trunklids and roof panels, using skinny, low rolling resistance tires (that compromise handling and braking), and so on. And how highway mileage was often worse (because of the need to haul around the dead weight of the batteries) vs. a similar size/weight ICE car.

Beyond trains that can draw electric power from a third rail or catenary setup, there really isn’t any practical use for “electric” powered transport.

Reply to  AGW is not Science
September 20, 2018 10:43 am

AGW is not Science

And if anyone believes thye motor industry isn’t fighting back against EV’s, they are sadly mistaken.

The new generation of small displacement turbocharged cars is ample evidence. Three cylinder, 1 Litre petrol cars cars producing 130 BHP. Enough to power a large five seater hatchback and have it cruising at 80 MPH+. The engines are physically tiny and light being largely aluminium.

Their forays into EV’s is as much a political ploy as a hedging of bets. Manufacturers have been experimenting with innumerable power sources for generations. They will drop EV’s at the first opportunity.

Reply to  AGW is not Science
September 20, 2018 5:42 pm


Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)


Look for the parties involved in fuel economy issues and how far this dates back to?

Patrick MJD
Reply to  AGW is not Science
September 20, 2018 9:57 pm

“HotScot September 20, 2018 at 10:43 am

And if anyone believes thye motor industry isn’t fighting back against EV’s, they are sadly mistaken.”

I am not so sure about that. VW just announced the end of the line for the iconic Beetle. VW will focus on other “family” vehicles and EV’s.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
September 20, 2018 10:24 am

Also cargo ships and pretty much all military vehicles.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
September 20, 2018 9:40 am

tiki torches

Leo Smith
Reply to  Alan Tomalty
September 20, 2018 5:23 pm

I wrote it up. Its difficult, but not totally impossible


Ultimately, you probably need to make synthetic hydrocarbon fuels for where you need them .

Max Kummerow
September 20, 2018 9:04 am

Hydro may not be as sustainable or cheap as we think. Many hydro projects will require capital investment and some may become less useful because the lake behind the dam silts up so it becomes “run of the river” rather than “store for peak demand.” Hundreds of dam are getting old and need refurbishing.

The reversal of population and economic growth will both be needed to keep the earth habitable. Technology alone won’t do it. Basic ecology: Cut fertility rates to replacement or mortality rates will increase. As close as we come to a universal law in biology. Tipping points are already being passed.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Max Kummerow
September 20, 2018 9:17 am

No they arent
THe UN and World Bank provide statistics that show/ practically prove that the world population will level off at around 11 billion (exact projection 11.2 billion). The world has never run out of resources except wood from trees( Haiti being prime example, but that was because of stupidity) and fish from certain fishing areas. However if resources are managed properly, that isnt a problem. Basic commodities like coal,gas and oil are plentiful and we are always finding more. Economic growth cannot be stopped unless you believe in Communism. Hydro is only 1 part of the electricity power mix. It should stand or fall on the economics. Electricity power generation for now is only 20% of total energy consumption anyway. If that % will go up because of push to electric vehicles, then nuclear is the way to go. France is leading the world in this regard.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
September 20, 2018 9:23 am

But aren’t France’s nuclear power stations reaching their end of life in the next decade or so, with no replacements being planned (except, of course, all those lovely wind turbines dotting the countryside)?

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
September 21, 2018 3:00 am

Macron and Hollande before him are deep into no fracking reduced nuclear (50% down from 80+%). The slack to be taken up by so-called renewables. What the rest of Europe does for electricity when a stationary high parks itself over northern Europe should be interesting.

There is increasing resistance to the trashing of the French country side with windfarms. In Limousin where I am a lot of farms have newly built barns with solar PV rooves and grow sunflowers and maize, not so many Limousin cattle these days.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Alan Tomalty
September 20, 2018 9:42 am

Can we add whale oil, bison skin leather, isinglass, and cedar from Lebanon to things we have run out of? How about things like ivory, ebony, fine hardwood gun-stocks and other things that became so rare that the cost became prohibitive for the original uses and have been replaced by plastics?

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
September 20, 2018 10:50 am

Clyde Spencer

I suspect all those things you mention were already expensive, it was plastics that became the cheaper alternative.

My folks left me numerous common Chinese ornaments (Ivory) and bits of furniture which cost them an arm and a leg in 50’s Hong Kong. No sign of them rotting like modern plastics though.

Max Kummerow
Reply to  Alan Tomalty
September 21, 2018 5:54 am

Why not solar and wind? (Although nuclear probably is a reasonable part of the mix.) As for UN population forecasts, if you look up the 2002 revision you find the 2050 projection is 8.9 billion. By the 2015 revision that has risen to almost 9.8 billion. And they give five numbers ranging from about 8 to 26 billion for 2100 depending on future fertility rates. It is by no means certain population growth will stop at 11.2 billion. It requires a lot of high fertility cultures to change their behaviors. Not happening fast enough right now. The world is evolving towards poor and high fertility by “cultural selection” (which has replaced “natural selection” since we figured out how to keep kids from dying).

Bull Durham
Reply to  Max Kummerow
September 21, 2018 8:11 am

Recently observed personally two of the reasons wind will never be a reliable large-grid energy source on its own.

Driving across north Texas (AKA ‘the Panhandle’), we passed thru several very large arrays of some of the larger wind-driven turbines. Going northwest, at least half of the turbines were not turning due to excessive winds (at least, that was my evaluation based on the gusts that were buffeting our car). Coming back, going southeast, NONE of the turbines were turning on a beautiful, clear day, with gentle zephyrs blowing across the plains.

Both of the conditions described are common in north Texas, as well as across all of the Great Plains, which have been noted as being among the most ideal locations and geography for wind-based electrical generation.

Draw your own conclusion.

Reply to  Max Kummerow
September 22, 2018 7:30 am


Watch this video by the incomparable Hans Rosling (RIP), if you wish to learn the facts of world fertility rates and population growth:


Reply to  Alan Tomalty
September 21, 2018 7:14 pm

I’d suggest a cut in mortality rate will decrease fertility rate….thus why countries with highest lifespan have lowest birthrates.

Reply to  Max Kummerow
September 20, 2018 9:43 am

There is no evidence that the number of humans on the planet is causing a problem.
Nor is there any evidence that the earth can’t handle many times more population than we have now.
Economic growth almost always results in the population having less ecological impact, not more.

PS: Dredging the lakes behind dams is cheap.

David Chappell
Reply to  MarkW
September 20, 2018 10:56 pm

Though getting the dredgers to the lakes behind the dams may not be…

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Max Kummerow
September 20, 2018 10:30 am

Since the most valuable resource to human beings is the human brain, the more people we have the better, actually. More innovation, discoveries, new ideas, etc. That said, human populations have NEVER followed simple ever-increasing trends, so why would you expect them to now?

kevin kilty
Reply to  Paul Penrose
September 20, 2018 2:21 pm

What fraction of the human race use their brain?

Reply to  Max Kummerow
September 20, 2018 11:07 am

Max Kummerow

Western populations are suffering a crisis of declining birth rates because of increased prosperity. Hence the simplistic call from the left to encourage immigration.

The developing world is suffering a crisis of increasing population because the only solution for old age provision is to have large families to care for the elderly as there isn’t enough wealth (because of the lack of cheap fossil fuel derived energy) to allow governments the luxury of social care.

The solution is to abandon the insane drive for renewables and go full steam ahead to help developing countries enter the twenty first Century by helping them develop fossil fuel powered, grid connected electricity, generate wealth and provide social care for the elderly. No need for big families then, is there?

I cringe every time I hear the “over populated” expression because the solution is simple, affordable and humane. And as no one has ever convincingly, by empirical means, demonstrated that atmospheric CO2 increases the temperature of the planet, I believe leading alarmists are criminally culpable of the deaths of 120,000,000 people by 2050 (32 years away) from smoke inhalation, by being forced to burn animal faeces and foraged timber for cooking and heating (WHO estimates) when the solution to both that and the population issue is at hand.

Reply to  HotScot
September 20, 2018 6:47 pm

You nailed it.

Roger Knights
September 20, 2018 9:07 am

I’ve read that the cost decline applies only to the solar panel, when is about 25% of the cost of an installation,not to the inverter, metal rack, wiring, installation cost, etc.

GREG in Houston
September 20, 2018 9:11 am

Solar will be economically viable in 10 years, and always will be.

Reply to  GREG in Houston
September 20, 2018 11:08 am

It already is with my generous solar FIT scheme sponging off large thermal generators and my neighbours at present (hey I don’t make the rules just play by them). At present my solar inverter samples the largely thermal powered grid and matches the frequency in order to contribute but I’m just worried about the chicken and egg situation long term with 100% unreliables. If the grid goes into cascading meltdown like it did in SA which solar inverter in my street or beyond gets the guernsey to begin so that the rest can sample the frequency and fire up accordingly?

Harry Passfield
Reply to  GREG in Houston
September 20, 2018 12:05 pm

Greg: “Solar will be economically viable in 10 years, and always will be.”

Just after Fusion becomes economical, eh?

R Davis
September 20, 2018 9:24 am

“the total use continues to grow” = of energy:

* people who have never had the luxury of electricity have been switched on ?? millions of them now have energy to burn.
* we have mobile phones – we are online – my computer is on 24/7 almost albeit I threw away the TVset.
* our governments have gone mad with desire for security technology – it all adds up.
* business & corporate are also utilizing all the mod cons to extravagant lengths – hang the cost.
Ever thus – the more money one earns the more way one can find to spend it – energy – we can’t get enough of it.
* private transport is now electric – I have a power wheelchair & a mobility scooter – but look at the marvellos toys for the average commuter.

R Davis
September 20, 2018 9:27 am

Just 1 example – Magic terrain power wheelchairs – what’s not to like here ??

September 20, 2018 9:40 am

Very good stuff. These alone are worth hanging on a wall:

– One of my favorite sayings is, “We didn’t leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones.” Technically we never left the Stone Age because we use more rocks now than we did in the Stone Age.

– And we never left the “Wood Age.” There was no energy transition from biomass (wood) to fossil fuels. Coal piled on top of biomass, oil piled on top of coal and natural gas piled on top of oil…

Reminds me of the weird debate about what happened to the use of whale oil. Did we run out of whales, i.e. were they getting so scarce, the price of oil was too high for consumers, and it was just too hard to get a whale? Did the shortage of whale oil, i.e. price, drive innovation to come up with kerosene from petroleum, as opposed to other more or less inferior alternatives? And then, weirdly, did this new kind of kerosene beat out its competitors at least partly because of a high tax on alcohol, i.e. a kind of subsidy for kerosene? See Andy May: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/04/24/the-pbs-newshour-whale-oil-myth/

At any rate, we did transition from whale oil for indoor lighting to … other things. Oh yes, electricity.

Reply to  David Middleton
September 20, 2018 11:03 am

The locations that use old technology have changed though. The less affluent get the technological had-me-downs.

Harry Passfield
Reply to  David Middleton
September 20, 2018 12:03 pm

An old joke, David, and apologies for boring those who know it:

Child: Gramps, what did people use for lighting before candles?
Gramps: Electricity, my boy, electricity. [sigh]

R Davis
September 20, 2018 9:46 am

Interesting article:

Wolf Street –
1. Why Have US Electricity Sales Surged in 2018 After Stagnation For Years.
2. Automakers Take Note: Americans Are Changing How They Get to Work by Wolf Richter.

Reply to  R Davis
September 20, 2018 12:17 pm

Electric sales for the same reason as before. The economy is surging.
Sales of electric cars are still too small to show up in the numbers, much less be a “driving” force.

Buck Wheaton
September 20, 2018 9:53 am

Anytime solar energy is praised by those who have been hypnotized by its allure, I am obligated to point out that of all available technologies for generating utility power, Photovoltaic (PV) solar cells, by their very design and construction, are substantially vulnerable to instant and total destruction by any nuclear EMP. For this reason alone it is just imprudent to rely on PV solar for more than just a few percent of utility power.

Yes, other technologies also have vulnerability to EMP. But each is vulnerable in a different way. Most important, the probability that a given device will be damaged or destroyed is lower than that of PV solar cells. It is my personal opinion that in excess of 90% of PV solar cells that have line-of-sight visibility to an EMP event will be destroyed. In fact, I don’t see how it is possible that 100% of them are not destroyed. They just have a built-in EMP antenna (in the form of the current collector grid), and they have almost no resilience to a Vr spike of even a few hundred volts. PV cells are just giant diodes with a junction that has the area of the entire cell. Any defect in that junction means a short.

Reply to  Buck Wheaton
September 20, 2018 12:35 pm

It doesn’t take an EMP to knock solar arrays out of commission. A simple gale will suffice. Same for wind turbines.
Storms are common. EMP’s not so much.

Jeff in Calgary
Reply to  rocketscientist
September 20, 2018 1:27 pm

When Irma went through Orlando, I was curious to see how the Disney solar array would hold up. Reports showed Orlando did have hurricane level winds. Disney’s solar array came through unscathed.

It is located in a clearing in a forest, so I can’t tell you how strong the wind was at the array, but I am not as concerned about wind for solar as I was before.

Leo Smith
Reply to  rocketscientist
September 20, 2018 5:27 pm

heck even sunset will do it

Jeff in Calgary
Reply to  Buck Wheaton
September 20, 2018 1:30 pm

That sounds fun. I am going to through a solar panel into our EMP tester. My guess is that physically larger the panel is, the more vulnerable it will be. I highly doubt a solar powered calculator is going to be effected.

Ewin Barnett
September 20, 2018 10:09 am

As for “transitions”, back when energy was substantially a free market, people were free to substitute any source of energy they pleased. So the driving factor was cost and to a lesser extent, the opportunity cost of use and suitability.

Throughout human history, we have consumed hydrocarbons for light and heat. But we don’t consume whales or coal seams or crude oil, we consume fuel products that are made from these sources. Even today, we consume very carefully made liquid fuel products in the form of gasolines or jet fuel which are made to exacting specifications. The average consumer just cannot purchase crude oil. If they did, they would not be able to use it in any consumer device. None are sold that directly burn it.

But each of these fuels is made by taking a feedstock of hydrocarbons, breaking them down and then assembling the desired target fuel product. What counts is not the cost of the raw source of hydrocarbons but the market value of the resulting fuel product. When the difference between the cost of the feedstock and the value of the product gets too little, other feedstocks are substituted. We can make diesel fuel from coal, from crude oil, sewage sludge or even from scraps from processing Butterball turkeys.

If there is any “transition” it is always related to what fuel products the market values and what feedstocks are available.

Now, some advances in the field of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) will be a true transition, but it will take place over a period of years, as long as government does not intrude, like it did with the shameful and distruptive forced adoption of CFL lighting.

See for example: https://brilliantlightpower.com/news/

Also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Changing_World_Technologies

John Tillman
Reply to  Ewin Barnett
September 20, 2018 12:09 pm


IMO, if cold fusion were a demonstrable thing, it would be attracting investors.

September 20, 2018 10:17 am

France looks like the only sizable country to have ever pulled off such an energy transition.


September 20, 2018 10:54 am

The only “transition” will occur when/if we run out of fossil fuels and don’t heed the importance of nuclear. Fossil fuels are just too economical, reliable, and portable. In any case, none of us will be around to witness it.

Steve O
September 20, 2018 11:24 am

It’s the Greenies fault that coal and oil have as big a share of the energy pie as they do. We’d have converted much of that to nuclear if they hadn’t been standing in the way.

You don’t suppose they ever estimate their own contribution to the end of humanity, do you? (Maybe someone here will do that for them.)

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
September 20, 2018 11:27 am

Please don’t neglect the issue of how much of the world’s money and wealth in the form of misdirected human effort this so-called transition to the new energies of solar and wind has squandered for the minuscule and unreliable power so far produced.

The words “criminal waste” hardly seem adequate .

September 20, 2018 11:51 am

Spelled wrong? Could have fuled me.

Reply to  BallBounces
September 20, 2018 12:20 pm

There’s no fuel like an old fuel.

Harry Passfield
September 20, 2018 11:56 am

The thing is, Greens and Alarmists really believe that the world is headed for Armageddon with CAGW unless we cut out CO2 and outlaw FF power generation – and if they got their way, the resulting destruction of our 1st-World society as we lost 80% of our energy supply and much of our agriculture would be a darn sight worse than Armageddon.
Green virtue has its price – and we shall pay it.

John F. Hultquist
September 20, 2018 12:36 pm

Richard Newell seems both educated and clueless.
Uff da!

John Tillman
September 20, 2018 1:44 pm

Lack of transition in transport on Malta:

comment image

Nigel Sherratt
September 20, 2018 1:49 pm

‘As any fule kno’ Nigel Molesworth

Leo Smith
Reply to  Nigel Sherratt
September 20, 2018 5:29 pm

Eny Fule Kno , shirley?

September 20, 2018 2:23 pm

Thing is, the authors are entirely right — at least with regard to “building upon the upward trend of fossil fuel emissions”. If the fossil fuels continue to be used not just to the same degree, but to a linearly increasing degree in the future, it hardly matters whether the World gleefully invests in ever-more renewable energy.

Now — as per the sentiments of those here who question the link between rising CO₂ and the purported spectacular rise in global temperatures — to me at least it seems to depend on whether we’re looking at spectacular(ly) bad or speciously innocuous relationships.

I personally would love to see the world somehow incorporating a whole lot more nuclear, geothermal and both PV and wind energy into national grids. Sure, sure, to effectively do so requires some amount of rapid-load-tracking generation such as hydro and natural gas. It also might benefit when the levels of PV especially, but also wind … rise to a significant proportion of domestic grid use, to have municipal or regional power catch-and-release storage facilities. At least that’d result in less energy just not being wasted.

But I don’t think we need to be addressing this as a transnational crisis.
We’ve become hugely dependent on fossilized carbon deposits.
Be they solid, liquid or gas.

And since — realistically — it took many millions of years to deposit these resources, and we’re burning them off in excess of 1% a year, there definitely is an “end” a’coming. Might be nice to be working on that with increased vigor, today. By the time we need “revolutionary” generation and storage, distribution and consumption technologies, at least we’ll have worked all the losers out of the mix.

Just saying,

September 20, 2018 2:42 pm

“These historical changes in the energy system, however, have been a matter of addition, not transition.”
Yeah, because they still need the fossils for back-up generation to prop up unreliable renewables.

Oh, and a “transition” implies moving ahead, but use of wind and solar are actually old energy sources that we long ago transitioned from to something better like fossils.

September 20, 2018 3:34 pm

The only way to reduce fossil fuel use is to go big – very big- on nuclear.

John in Oz
September 20, 2018 4:30 pm

The bottom line: To avoid the worst impacts of climate change

Do I detect a movement in the farce (sic) whereby we are no longer attempting to create a Camelot-type climate but only stopping the ‘worst’ (whatever that means) climate changes?

From Camelot (the song):

It’s true! It’s true! The crown has made it clear.
The climate must be perfect all the year.

September 21, 2018 12:50 pm

“There Has Never Been An Energy Transition”

Maybe not completely, but historically the world was run on slavery, for a very, very long time. From very ancient times, right up to 1865 here in parts of the USA, a good portion of the GDP was produced by slavery. The economic might of Greece and Rome was rooted in slavery. A good deal of Africa’s wealth was rooted in slavery, as were the European slave traders that powered an entire industry just getting and selling slaves to market let alone the vast industries that were mainly generated by slave power. Spain employed vast numbers of slaves in working the gold and silver mines from Mexico to South America, in addition to just straight up plunder and theft of existing accumulated wealth. Same for agriculture, all around the world. Some argue that many parts of the world are still run on wage slavery, such as the sweatshops of the 3rd world to produce the products that are sold in the first world, the workers barely making enough to purchase low grade food and housing. And still don’t have any measure of true freedom.

Of course, it was fossil fuels that was responsible for ending a lot of slavery, when it became cheaper to use a steam engine to power industry than it did a great number of slaves. This is what Western Liberalism has already forgot, is that it was fossil fuels that enabled empires to abandon slavery, because there was an entire suite of new available energy sources, which was a completely newly discovered source of energy in the form of fossil fuels. So I would argue, at least partially, that the transition out of slavery which was by definition a form of energy, happened. But it is something so repugnant to us now, that this history of global slavery, practised by almost everyone, everywhere at one time or another for eons has mostly been forgotten.

Lars P.
September 22, 2018 4:17 am

Just a small note to: “It’s a fossil fueled world.”

Really? Are all those hydrocarbons on Titan fossil? Did the dino’s fly there and die en masse?
What about those methane dunes on Pluto?
My take is: it’s a hydrocarbons fueled world. Could be that some of those on earth are fossil, but most not….

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