The “All-the-Above” Energy Policy Is a Compromise That Reverses Human and Environmental Progress


By Dr. Indur Goklany

The Net Zero energy policy pursued by the current administration would essentially, sooner or later, phase out fossil fuels. That would roll back much of the progress America and the world has witnessed since the 19th century in economic and human well-being while increasing pressures on the rest of nature.

An alternative, embraced by many conservatives, is the “all-the-above” (ATA) policy. This approach preserves the option of using fossil fuels but with strict limitations that, however, are not founded on empirical science. Moreover, ATA would hamstring economic growth, increase the cost of living, and particularly hurt those on the lower economic rungs. We all would be poorer.

New power plants using fossil fuels would have to employ technologies to capture CO2 emissions, perhaps convert them, if necessary, to other forms, and store them in stable geological formations or use them in commercial products.  To date, however, there have been no successful demonstrations that such technologies, while technically feasible, are economically viable at the scale needed to significantly reduce CO2 emissions. Neither has it been established that reducing atmospheric CO2 would be desirable when the gas contributes significantly to crop production in a still-growing but hungry world and to preserving habitat and ecosystem health. Equally important, imposing limits on fossil fuels that go beyond today’s best practices is not underpinned by science. 

The fundamental problem with the ATA approach is that it accepts claims that CO2 is an existential problem when there is no empirical corroboration of warmists’ apocalyptic narrative.[1] Instead, the following global trends are widely recognized:

  • Deaths from weather and climate phenomena (heat and cold, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts) have declined 98 percent since the 1920s.  Studies indicate that several-times more people die from cold than heat. Economic losses from such events, as a fraction of wealth or global GDP, have declined.
  • The extent of wildfires peaked globally in the mid-19th century.
  • Cereal yields have tripled since 1961, while food supplies have increased 31 percent.
  • Sea level has risen continually 400 feet since the end of the last ice age with no significant acceleration during the modern age.
  • Access to clean water has increased, mainly because of improved hygiene and engineering solutions for water and sewage treatment.
  • Death rates from climate- and weather-sensitive vector-borne and parasitic diseases have declined.

Importantly, since the Industrial Revolution, virtually every measurable, significant indicator of human well-being has advanced because of the economic growth and technological change that was brought about through the consumption of fossil fuels and the economic surpluses that they generated.[2] Use of fossil fuels freed resources, including most significantly the time and brain power that human beings had to devote previously to agriculture and other tasks where brawn rather than brains were at a premium. Consequently, globally:

  • People are living longer and healthier lives.
  • Income levels have improved, and poverty levels have declined.
  • The human development index has advanced virtually everywhere.

As for environmental health, fossil fuel-related technologies – including machinery, fertilizers and pesticides – have helped increase global food production at least 62.5 percent directly or indirectly and have enabled human beings to spare 20.4 percent of global land area (GLA) for the rest of nature. This exceeds both the habitat lost currently to cropland (12.2 percent of GLA) and the global cumulative area currently reserved or identified as conservation areas (estimated at 14.6 percent of GLA).[3] For context, the area saved from conversion to agriculture is 25 percent larger than North America.

Thus, the notion that, notwithstanding the remarkable reductions in traditional air pollutants from fossil fuels, they need to be controlled further or phased out because of CO2 emissions is contra science and contra human and environmental well-being. More importantly, moving away from coal, oil and natural gas would negate much of the progress humanity has achieved since the 18th century and would sacrifice a substantial share of the earth to agricultural pursuits.

To summarize, all-the-above policy, while sounding beguilingly attractive, is an unhelpful concession to those hostile to fossil fuels – a compromise that would undermine two-and-a-half centuries of humanity’s advances in caring for itself and the Earth.

Dr. Indur Goklany is the author of several books, including “The Improving State of the World: Why We’re Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet,” and is a member of the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia. He holds degrees in electrical engineering from Michigan State University (Ph.D.) and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (B.Tech.).

[1] Goklany IM (2021). Impacts of Climate Change Perception and Reality. Global Warming Policy Foundation. London.

[2] Goklany IM (2012). Humanity unbound: how fossil fuels saved humanity from nature and nature from humanity. Policy Analysis. 2012 Dec 19(715). Cato Institute. Washington, D.C.

[3] Goklany IM (2021). Reduction in global habitat loss from fossil‐fuel‐dependent increases in cropland productivity. Conservation Biology. 35(3):766-74.

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Tom Halla
December 11, 2022 6:03 am

Anything non-Chinese or Indians do is virtue signalling anyway.

John Shewchuk
December 11, 2022 6:18 am

The first step in fixing this problem (at least in the USA) is to get rid of the EPA Endangerment Finding, which is the source of CO2 demonization and the legal authority to shut down fossil fuel industries …

Reply to  John Shewchuk
December 11, 2022 6:36 am

Let them find a non-petroleum substitute for Vaseline. I suggest sand.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  John Shewchuk
December 11, 2022 10:44 am

as a result of the extremely lunatic climatistas in my state of Massachusetts: Massachusetts v. EPA (2007)

that’s why I’m here ranting against such lunatics- who not only hate all fossil fuels, they hate nuclear, they even hate large scale solar- once such facilities started being built next them- and they certainly hate any wind on land, they hate biomass- but what really gets me personally, is that after 50 years as a forester, these whackos want to end forestry – of course, they all love wood in their homes, their furniture, their paper products- so the wood will have to be sources from far away- I tell them, “you preach that we should by our food from local sources but you want to buy wood from Oregon and Sweden”- they don’t respond to that

our new state governor has just published the idea that she wants to end all forestry on almost a million acres of state forest land- being the first lesbian governor in America, she has a lot of debts to all the woke crowd- the greenies here will start with that, then try to end it on private land- and for that, she’s already proposed new subsidies to offer to private owners to NOT cut trees- or at least to greatly extend rotations and to cut much lighter, even if doing so is absolutely against silvicultural science and real forestry economics

note- I have nothing against the LBGT folks- I don’t think it should even be mentioned that she’s a lesbian, but the fact is that the MSM always mentions this- to prove how progressive the state is- it’s identity politics all the way- I suggest it’s time to stop mentioning such personal information such as race or whatever, because I don’t care- but I’ll do it if the MSM does it every day and if it means she’s going to pay off the woke crowds

Rich Davis
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 11, 2022 11:04 am

I had the time today to watch the Alex Epstein-Jordan Peterson talk posted here a couple of days ago.

Don’t miss it if you haven’t viewed it already. It is well worth the 90 minute investment of time.

They make a strong case that anti-humanism is what animates the Net Zero movement. Everything that we recognize as not making sense becomes logically consistent if you recognize that the true objective is to eliminate humanity.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Rich Davis
December 11, 2022 11:21 am

I suggest what they’re thinking is not so much to eliminate humanity but to greatly limit it. Of course if greatly limited in numbers it will be greatly reduced in standard of living.

Last edited 1 month ago by Joseph Zorzin
John Shewchuk
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 11, 2022 12:29 pm

Ditto. Jacques Cousteau gave the marching orders years ago when he said that in order to save the planet we need to eliminate 350,000 people PER DAY …

Reply to  John Shewchuk
December 11, 2022 8:24 pm

Excess deaths have been running at about 15% above expected baselines for nearly the past couple of years. Not going to cut it, but birth rates in many places have fallen precipitously too.

What else is in the offing?

John Shewchuk
Reply to  Scissor
December 11, 2022 8:36 pm

Cutting is expected and welcome from any scissor that’s sharp enough to do so. Yes, I’ve noticed the death increases too, which the media is trying to hide. Could be Prince Philip is making good on his death wish …

John Shewchuk
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 11, 2022 12:26 pm

So sad. MA and many other “liberal” locations are going mad.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  John Shewchuk
December 11, 2022 12:38 pm

Different, non woke opinions, are simply not ever heard here in MA. It’s verboten. The political spectrum here goes from extreme left to the middle. The middle is seen by almost all of the media as extreme right.

(note to the moderators- I wish the bell next to the post comment button was by default in the “notify of new replies” mode- or, have it so we can have it always on or always off)

John Shewchuk
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 11, 2022 12:51 pm

Wow. It’s so different (open) down here in Florida. I started a post in a local online media forum which, within 24 hours, created over 4,000 views with many varied comments. That recent post is called “Cooling Is Coming” …

David Dibbell
December 11, 2022 6:30 am

Good article. This parallels Alex Epstein’s points nicely.

For electricity, “all-the-above” does not address the parasitic effect of allowing and incentivizing intermittent wind and solar power to be injected into the grid at the expense of reliable sources. The “cheaper than fossil fuels” misconception must be opposed forcefully to expose the higher system costs and degraded reliability that will result.

And for transportation, industrial process heat, and agriculture, energy-dense liquid hydrocarbon fuels have the least overall impact on the environment. Eventual depletion of natural deposits? Maybe so, but we have time to work on that. Chemistry and concentrated energy sources such as nuclear power can help with that.

Last edited 1 month ago by David Dibbell
Tom Abbott
Reply to  David Dibbell
December 11, 2022 11:21 am

“For electricity, “all-the-above” does not address the parasitic effect of allowing and incentivizing intermittent wind and solar power to be injected into the grid at the expense of reliable sources.”

No more subsidies for windmills and solar. Make them compete in the marketplace against all the other energy producers.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Tom Abbott
December 11, 2022 12:29 pm

Here in NY, for example, there’s also the problem of what I would call “stealth” subsidies in the form of the pricing rules. A NY solar farm injects power when it is making it, and gets a fixed $0.031 per kWh premium, called the “environmental value” in addition to the market price portion of the “value stack” rule. It is based on the fictional SCC (“social cost of carbon”). No penalty for non-delivery, no obligation to provide any backup. So I agree – no subsidies, no investment or production tax credits, no special rule-based premiums – none of the above.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  David Dibbell
December 11, 2022 12:55 pm

‘For electricity, “all-the-above” does not address the parasitic effect of allowing and incentivizing intermittent wind and solar power to be injected into the grid at the expense of reliable sources.’

No it doesn’t. But it does make it clear that establishment ‘conservatives’ are not really serious about opposing any aspect of the progressive agenda.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
December 11, 2022 1:16 pm


December 11, 2022 6:31 am

Nut Zero will never, ever work – fossil fuels are natures fuels and even if the elites manage to curtail their use in the West, developing nations accounting for approx 80% of the world, will use them, in increasing amounts

The freezing, hungry, increasingly poor Western societies will eventually wake up to the con and drive political leaders to reverse the silliness – hopefully any political party that mentions Nut Zero in its manifesto will suffer electoral demise – smaller parties will become the larger parties in Govt

December 11, 2022 6:33 am

In the previous paradigm “economic and human well-being” was the aim. But that’s all changed.

Now humans are the problem

“Sir David Attenborough’s new doc: ‘Humans are intruders’”

“People will need to “change their behaviour” on their energy usage to prevent being “blackmailed” by Vadimir Putin, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said”

Yes indeed Vlad vetoed UK fracking…. via green groups.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  strativarius
December 11, 2022 11:24 am

I’d like to see Hunt’s standard of living- his home, his care, his clothes, etc. It’s always best to lead by example but we seldom see that with the Nut-Zero crowd.

December 11, 2022 6:36 am

ATA ? —-: just as bad as NZE; as they both assume the Satanic Nature of CO2, which is in fact very beneficial to both nature and humanity. Do I really need to repeat the FACTS which are obvious to anyone of sound mind?
It is time we got rid of the Neurotics and Hysteria.

December 11, 2022 6:49 am

“All the above” means that there are no critics because whatever they want us to do, we’re doing it. “All of the above” also means that we may run out of money before the problem is solved. It also means that we may not have money to spend on important non-climate programs like defense and education.

Dave Yaussy
December 11, 2022 7:05 am

As someone who works in the energy communications space, I think you need to discuss the use of “all the above” in context. The public hears from the mainstream media that wind and solar are inexpensive forms of energy and that global warming is an existential threat. Those beliefs are incorrect, but try addressing them scientifically, and people’s eyes glaze over, and you are instantly rejected as a denier.

It is much more effective to change the subject to advocate for allowing energy choice. That’s the unspoken premise of “all of the above.” You can concede that in some situations, solar and wind make sense. Whether that is true or not, it is reasonable and hard to argue with, and most importantly doesn’t get you dismissed for being anti-renewable. You have to be heard before you can convince.

Of course, when you run the numbers, renewables are not going to make economic sense when you consider back up power costs arising from intermittency. They do make sense in the context of corporations who are willing to pay more for intermittent energy for virtue-signaling purposes. Agreeing that those who voluntarily want to use renewables should be able to do so, and the rest of the population should be able to use other energy if they want, is what “all the above” is working toward.

Jack Eddyfier
Reply to  Dave Yaussy
December 11, 2022 7:30 am

In my experience, “all the above” is used by pro-nukes; and likely coined by them. The rationale seems to be that “we agree with the greens” (many nukes were greens) that Fossil Fool is EVIL. So pro-nuke greens believed they could ally themselves with RE-energy greens to stop nukes getting demonized, by the original, anti-nuke greens (who are slowly dying out). IPCC AR5, it’s practically an anti-nuke, 100% RE manifesto. AR5 gave nukes a very hard time. So I understand the origin and rationale for all the above. I still disagree with it. It’s destructive, and regressive, in that it sees carbon fuels as The Problem they’re not. The UN, WEF, ESG, and Malthusian funders and their activists are The Problem.

Strategically: All The Above is part of The Problem, even if, tactically, it seems a solution.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  Dave Yaussy
December 11, 2022 9:00 am

Wind and/or Solar would probably be fine on the grid in limited quantity if they were required to provide at least one day of battery power per turbine/panel. And, there was a requirement that before the turbine or panel attaches/reattaches to the grid the battery must be charged/recharged to a minimum of 80%. That way, when they attach to the grid each unit can be counted on to provide at least one full day of uninterrupted power.

Craig Howard
Reply to  Joe Crawford
December 12, 2022 4:16 pm

I would agree to wind and solar if excess power were sold at wholesale and there were no tax credits to build them in the first place.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Dave Yaussy
December 11, 2022 11:31 am

“Those beliefs are incorrect, but try addressing them scientifically, and people’s eyes glaze over, and you are instantly rejected as a denier.”

The hypothetical horrors of drastic climate change are almost always portrayed- as horrors- movies are made showing terrible things occurring. Addressing the issues in polite, professional way does put most people to sleep because they’re not intellectually oriented. Time to make movies showing the horrors of having a much lower standard of living as a result of “fighting climate change”. If I were wealthy- I’d invest in such movies. Show the filth and disease and hunger of a much poorer world- which would probably also have more war. As explained by Thomas Hobbes.

Jack Eddyfier
December 11, 2022 7:16 am

10/10 + Gold Star. One of the best articles at WUWT I can remember.

December 11, 2022 8:36 am

Be sure to watch Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo, she covers the amount of the Inflation Reduction Act that goes to China.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  CO2isLife
December 11, 2022 11:27 am

Thanks for the tip.

Bruce Cobb
December 11, 2022 8:41 am

We need an “All-the Below” (ATB) energy policy:


“None of the Above”.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
December 11, 2022 11:28 am

We don’t need wind and solar except in some niche out of the way places where electrical reliability doesn’t matter.

It is actually a massive hindrance to stability of grid supply

Bill Parsons
Reply to  bnice2000
December 11, 2022 1:04 pm

My solar shed light and some motion activated solar security lights in front of my garage are nice little luxuries that seem to work for a minute or so before they blink out. I see a value to their niche use. An unelectrified hut in Africa, or a cabin in the woods for example might get a few precious hours of light. My book-sized panels appear to be developing cataracts and losing some of their generating power, however, so — hard to imagine their usefulness continuing for many years. I’d be curious if people who’ve had them for a time would comment. To me they look like the very icons of planned obsolescence.

As for wind… pfft!

The “all of the above” meme has been a stupid Republican kowtow to greens for several years. It was painful to hear when it started, and seems even more disingenuous now that we see its effect in Europe. I agree with Indur Goklany that it is time to get rid of it.

December 11, 2022 8:43 am

This article should have included these issues as well. There are literally hundreds of locations that show no warming. Do the laws of physics cease to exist at these locations? Until you can explain why CO2 didn’t warm these locations you can’t blame CO2 for warming other locations. At least that is how it works in real science.

CO2 pre-industrial was around 300 ppm, currently, it is about 400 ppm, which means that at best man has contributed 100 ppm over the past 300 years, What does that mean? Man has added 1 molecule out of 10,000, and that molecule vibrates with the energy of a -80 C Blackbody when activated by 15-micron LWIR. Does anyone actually believe that vibrating 1 out of every 10,000 molecules can materially impact the thermal energy of the other 9,999. Newsflash, that is a joke, and the greatest scientific fraud in world history. There is a reason COVID economic shutdown didn’t impact the trend in atmospheric CO2. Real scientists need to speak, silence is complicity.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  CO2isLife
December 11, 2022 12:27 pm

A molecule that absorbs a 15 micron photon takes on 1.32E-20J. At sea level temperatures, the average kinetic energy of a gas molecule is about 6E-21J – under half as much. That energy is almost certain to be converted to kinetic energy of other molecules via collisions before the energised molecule can re-emit the photon in the sea level atmosphere. That leads to increased temperature, which is simply a measure of the kinetic energy of the molecules.

Repeating your false post from the other day using cod science does nothing for the integrity of this site.

Reply to  It doesnot add up
December 11, 2022 1:51 pm

You clearly don’t understand the basics. CO2 and every other molecule share the same kinetic energy at the same temperature. If the air is 18C at sea level, it will be 18C with 0 CO2 or 1% CO2. The greenhouse gas effect has absolutely nothing about the average kinetic energy of the atmosphere unless you can explain why CO2 is relevant in that situation. Don’t bother, you can’t. What is relevant is what differentiates CO2 from every other molecule. That is that it thermalizes 15 microns LWIR. A molecule that is already vibrating at the energy or 18C isn’t going to warm because it vibrates at -80C. If energy was cumulative as your theory would imply, you could warm coffee by adding ice. That is nonsense.

December 11, 2022 9:29 am

What I think the ALL THE ABOVE policy should be is using what is the most economical for the situation. Since ruinables are intermittent and there isn’t any plausible technology for storage, they should never be used for most applications. They are niche methods for energy production with limited applications.

An example of a niche application is my sportman’s club using a solar panel to charge a battery that powers a clay thrower on the sporting clays field. Since the stations are moved periodically for giving different presentations, a permanent electrical installation doesn’t make sense. The throwers are not constantly in use which gives the solar panel time to recharge the battery.

I’m sure there are other applications that can handle intermittency without devastating consequences but, powering residential, commercial, and industrial systems are not included in the mix.

David Wojick
December 11, 2022 9:55 am

Conservative “all of the above” policy often does not include CCS. Nor do they include subsidies. It often means the government is not supposed to favor any particular technology.

On paper US DOE has this policy because there are fossil, renewables and nuclear generation programs. But for some time now fossil has focused on CCS, not generation. Plus renewables gets a lot more money. This is very far from a technology neutral “all of the above” policy.

Andy Pattullo
December 11, 2022 10:30 am

It is always a great pleasure to read the absolute truth rather than all the fabricated fear mongering that pretends to be science these days. Dr. Goklany breaths life into what should be a vigorous debate which unfortunately never takes place in the public sphere. The climate change/globalist/socialist mob are part of a religion, rather than a rational group of thinkers.

Tom Abbott
December 11, 2022 11:13 am

From the article: “The fundamental problem with the ATA approach is that it accepts claims that CO2 is an existential problem when there is no empirical corroboration of warmists’ apocalyptic narrative.”


There is not one person on this Earth who can tell you how much warmth a given amount of CO2 would add to Earth’s atmosphere. Not one person. None. Zero. Let that sink in.

Yet, the political leaders of the Western democracies are bankrupting the economies of their nations by trying to curb CO2 when they have no factual indication that CO2 needs to be curbed. Not one person has a factual indication.

Most of our leaders are completely divorced from reality when it comes to CO2 and the Earth’s atmosphere. This has caused them to make some very destructive, costly choices which will not solve the problem but instead will exascerbate the problem.

I think we are going to hit the Reality Wall sometime soon, and people are going to suffer because the current Net Zero plan is unworkable. Then maybe the politicians will change direction. It will take something drastic to change the destructive course we are on with regard to CO2.

Rich Davis
December 11, 2022 11:16 am

All of the above is a perfectly fine approach as long as you stipulate that every provider must bid to provide dispatchable power competing equally with every other provider—no subsidies, no preferences, no mandates.

So if you want to sell wind-generated power into the grid, you must have some method of storage that you maintain or contract in order to assure that you deliver what you contracted to deliver when it is needed. If you can do that at a profit adequate to stay in business, more power to you.

Now obviously my vision of energy independence is not compatible with the irrational myth that CO2 is a pollutant. And it’s highly unlikely that intermittent sources would ever be able to compete with natural gas and coal. But by all means let them try as long as it doesn’t disrupt the grid.
December 11, 2022 11:54 am

When working out an analysis of NZ2050, the full cost of the value chain, as well as materials and commodities required, must be included. The costs are very high and are quite plausible when it is acknowledged that NZ2050 is the replacement of a working energy system by one that is inferior and, necessarily, will cover a substantial fraction of the globe, and will require incredible amounts of materials. The rough costs of NZ2050 are very simply obtained. First, assume the costs of wind farms and PV will decline to 50% of today’s costs (optimistic), use the most recent costs for actual wind farms, on and offshore, and for PV parks, multiplying the cost per square kilometer by the number of square kilometers required of each to meet the current mean primary energy demand. These areas are readily determined from the published energy production by the best PV and wind systems so far built. The estimate obtained is very optimistic since the best sites were used first, but let’s be generous.
Somehow, this small, easy calculation does not appear in the discussions of NZ2050.
In reality, the PV and wind data for the past decade already show a sharp decline of build rate, even at this early stage. The build rate MUST, in contrast, grow exponentially to achieve NZ2050. The numbers are easy to compute. It is an exercise for the student.
All this is no surprise. The elites responsible for the growing debacle are not well educated. They are just elite. They lack knowledge of physics and engineering, and are heavily insulated from reality by surrounding sycophants. How is it a surprise that they screw up?
The bottom line is that, with no food, no fuel, and no hope; humanity across the globe will rise up and delete the elite.
The cost will be very high, but that is the price of freedom and commonsense.

B Zipperer
Reply to
December 12, 2022 6:00 pm

Here is a link to McKinsey consulting corp’s 2020 assessment of the cost to the world for NetZero by 2050.

Bottom line: ~ $270 Trillion USD [$9T per yr x 30 yrs].
But it makes a boatload of assumptions, many of which are magical thinking. Laughable!
And I bet we all can guess which country is expected to pay the lion’s share ot the costs!

December 11, 2022 12:38 pm

Progress is an [unqualified] monotonic process: one step forward, two steps backward. Show me the fitness function!

Craig Howard
December 12, 2022 4:06 pm


Stop trying to placate the CO2 crowd and make them prove their theory.

December 12, 2022 6:58 pm

ATA is a serious, though politically sourced, solution to the effects of climate change. It acknowledges climate change as a real problem requiring solutions.

The comments here either reject the notion of climate change as a problem or take issue with one the pieces of ATA – e.g. the “phaseout” of fossil fuels.

I regard climate change as a serious problem that has been oversold somewhat, due to several factors, most prominent being the use of climate models to “prove” the theory and create a sense of urgency.

But if it’s a real problem we need a practical discussion of, say, how we can scale down fossil fuel use to slow the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. But if that’s not regarded as a worthy goal then, I’ll simply pass of arguing with myself.

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