A Comprehensive Critique of Net Zero Fantasies


Francis Menton

As yet another example of a bureaucracy gone completely nuts, consider the International Energy Agency. IEA started out in the 1970s as a consortium of Western nations organized to counteract the oil price shocks imposed by OPEC in those years. That seemed reasonable enough. But somewhere along the line, gradually, the mission, let us say, evolved. Today, IEA is fairly described as a center of advocacy for elimination of fossil fuels from the world’s energy supply.

In May 2021 IEA published a big Report with the title “Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector.” You might get the impression from the title and some of the text that this could be just a few helpful “how to” tips on reducing emissions. But you don’t need to get too far into the document to figure out that it’s really another one of those crazed demands for immediate desperate action to save the planet from impending doom — the difference being that this one is directly funded by essentially every major Western government. From the Foreword:

We are approaching a decisive moment for international efforts to tackle the climate crisis – a great challenge of our times. The number of countries that have pledged to reach net‐zero emissions by mid‐century or soon after continues to grow, but so do global greenhouse gas emissions. This gap between rhetoric and action needs to close if we are to have a fighting chance of reaching net zero by 2050 and limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 °C. Doing so requires nothing short of a total transformation of the energy systems that underpin our economies.

Now, two years later, along comes a serious group with a comprehensive critique of the IEA’s Report. The critical group is the Energy Policy Research Foundation, which has been funded in this project by the Real Clear Foundation (the people behind Real Clear Politics). The EPRF has produced its own Report, with a date of June 2023, titled “A Critical Assessment of the IEA’s Net Zero Scenario, ESG, and the Cessation of Investment in New Oil and Gas Fields.” This Report is 75 pages long, and well worth a look. The lead author is named Batt Odgerel; and the editor is Rupert Darwall.

The main themes of this EPRF Report are much in line with some oft-repeated mantras from this website: ignorant bureaucrats, this time from IEA, are seeking to force transformation of a highly complex energy supply system, with no idea of what the replacement will be, whether it will work, or how much it will cost. My only real criticism of this EPRF Report is that the authors adopt a serious and high-minded tone, rather than the scorn and ridicule that would be more appropriate for a critique of IEA’s incompetent and amateurish efforts.

But with that, I’ll select a few choice quotes. Key excerpt from the Foreword:

The Energy Policy Research Foundation’s analysis conclusively demonstrates that the IEA’s assumptions are unrealistic, internally inconsistent, and often support the case for increased hydrocarbon fuel production. The whole of the IEA net zero roadmap pivots on the assumption that the plunging cost of wind and solar will destroy demand for oil and gas. If that does not hold, the whole roadmap goes up in smoke. But as this report shows, the IEA’s own analysis contradicts its assumption on the economic superiority of renewable energy. In reality, the IEA’s “net zero roadmap” is a green mirage that will dramatically increase energy costs, devastate Western economies, and increase human suffering. As such, investment managers and banks that use other people’s money to advance this anti-investment agenda are violating their fiduciary obligation to maximize returns for retirees, investors, and shareholders.

I would only add to that that if the IEA were right that “plunging cost of wind and solar will destroy demand for oil and gas,” then there would obviously be no need or reason for a government-forced energy transition. It would happen on its own via private investment.

Here from the EPRF Report is the status on how the so-called “energy transition” is going, about 20 years into the crash program of governments to transform the energy economy:

According to BloombergNEF, over US$6.5 trillion (nominal) has been invested worldwide in the energy transition (excluding investment in power grids) between 2004 and 2022, but the share of non-hydro renewables was just 6.7% of total global primary energy consumption in 2021.

And here’s the accompanying chart:

IEA seems to think that electric vehicles will save the world because they have “zero emissions” and their costs will rapidly plunge. Here is a chart from the EPRF Report on costs of the main materials for EV batteries (which are the main component of an EV):

And as to EVs being “zero emissions”:

China leads the world in EV sales and manufacturing, but it also consumes a large amount of coal. In 2020, coal accounted for 60.6% of China’s primary energy demand and 63.3% of its electricity production, meaning that EVs powered by electricity generated in China indirectly emit substantial GHG emissions.

And finally, there’s the small problem that much or most of the technology assumed by IEA in its net zero transition scenarios either has not been demonstrated at scale or, more often, hasn’t even been invented yet:

“Energy Technology Perspectives 2023” (ETP-2023), one of the IEA’s flagship reports, acknowledges that “getting to net zero is not possible without more innovation”. According to the report, under the NZE scenario, about 50% of all emissions reductions in 2050 come from technologies that are at prototype or demonstration stages today.

There’s much, much more in this Report should you have the time and inclination. Anyway, many thanks to EPRF and the Real Clear Foundation for putting in some effort to expose the ridiculousness of the campaign to force an end to fossil fuels before anyone has a clue what is going to replace them.

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Bill Toland
June 23, 2023 11:41 pm

It is now blatantly obvious that the net zero targets adopted by developed countries cannot possibly be achieved. However, the vast majority of the media pretends that net zero can and will happen. I really don’t understand what is going on. The so-called journalists writing about net zero must know that net zero is impossible but they keep regurgitating nonsense like renewable energy is the cheapest form of power and net zero will save trillions. Any dissent from this line is ruthlessly suppressed.

Reply to  Bill Toland
June 24, 2023 1:22 am

What’s even more worrying is the vast swathe of politicians pretending that it can and will happen and framing policy accordingly in order to polish their green credentials.

When things start to go pear-shaped and being associated with nut zero becomes toxic, they’ll start backing away for fear of unpopularity. At no point, though, during this process will they ever understand the science of what they’re dealing with.

Richard Page
Reply to  atticman
June 24, 2023 8:34 am

What is far, far more worrying is if all those elected representatives and (supposedly intelligent) journo’s aren’t pretending, they might really think it’s achievable and simply can’t see through the scam. That’s the really scary possibility.

Reply to  atticman
June 26, 2023 8:20 pm

Nor will THEY ever be held accountable for their actions.

Reply to  Bill Toland
June 24, 2023 6:00 am

If they could do math, they wouldn’t be journalists.

Reply to  FarmerBrett
June 24, 2023 10:37 am

If they could understand what they were writing, they wouldn’t be churnalists

Reply to  Redge
June 25, 2023 11:07 am

The low standards of correct grammar in modern journalism tells you all you need to know about modern journalists and their academic beginnings

Reply to  Bill Toland
June 25, 2023 11:05 am

The MSM won’t get it, until they’re sat with no power to spread their lies, then, it will hit home

Coeur de Lion
June 24, 2023 1:26 am

The CEO of the UK’s Climate Change Committee pulls down £140,000 a year but it must be difficult morally to be peddling a lie

Reply to  Coeur de Lion
June 25, 2023 11:08 am

he would fit in well at the BoE, with a £300k salary increase to boot

Reply to  Coeur de Lion
June 26, 2023 8:22 pm

must be difficult morally” Nope.. never heard of morality.

Peta of Newark
June 24, 2023 1:39 am

Sorry this is a biggie but it’s worth it.
It’s stuff that we should be being told, are not being told and what I discovered entirely by accident.
The info, the facts and the story are all out there – but need publicity.

Totally by luck than judgement, I’ve ran over the last decade an interesting little test on Lithium Ion cells & batteries.
Way back then I got interested in solar panels, small windmills and ‘renewable stuff’.
God bless ebay at the time, a job-lot of Lithium Ion came up at give-away price so I got some – not really sure what to do with them but they were just Too Good To Miss and I knew nothing about such things anyway. They were/are made by Varta, 2 cells shrink wrapped together with a negative tempco sensor bonded to them and nominally 4,400 mAh at 3.7Volts
Let the fun begin.

I made myself half a dozen batteries – each with its own ‘proper’ manager circuit and of supposedly 22Ah capacity at 12.3Volts
Ten years ago.
I paired them up into 3 mega batteries, one powered a CCTV camera and maintained by a big solar panel with dedicated programmable charging circuit.
Another likewise making some pretty lights in the garden and the 3rd became a sort of ‘bench power supply’ for further experiments.
And they worked well.

After a couple of years I came upon a sweet little ‘power measurement module’ – as used by remote control fanatics to look after their batteries. It counts the volts and amps going into and out of chargers, batteries/wherever to give figures for Ah, Watt hours, Vpeak, Vmin etc etc

My 6 batteries were all near identical (at 2 years old) with capacities of between 17Ah and 19Ah. They were supposed to be 22Ah but I didn’t know provenance of the original cells or even what to expect.
Actually, compared to a (mobility scooter) Lead Acid battery of supposedly 20Ah, they were streets ahead at even that. Same power, half the size and half the weight also.

One of them went wrong recently – a single cell had died – I fixed it and took the time to re-measure the capacities of my little flock.

And at now 10 years since I built them, from ‘not brand-new but unused cells‘, their capacities are now down to 11Ah
All of them – apart from the single one that died and I successfully fixed, they have aged and tracked each other beautifully.
(Not blown up or burned my house down either as added bonus)

I think I may have discovered my ‘mistake’
It is that in my applications of low power, low draw and low charge rates, i have kept them ‘in storage’
i.e I kept them at their rated voltage of 4.1 Volts pretty well all that 10 years time
This is how I understood batteries, esp Lead Acids.

But for Lithium Ion, if you’re not using them ‘quite hard’ you should maintain them at about 60% of full charge = hence the reason the little power meter I mentioned came into being.
(Also, if you pay attention when you first ever start up a brand new laptop computer, that is the state of charge it comes delivered with. People know these things already)

Take that to electric cars – and the claimed lifetimes of their Li-Ion batteries.
If you understood what I found, the only way to get the batteries to last (10+ years) is not to use them.
i.e. They will last for a very long time BUT, only if you charge them to 60% and never touch them after that.
If you do use them,

as in an EV of course, you will be repeatedly be charging them brim-full and discharging them deeply – so running into the well established 500 cycle typical lifetimeor again in the EV, you may not drive very often but your home charger or whatever will be keeping them at full charge – which wrecks their lifetime alsoSo, to wrap it up: For Lithium Ion batteries to have long lives you’ve got to keep them at about 60% of their rated full-charge. In ‘storage mode’ effectively.
So do we say:

Never charge above 80%Never discharge below 40%For an electric car shall we just say: That’s gonna ‘cramp your style a little‘ ?

It’s a feature, not a bug.
Because it is well established fact among folks who know, make and sell Lithium Ion Batteries

And I would not be telling you this if I did not ‘have pictures’ – I can back it up and it’s out there on the web BUT – is totally obscured by the blizzard of supposed ‘good bits’ about these things

Reply to  Peta of Newark
June 24, 2023 1:55 am

What a faff!

My petrol tank is 5 years old and it still holds the same volume of fuel…

Reply to  strativarius
June 24, 2023 6:00 am

Yes, and mine does at 15 years old!

Reply to  atticman
June 26, 2023 8:27 pm

Yes, and how about my 1985 gas/petrol tank?

Reply to  Peta of Newark
June 24, 2023 7:02 am

I have an ASUS laptop which comes with an ASUS designed Battery Management utility. In order to prolong the battery life, the Battery Manager keeps the charge at 60%. It seems to work as I haven’t had to replace the battery even after 8 years. But Peta, it is a PITA, especially if you lose power unexpectedly. Ended up buying a cheap 12V 150 watt invertor for the car, so I can charge it from there. Of course replacing the battery on this slim little doohickey requires disassembling the laptop and soldering in a new battery. Ugh.

Peter C.
Reply to  Yirgach
June 24, 2023 8:43 am

I have a 2009 Macbook that is on its 3rd battery,luckily they just unplug.i think the Macbook does not maintain the battery very well.They end up expanding and put pressure on the track pad from underneath.I guess though i shouldn’t complain too much,it is 14 years old!Local Mac Guy put a new used battery and track pad in for $50 cash.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Peta of Newark
June 24, 2023 8:34 am

I thought most manufacturers advised not to charge the battery above 80% and not let it go below 20%.

Richard Page
Reply to  Peta of Newark
June 24, 2023 8:39 am

Yeah those things are ok for things like toy r/c cars but should never be used for full scale ones – not fit for purpose.

Reply to  Richard Page
June 24, 2023 1:40 pm

Since the battery charging topic has been opened, what does anyone know about ‘smart’ phone batteries?

I’ve seen articles that recommend keeping the charge between two values, such as 35% to 85% or 60% to 80%, and one saying that, while the proper range for a long battery life is limited, the charge displayed by the phone is the “safe” charge, not the maximum or minimum possible. In other words, 100% claimed by the phone is really 80% of battery capacity and nearing 0% claimed by the phone is just the level one should not drop below if one wishes the battery to remain good for long.

On another view, I had to buy a new phone recently because of cell network ‘upgrades’. The startup instructions for the phone cautioned one to not turn on the phone before charging it fully. They emphasized charging to 100%. Since I was skeptical of any possible harm, I did turn on the phone, found that the displayed charge level was 65%, and proceeded to do the setup without any charging.

June 24, 2023 1:39 am

Nut-Zero — It-Will-Never-Happen.

Nut-Zero, driven by false CAGW and all of its models, (their outputs defined as data & facts), junk “science”, simulations, bias, groundless predictions, and crystal ball gazing.

Sean Galbally
Reply to  SteveG
June 24, 2023 10:16 am

The main issue is that Net Zero, if we mean net zero man made carbon dioxide (Somebody please confirm) will not affect the climate one iota. CO2 is a good gas and essential to life. At 0.04% of atmospheric greenhouse gases, it is insignificant compared with the 90% of water vapour and clouds anway. Alarmists please explain how that in the last mini ice age CO2 levels were ten times higher. No industrial revolution then!

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Sean Galbally
June 24, 2023 8:12 pm

Alarmists please explain how that in the last mini ice age CO2 levels were ten times higher.”


Hans Erren
June 24, 2023 2:04 am

And Net Zero is not even needed to stabilize co2 in the atmosphere, reduction to 20 GtCO2/y compared to present 35 GTCO2/y is what is required. See co2model of Roy Spencer

Reply to  Hans Erren
June 24, 2023 10:39 am

Plants love CO2, maybe more would be useful

Hans Erren
Reply to  Redge
June 24, 2023 12:05 pm

Sure but that is not my point is it?

June 24, 2023 3:19 am

As an energy system analyst, I haven’t taken seriously anything produced by IEA in at least the last two decades. IEA is no different than the UN. With the emergence of a host of non-OPEC oil producing nations, IEA’s original mission became obsolete. In the case of the UN, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, its mission of preventing war in Europe became obsolete.

Because of this mission loss, IEA moved on to AGW and net zero fantasies as a reason to keep this useless agency alive. The UN moved on to AGW as its reason for existing after the collapse of the USSR. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine indicates just how useless the UN has become in its original mission.

June 24, 2023 3:32 am

“Doing so requires nothing short of a total transformation of the energy systems that underpin our economies.”

We’ve transformed our energy sources from burning trees to burning fossil fuels while adding flowing and falling water and nuclear energy to the mix. It has taken centuries. Instead of adding to and improving our proven nuclear power sources we’re spending gazillions (a technical term) backsliding to burning trees again while investing (!) in intermittent wind and sunshine.

Who is paying for all this waste? Who is going to the bank with the profits?

We see lots of questionable numbers about temperature rise. How about some real numbers about costs and who exactly is paying?

OPM. Other People’s Money.

Slightly related … just think about what the world could do with all the money being wasted on wind and solar. And that cost will be on-going because solar panels and windmills don’t last forever.

Reply to  rovingbroker
June 24, 2023 3:40 pm

And that cost will be on-going because solar panels and windmills don’t last forever.

One thing you can be certain of is that it will not keep going. All the nations chasing Net Zero are terminating their heavy industry. That leaves mainly China to produce all the stuff needed. They already “own” the key technologies for the transition. No economy chasing NetZero can compete with them. Once China pulls the pin, the circus stops. Reality will dawn in the de-industriaised countries that they cannot have manufacturing and Net Zero. Making all the stuff needed for the transition requires more energy than that stuff can produce over its operating life unless there are dramatic improvements in the technology. The fantasy currently relies on China burning around 60% of global coal production.

Some of the costs being spent on all the extra transmission lines will hit electricity bills for decades until they are no longer maintained when the grid gets back to centralised generation. Or the electricity grid is replaced with distributed generation.

Joseph Zorzin
June 24, 2023 4:47 am

I see in that report (92 pages):

Climate Action100+, a group of 700 investors with over $68 trillion in assets under management, hailed the report as a “watershed moment” and highlighted the call from “relatively conservative IEA” for an immediate end to new investment in fossil fuel extraction.

If they succeed in shutting down the ff industry- they’ll find that their 68T in assets will crash in value.

William Howard
June 24, 2023 6:51 am

wait – didn’t the IEA recently say that the % of energy from oil & gas in 2050 wouldn’t be much different than today?

Dave Andrews
Reply to  William Howard
June 24, 2023 8:53 am

The IEA’s ‘World Energy Outlook’ 2022 says coal demand peaks in the next few years, natural gas reaches a plateau by 2030 and oil demand reaches a high point in the mid 2030s before falling slightly “From 80% today – a level constant for decades – fossil fuels fall to 75% by 2030 and just over 60% by 2050”

However their more recent Dec 22 paper on ‘Coal 2022 Analysis and forecast to 2025’ notes that coal demand in China, India, Indonesia and the rest of Asia is growing rapidly so even if it peaks in the next few years it will be at levels greater than today.

Ronald Stein
June 24, 2023 7:58 am

The transition to occasional electricity generation from breezes and sunshine has proven to be ultra-expensive for the wealthy countries of Germany, Australia, Great Britain, and the USA representing 6 percent of the world’s population (508 million vs 8 billion). 


Those four wealthy countries now have among the highest cost for their electricity, while the poorer developing countries, currently without the usage of the 20th century products made from the oil derivatives manufactured from crude oil, are experiencing about 11,000,000 child deaths every year due to the unavailability of the fossil fuel products used in wealthy countries.


However, ridding the world of oil, without a replacement in mind, would be immoral and evil, as extreme shortages of the products now manufactured from fossil fuels will result in billions of fatalities from diseases, malnutrition, and weather-related deaths, and could be the greatest threat to the world’s population.

June 24, 2023 8:00 am

Thorium liquid salts cooled reactors will provide abundant cheap reliable safe electric power 24/7…..and local.
Spread the word.

David Wojick
June 24, 2023 8:06 am

Ironically EIA also has a lengthy report out on upcoming shortages and price spikes in the material supply chain for renewables. I cite it here:

Reply to  David Wojick
June 26, 2023 8:35 pm

Ironically… what an interesting word…

Dave Andrews
June 24, 2023 8:58 am

My pet theory is that Fatih Birol, Turkish economist and energy expert, the Exec. Director of the IEA is angling for the top job at the UN in the future.

Erik Magnuson
June 24, 2023 9:54 am

With respect to China, EV’s and coal:

China imports a good portion of is oil, so while using coal to generate electricity to power EV’s doesn’t make sense from a Net-Zero standpoint, it does make economic and strategic sense. This is almost a complete opposite of the US where the greenies want a raid conversions to EV’s and “renewable” electricity, while at the same time blocking the development of mines that would supply the necessary materials (copper, cobalt, rare earths) needed to make this happen.

Tom Abbott
June 24, 2023 10:32 am

From the article: “The Energy Policy Research Foundation’s analysis conclusively demonstrates that the IEA’s assumptions are unrealistic, internally inconsistent, and often support the case for increased hydrocarbon fuel production.”

That sums it up nicely.

It’s time to change course and discard the “renewables” insanity.

abolition man
June 24, 2023 11:21 am

We climate realists; you know, the people who believe in REAL sciences like geology, physics, chemistry and their underlying math; need to all become Missourians in our attitude towards the True Believers of Climastrology and the other hoaxes of Scientism! When a devout cultist tells you that you should give up your addiction to plentiful energy and modern civilization merely say, “Show me!”
Until these mal-, mis-, and un-educated fanatics are willing to give up ALL of the products made from hydrocarbons and the luxurious energy produced by the same, they have no business preaching their doomsday religion to anyone! In other words, if you aren’t willing to drop off the grid and power your whole life with unreliable wind and solar, just shut your yap as you have just proved that you are a anti-human misanthrope who seems intent on destroying life on Earth!
P.S.- Be sure to use only wind and solar systems that are produced without the benefit of fossil fuels. Go ahead, look around for them, I’ll wait!

June 24, 2023 1:13 pm

I’m not writing this in favor of the stupidity of forced wind and solar generation activities, but I’ve often seen statements such as the one in this article that seem not only irrelevant but very misleading, deliberately misleading as I see it.

over US$6.5 trillion (nominal) has been invested worldwide in the energy transition (excluding investment in power grids) between 2004 and 2022, but the share of non-hydro renewables was just 6.7% of total global primary energy consumption in 2021

Since the majority of countries are not very involved in propagating the wind and solar stupidity for their own use, the inclusion in the calculations drag down the “% of total global primary energy consumption” from ‘renewables’ markedly. Regardless of how unreliable and expensive wind and solar are, the % of electricity supplied is greatly higher in most of the areas that are spending those trillions of $ on them.

B Zipperer
Reply to  AndyHce
June 24, 2023 7:44 pm

Your quote refers to global energy consumption whereas your statement is about
electricity production, which is of course a subset. Even so, your math is correct.
Regardless, it still an complete waste of money to pursue NetZero, whether by the “rich” countries or the rest. [the rich nations seem to be very poor in common sense!]

June 24, 2023 5:37 pm

To better visualize the pipe dream that is Net Zero by 2050, I extended the chart posted above. I assumed that energy demand will continue to grow at the current rate. And, they would somehow manage to double both Nuclear and Hydro capacity.

Net Zero by 2050.png
June 24, 2023 6:19 pm

The US needs to withdraw from the International Energy Agency and withdraw all funding.

June 25, 2023 11:04 am

You will never electrify society with renewables, 100% guaranteed

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