Category Archives: AGW


I usually summarize topics gleaned from postings. But this one is written with a lot of interconnections from one of his 29 bullet points to another bullet point that segmenting it dilutes his reasoning.  The source of this information  is a posting, 11 March 2020,  by Dr. Roger Higgs on the Electroverse web site.


MARCH 11, 2020

Dr Roger Higgs, Geoclastica Ltd, Technical Note 2019-11, 6th April 2019, amended 7th March 2020 on ResearchGate (LINK HERE).

We urgently need to expose the ‘CO2 = pollutant’ fallacy being forced upon your children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces by schools, universities, governments and mainstream media worldwide, and to denounce it in scrupulously truthful terms easily understood by the public, including those youngsters themselves.

Here are the 29 bullet points proving CO2’s innocence:

1) The IPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has no geologists among the hundreds of authors of its last major report (2013-14) and at most 1 geologist in the next report (due 2022; see my Technical Note 2019-10). Thus IPCC focuses on only the last 150 years (since thermometer records began, ~1850), yet Earth is 30 million (sic) times older, 4.5 billion years! Geologists know that Earth has warmed and cooled throughout this time. Climate change is perfectly normal.

2) The IPCC’s very existence relies on public belief in man-made- or ‘anthropogenic’ global warming (AGW) by carbon dioxide (CO2) emission. IPCC authors, mostly government and university researchers, are biased by strong vested interests in AGW (publications; continuance of salaries; research grants). Similarly, universities have sacrificed their impartiality by hosting institutes mandated to confirm and act on AGW, e.g. Grantham Institute (Imperial College), Tyndall Centre.

3) The claimed ‘97% consensus among scientists’ that AGW exists is a deception. It refers in fact to polls of recent publications by ‘climate scientists’, i.e. atmospheric scientists, lacking deep-time perspective (Bullet 1), whose numbers opportunistically exploded in the post-1990 AGW boom, creating a strong incentive for bias (Bullet 2).

4) No educated person ‘denies’ global warming: it has been measured (Bullet 11). ‘Global-warming denier’ and ‘Climate-change skeptic’ are deceitful terms for man-made-global-warming doubters and deniers (most of the world’s scientists?).

5) CO2 is a ‘greenhouse gas’. But, as CO2 rises, its theoretical heat-trapping ability sharply declines, already 67% ‘used up’ at 100 parts per million (ppm) CO2, 84% at 300 ppm (NB 275 ppm when industrial CO2 output began; Bullet 8), 87% at 400 ppm (today 415 ppm) and >99% at 1000 ppm. Moreover, Climate Sensitivity (CS), the warming due to doubling CO2, is guesswork. IPCC ‘estimates’ CS from climate models (circular reasoning) as probably between 1.5 and 4.5 (300% contrast!), but models are defective (Bullet 6). In reality CS might be very near zero, perhaps explaining why up to 7,000 ppm in Phanerozoic time (Bullet 7) did not cause ‘runaway’ warming.

6) Climate models (by climate scientists; Bullet 3) are so full of assumptions as to be useless or highly misleading, e.g. forecast 1995-2015 warming turned out to be 2 to 3 times too high. Bullet 19 gives another drastic failure. Even Wiki (2019) admits: “Each model simulation has a different guess at processes that scientist don’t understand sufficiently well”. Models dismiss the sun’s fluctuations and omit the multi-decade delay between these and resulting warming or cooling. This time-lag, due to ocean thermal inertia (mixing-time), is grossly underestimated by IPCC (Bullets 21, 22).

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Will Solar Cycle 25 Bring On A Period of Global Warming?

I have been wondering if the very quiet Solar Cycle (SC)24 would result in a slowing down of the rise of global temperatures.  And that it might even halt the rise or perhaps even result in a downward trend.  Certainly, the prognostications by many of my compadres, the skeptics, have been for that to happen.   I look at my go-to anomaly temperature chart, the satellite measuring system know as UAH, (University of Alabama at Huntsville) and I see that the temperature continues to rise.   The Watts Up With That site’s ENSO meter (below) had not gone into the la nina area, but in fact, seems to be indicating more el nino.  However, for several months, now,

it is in the neutral zone.



Courtesy of WattsUpWithThat

And the UAH temperature anomaly has taken a significant two month drop.
Dr Spencer’s site posted “UAH Global Temperature U pdate for April 2020:+0.38 deg. C. Spencer says:

“In April, 2020, the Northern Hemisphere experienced its 2nd largest 2-month drop in temperature in the 497-month satellite record.”

The UAH temperature anomaly is shown below.

One can see the last two El Ninos on this chart.  The El Nino that peaked in 2010 followed by a La Nina brought the anomaly down to the zero line.  Then the temperature anomaly began to rise and peaked out during the 2016 -2017 El Nino. But after a drop, it turned into a rather depressing climb.

More on Solar Cycle 24.  It began in December 2008. It has been the least active SC  for over 100 years.  The SCs activity beginning with SC17 through SC 23 is unprecedented and this period is often called the “Modern Maximum”.

Sunspots are considered a proxy for solar activity. The more sunspots the more activity.  Sunspots were first recorded by Galiello  in 1610. Formal recording of sunspots began about 1750.  The naming of SCs began from that time. SC nominally are 11 years long.

So, does mean that low solar activity may not have a significant, if any effect on global temperature.  But maybe there is a time delay.   I guess we will have to wait and see.

When you look at the following chart, there is one very notable dip in the number of sunspots attributed to SC5 and 6 beginning about about 1800.  The temperatures recorded during this time dropped significantly.  For example the Thames River is said to have frozen over in the winter during that period.  This period is known as the Maunder Minimum.  Chart is courtesy of Solan In fo


SC 21, 22, 23 and 24 are plotted on the following chart.  Comparing SCs 21, 22, 23 to SC 24  makes evident the low activity of SC24.  The Chart is courtesy of Solan Info.

Because SC 24 is reasonably a match to SC5 and 6, one can see why many of our scientists considered history would repeat itself by experiencing low global temperature

This is probably the time to see what some experts are prediction for SC 25. What will SC25 turn out to be.  The next posting will provide expert solar scientist predictions for SC25’s likely activity. 



Solar Cycle 25 Predictions–National Weather Service and NASA See It Differently

While it is not unexpected that experts predicting how active Solar Cycle (SC) 25 will be compared to SC 24, the new forecast from NASA is significantly different than the National Weather Service  forecast.

A few weeks ago, I reported that the National Weather Service forecast for SC 25 activity would be slightly greater than SC 24.    They added:

“The expectation that Cycle 25 will be comparable in size to Cycle 24   means that the steady decline in solar cycle amplitude, seen from cycles 21-24, has come to an end and that there is no indication that we are currently approaching a Maunder-type minimum in solar activity.”

NASA’s prediction is different, really different.  Their expert says:

Research now underway may have found a reliable new method to predict this solar activity. The Sun’s activity rises and falls in an 11-year cycle. The forecast for the next solar cycle says it will be the weakest of the last 200 years. The maximum of this next cycle – measured in terms of sunspot number, a standard measure of solar activity level – could be 30 to 50% lower than the most recent one. The results show that the next cycle will start in 2020 and reach its maximum in 2025.

The NASA prediction did not discuss the possibility of a Maunder minimum.   However their prediction does not rule out a Maunder minimum in progress as it forecasts SC25 will not be the end of a steady decline in solar cycle amplitude.

Both of the predicting groups acknowledge that they are still far from a full understanding of how the Sun works. So, we will just have to wait and see.


The Paris Agreement is Failing

Germany, Poland, etc., for example, are not meeting their self-imposed commitments regarding CO2 emissions reductions. In fact, the Paris Agreement bookkeepers show that almost no one is meeting their commitments. Let’s look at the graphic they have developed to show the status:




The chart shows how the key nations or national groups are performing with respect to meeting the self-imposed commitments for CO2 emission reductions.  The Paris Agreement objective is to hold Global Temperature rise to 1.5C by 2050.   These initial commitments are not enough to do that but were planned to be a start with the nations and national groups accomplishing further reductions as time passes.  That may be problematic if they can not even make the “easy to accomplish” initial commitments.

I hope you can read the chart, but just in case you can’t it is constructed as follows:

Across the top are 6 performance categories—   

·         Role Model

·         1.5C Paris Agreement compatible

·         2C Compatible

·         Insufficient

·         Highly insufficient

·         Critically Insufficient

No one has made the Role Model category

Morocco and The Gambia are 1.5cº Paris Agreement Compatible.   Are you beginning to see why I say the Agreement is failing if only these two inconsequential nations (with respect to emissions) make the grade.

The 2cº compatible  category has Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India and the Philippines. Well, India is a major emitter but what they tell the Paris Group and where the Indian leaders appear to be taking the country are very different.

Insufficient category nations are Australia, Brazil, the EU, Kazakhstan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Peru and Switzerland. The EU is a major emitter, but the others are not.  

Highly insufficient nations are Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and the UAE.   China is already the world’s No.1 CO2 emitter and they don’t plan to stop increasing their emissions until 2030.

And now for the Critically Insufficient we have Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the USA, and Ukraine.

The US has reduced its emissions as a result of the ongoing change over from coal to natural gas.  That change over is driven by economics, and not by government edict.

There is another surprise waiting for those that think the all is well with the Paris Agreement.  Starting next year, a $100billion fund is to be created by the “developed nations”.  The money is then available to the less developed nations to accomplish CO2 reductions in their nation.  Each year a new $100billion are to be deposited into this fund by those same developed nations, perhaps forever.

 $10billion was to be deposited into this fund over the past 5 years.  Then President Obama, chipped in $2billion.   Last I looked, the fund has not reached the expected $10billion.  These countries can’t come up with $8billion in 5 years.  Make a guess if they are going to contribute another $100billion into that fund next year.  And the year after that, and the year after that, etc.

You might think that the writers of the Paris Agreement wanted to make a joke to see if anyone would catch it by making this arrangement—China, the world’s largest emitter of CO2 and the 2nd largest economy in the world, is part of the group that can draw on that fund, not contribute to it.     Unfortunately, it is not a joke.


Renewables Are Better At Creating Jobs Than At Creating Energy

Anericanexperiment blog posted”Energy Industry There to Produce Energy, not Jobs” written by John Phelan..The author begins by quoting Gregg Mast of Clean Energy Economy Minnesota who is boasting about clean energy jobs growth.  Mast says:

 “The fact is,the number of clean-energy jobs has grown every year since the release of the first Clean Jobs Midwest-Minnesota report in 2016, and these good-paying jobs have been added at a faster pace than the statewide average.”


Countering Gregg Mast’s boast,  Phelan responds by saying:

“This might sound like great news, but there is something missing from this celebration. It is something vital. Indeed, from an economic point of view, it is the most vital thing of all: How much energy are these workers actually producing?  Increasing productivity — the ratio of outputs produced to inputs used — is key to economic growth and raising living standards”.

So, how productive are these new clean-energy workers? How much energy does each produce?  Sadly, the answer seems to be “not much.” According to data on electric-power generation by primary energy sources from the Energy Information Administration and figures for employment in each sector from the U.S. Energy and Employment Report, we can see that, in 2017,   the 412 workers employed in Minnesota’s natural-gas sector produced an average of 16,281 megawatt hours of electricity each. For coal, the figure was 13,230 megawatt hours produced for each of the 1,722 workers employed in the state.

But for renewable wind and solar, the numbers are far less encouraging. In terms of megawatt hours produced per worker, Minnesota’s wind sector came in a somewhat distant third. Each of the 1,966 workers here generated an average of just 5,665 megawatt hours in 2017. This was just 43 percent of the amount of electricity a Minnesota coal worker produced annually and 35 percent of that produced by a natural-gas worker.

For solar, the numbers are even worse. In 2017, each of Minnesota’s 3,800 solar-energy workers produced an average of just 157 megawatt hours. This was just 1.2 percent of the energy produced by a coal worker and only 1 percent of that which a natural-gas worker produced.

The chart below illustrates the above:




In terms of that vital ratio of outputs (energy generated) to inputs (number of workers), wind energy is a low-productivity sector compared to natural gas and coal. Solar is even worse. Piling more inputs into these sectors when they could be more productive in other sectors lowers productivity and economic welfare. This is certainly not something to be celebrated — from an economic point of view, at least.

Mast and Clean Energy Economy Minnesota need to remember that the point of an energy industry is to generate energy, not to generate jobs.

A response by supporters of wind and solar is that there are workers out there insulating homes.  How many of solar’s 3800 jobs are insulating homes?


A Little Perspective on 2 Degrees Centigrade

The alarmists are telling us that the global average temperature must not exceed two degrees Centigrade.   I think a little perspective is in order. The 2º C is an anomaly. Here is what it would look like on your thermometer.








Predicting Solar Cycle 25

Prior to the advent of SC 24, there were many predictions of  its level of activity.  Most of the predictions were for a replicate of SC 23. Leif  Svalgaard’s  predicted a major change in  its level of activity.     He was predicting about half as active as were most of the predictors and  we know now that he was right.     Svalgaard’s method  used  the Solar Polar Field Strength  to make the prediction. 

I know many of you know all about the solar polar fields, but for those that do not, let me review what the following chart tells us.




The X axis is time beginning on 7 Dec 1976.  It extends out to 2 Feb 2019 showing part or all of SCs 21,22,23 and 24.  Solar Cycle 24 began January 2008 and is forecast to end late 2019 or early 2020.  SC 24 was at maximum activity during April 2014 with  a smoothed sunspot number of 111..  The maximum typically occurs when the South magnetic field and the North magnetic field reverse positions. In the chart above, the red (South) moving line crosses the zero Field strength line noted on the Y axis  going south and the north (Blue) moving line crosses zero going north. These fields continue toward the poles where they begin producing sunspots in the high Sun latitudes.  The fields begin to move toward the zero line and the new SC 25 will begin.

To make the prediction one has to  use the black line, the north field strength minus the south field strength,  to make the prediction.  The time to make the prediction is when the black line is the furthest from the Y axis zero line.  This occurred in the spring of 2004 so they predicted SC24  to be small.  If you look at the black line, say in January 2018 it is about the same distance from the zero line so the gurus are saying SC25will be about the same size as SC24. 

If Leif Svalgaard reads this, he would probably say I have oversimplified the procedure and do not have it exactly right.  So be it. 

The National Weather Service posted the following   Solar experts predict the Sun’s activity in Solar Cycle 25 to be below average, similar to Solar Cycle 24

April 5, 2019 – Scientists charged with predicting the Sun’s activity for the next 11-year solar cycle say that it’s likely to be weak, much like the current one. The current solar cycle, Cycle 24, is declining and predicted to reach solar minimum – the period when the Sun is least active – late in 2019 or 2020.

Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel experts said Solar Cycle 25 may have a slow start, but is anticipated to peak with solar maximum occurring between 2023 and 2026, and a sunspot range of 95 to 130. This is well below the average number of sunspots, which typically ranges from 140 to 220 sunspots per solar cycle. The panel has high confidence that the coming cycle should break the trend of weakening solar activity seen over the past four cycles.

“We expect Solar Cycle 25 will be very similar to Cycle 24: another fairly weak cycle, preceded by a long, deep minimum,” said panel co-chair Lisa Upton, Ph.D., solar physicist with Space Systems Research Corp. “The expectation that Cycle 25 will be comparable in size to Cycle 24   means that the steady decline in solar cycle amplitude, seen from cycles 21-24, has come to an end and that there is no indication that we are currently approaching a Maunder-type minimum in solar activity.”

This is the Experts’ chart below and it shows the 24 SCs with the maximum sunspots ( see Y axis) and the time it occurred.. Also, the Experts have plotted SC25 on the chart::


The Experts are also predicting SC26 when they say “The expectation that SC 25 will be comparable in size to SC 24   means that the steady decline in solar cycle amplitude, seen from cycles 21-24, has come to an end and that there is no indication that we are currently approaching a Maunder-type minimum in solar activity.”

I wonder if that is wishful thinking?


Solar Cycle 24 is Nearing Completion.

Sometime ago, every month I blogged a brief report on the activity of the Sun.  I have the urge to do that again, so here goes.

Solar Cycle (SC) 24 has just about run its course. It is forecast to give over to SC 25 in late 2019/early 2020 and when it does, that’s call the 24SC minimum.

Sunspots are a proxy for Solar activity.  The chart below shows the average number of sunspots in each month.  The blue dashed line is a 13-month averaged sunspot count.  It is the official sunspot number.  (The formula for the count is shown at the end of this posting.)  The official number of sunspots peaked in April of 2014 thus the solar maximum happened then.

The chart below  illustrates how recent SCs compare to SC 24:


All three of the preceding SCs were much more active than SC24.

As side note,  the SCs on average last for 11 years, or saying another way, 132 months.  At one time, it was believed that if the SC was over before 11 years it was generally an active SC.  More than 11 years, less active.


The chart below shows the 24 SCs and the chart makers attempt at a SC25.  The X axis is in years from 1749 to an estimated 2040.  The Y axis is sunspots

One can see that SCs 23, 22, 21, 19, and 18 represent a very active sun.  The maker of the chart calls this the “modern warm period”.   Looking back the chart maker has noted the time of the “Dalton Minimum” and the “little ice age”.  These periods of low solar activity coincide with the periods of low global temperatures. Perhaps you can see why many scientists are forecasting that global temperatures will soon be dropping.  Also one can speculate that  the global warming  we have experienced may be a product of the past 60 years of a very active sun.    Ok, now one more reading of the chart might suggest that we are due for a period of low solar activity thus a drop in global temperatures.   The chart maker’s projection of SC 25 to  be lowest in recorded history is very likely to be wrong.  However the batting average of the predictors of future SCs is not too stellar  so who knows.

Throughout the recent past, claims were made that the global temperature was going to drop because SC 24 was relatively inactive.  I do not think that the temperature did drop.  I believe I read  one article where the claim was that SC 24 was the reason that the increased CO2 in the atmosphere did not raise the temperature as much as it should  have.  I don’t believe that one.

Was SC 24 definitely an uniquely quiet SC?  I think so.

The sunspot activity of the cycles in comparison. The numbers in the diagram are obtained by summing the monthly differences between the observed SSN and the mean (blue in Fig.1) up to the current cycle month 125. ( I am not sure whom to attribute this chart but I got it from Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt and Frank Bosse who write the diekaltesonne  blog.)

This shows that at just about 10-1/2 years,  SC 24  has had 4464 fewer sunspots than the average  SC.  It also shows that SCs 5 and 6, had the  fewest sunspot and those two SC are coincident with the Dalton Minimum.   SC 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 were way low on sunspots and they coincided with the little ice age.

It is clear that the sun was much less active as demonstrated by the sunspot record.  I expected a clear sign by the end of its cycle, which we have not yet seen,  of a cooling global temperature  trend. Some think we have that, but I do not see what I expected from the UAH satellite global temperature readings.  The temperature  has declined since the last El Nino but it has not been lowered to the temperature before that El Nino.

Next a look at Solar Cycle 25.


Sunspot Counting–Woolf Number

The smoothed count is a 13-month averaged sunspot count using this Belgium’s formula:
Rs= (0.5 Rm-6 + Rm-5 + Rm-4 + Rm-3 + Rm-2 + Rm-1 + Rm + Rm+1 + Rm+2 + Rm+3 + Rm+4 + Rm+5 + 0.5 Rm+6 ) / 12
Rs = smoothed monthly sunspot count
Rm = One month’s actual sunspot count
The “-6” through “+6” appended to each Rm is the number of months before or after the month whose smoothed count is being calculated. The beginning and ending months in the formula are only given half the value of the others.*


New Energy Economy” An Exercise in Magical Thinking Part 10 Energy Revolutions Are Still Beyond The Horizon

This is the final part of the serialization of Mark Mills’ report New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magic Thinking.


Energy Revolutions Are Still Beyond the Horizon

 When the world’s poorest 4 billion people increase their energy use to just 15% of the per-capita level of developed economies, global energy consumption will rise by the equivalent of adding an entire United States’ worth of demand.92 In the face of such projections, there are proposals that governments should constrain demand, and even ban certain energy-consuming behaviors. One academic article proposed that the “sale of energy-hungry versions of a device or an application could be forbidden on the market, and the limitations could become gradually stricter from year to year, to stimulate energy-saving product lines.”93 Others have offered proposals to “reduce dependency on energy” by restricting the sizes of infrastructures or requiring the use of mass transit or car pools.94

The issue here is not only that poorer people will inevitably want to—and will be able to—live more like wealthier people but that new inventions continually create new demands for energy. The invention of the aircraft means that every $1 billion in new jets produced leads to some $5 billion in aviation fuel consumed over two decades to operate them. Similarly, every $1 billion in data centers built will consume $7 billion in electricity over the same period.95 The world is buying both at the rate of about $100 billion a year.96

The inexorable march of technology progress for things that use energy creates the seductive idea that something radically new is also inevitable in ways to produce energy. But sometimes, the old or established technology is the optimal solution and nearly immune to disruption. We still use stone, bricks, and concrete, all of which date to antiquity. We do so because they’re optimal, not “old.” So are the wheel, water pipes, electric wires … the list is long. Hydrocarbons are, so far, optimal ways to power most of what society needs and wants.

More than a decade ago, Google focused its vaunted engineering talent on a project called “RE<C,” seeking to develop renewable energy cheaper than coal. After the project was canceled in 2014, Google’s lead engineers wrote: “Incremental improvements to existing [energy] technologies aren’t enough; we need something truly disruptive. … We don’t have the answers.”97 Those engineers rediscovered the kinds of physics and scale realities highlighted in this paper.

An energy revolution will come only from the pursuit of basic sciences. Or, as Bill Gates has phrased it, the challenge calls for scientific “miracles.”98 These will emerge from basic research, not from subsidies for yesterday’s technologies. The Internet didn’t emerge from subsidizing the dial-up phone, or the transistor from subsidizing vacuum tubes, or the automobile from subsidizing railroads.

However, 95% of private-sector R&D spending and the majority of government R&D is directed at “development” and not basic research.99 If policymakers want a revolution in energy tech, the single most important action would be to radically refocus and expand support for basic scientific research.

Hydrocarbons—oil, natural gas, and coal—are the world’s principal energy resource today and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. Wind turbines, solar arrays, and batteries, meanwhile, constitute a small source of energy, and physics dictates that they will remain so. Meanwhile, there is simply no possibility that the world is undergoing—or can undergo—a near-term transition to a “new energy economy.”


 I know it was a lot of reading, but Mills does a marvelous job of making his thoughts easily understandable and convincing.

Mills’ entire report can be downloaded by clicking here. 

The pages of numbered references are found by clicking “to read more”.


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New Energy Economy:An Exercise in Magical Thinking Part 9 Digitalization Won’t Uberize the Energy Sector.

Continuing the serialization of Mark Mills’ report New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking.  This part is Digitalization Won’t Uberize the Energy Sector.


Digitalization Won’t Uberize the Energy Sector     

Digital tools are already improving and can further improve all manner of efficiencies across entire swaths of the economy, and it is reasonable to expect that software will yet bring significant improvements in both the underlying efficiency of wind/solar/battery machines and in the efficiency of how such machines are integrated into infrastructures. Silicon logic has improved, for example, the control and thus the fuel efficiency of combustion engines, and it is doing the same for wind turbines. Similarly, software epitomized by Uber has shown that optimizing the efficiency of using expensive transportation assets lowers costs. Uberizing all manner of capital assets is inevitable. Uberizing the electric grid without hydrocarbons is another matter entirely.

The peak demand problem that software can’t fix

In the energy world, one of the most vexing problems is in optimally matching electricity supply and demand (Figure 6). Here the data show that society and the electricity-consuming services that people like are generating a growing gap between peaks and valleys of demand. The net effect for a hydrocarbon-free grid will be to increase the need for batteries to meet those peaks.


All this has relevance for encouraging EVs. In terms of managing the inconvenient cyclical nature of demand, shifting transportation fuel use from oil to the grid will make peak management far more challenging. People tend to refuel when it’s convenient; that’s easy to accommodate with oil, given the ease of storage. EV refueling will exacerbate the already-episodic nature of grid demand.

To ameliorate this problem, one proposal is to encourage or even require off-peak EV fueling.85 The jury is out on just how popular that will be or whether it will even be tolerated.


Although kilowatt-hours and cars—key targets in the new energy economy prescriptions—constitute only 60% of the energy economy, global demand for both is centuries away from saturation. Green enthusiasts make extravagant claims about the effect of Uber-like options and self-driving cars. However, the data show that the economic efficiencies from Uberizing have so far increased the use of cars and peak urban congestion.86 Similarly, many analysts now see autonomous vehicles amplifying, not dampening, that effect.87

That’s because people, and thus markets, are focused on economic efficiency and not on energy efficiency. The former can be associated with reducing energy use; but it is also, and more often, associated with increased energy demand. Cars use more energy per mile than a horse, but the former offers enormous gains in economic efficiency. Computers, similarly, use far more energy than pencil-and-paper.

Uberizing improves energy efficiencies but increases demand

Every energy conversion in our universe entails builtin inefficiencies—converting heat to propulsion, carbohydrates to motion, photons to electrons, electrons to data, and so forth. All entail a certain energy cost, or waste, that can be reduced but never eliminated. But, in no small irony, history shows—as economists have often noted—that improvements in efficiency lead to increased, not decreased, energy consumption.

If at the dawn of the modern era, affordable steam engines had remained as inefficient as those first invented, they would never have proliferated, nor would the attendant economic gains and the associated rise in coal demand have happened. We see the same thing with modern combustion engines. Today’s aircraft, for example, are three times as energy-efficient as the first commercial passenger jets in the 1950s.88 That didn’t reduce fuel use but propelled air traffic to soar and, with it, a fourfold rise in jet fuel burned.89

Similarly, it was the astounding gains in computing’s energy efficiency that drove the meteoric rise in data traffic on the Internet—which resulted in far more energy used by computing. Global computing and communications, all told, now consumes the energy equivalent of 3 billion barrels of oil per year, more energy than global aviation.90

 The purpose of improving efficiency in the real world, as opposed to the policy world, is to reduce the cost of enjoying the benefits from an energy-consuming engine or machine. So long as people and businesses want more of the benefits, declining cost leads to increased demand that, on average, outstrips any “savings” from the efficiency gains. Figure 7 shows how this efficiency effect has played out for computing and air travel.91


Of course, the growth in demand growth for a specific product or service can subside in a (wealthy) society when limits are hit: the amount of food a person can eat, the miles per day an individual is willing to drive, the number of refrigerators or lightbulbs per household, etc. But a world of 8 billion people is a long way from reaching any such limits.

The macro picture of the relationship between efficiency and world energy demand is clear (Figure 8). Technology has continually improved society’s energy efficiency. But far from ending global energy growth, efficiency has enabled it. The improvements in cost and efficiency brought about through digital technologies will accelerate, not end, that trend.







The serialization of Mark Mills’ report concludes with the next part titled Energy Revolutions Are Still Beyond the Horizon.