It is more than that: minerals are a reciclable stock, while fossil fuels are flow. They are “burned” in use. Vaclav Smil said (Materials and dematerialization) that 75 per cent of Aluminium extracted in history is still in use. Fossil fuel substitution is difficult, and in my view we will use fossil fuel for backup power for the foreseeable future, but even the partial substitution of fossil fuels by wind and power will be a massive dematerialization event: the largest since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Expand full comment

Hannah, with reference to your footnote about renewables having variable output, it is really important to note that intermittent renewable power production has been revolutionised by quality weather forecasting. This means that grid managers have estimates of power to be delivered substantially ahead of time and this makes easier managing a renewables-based grid. The point is that even 48 hours out from delivery there are indications about likely solar PV and wind power delivery. The estimated power delivered gets more accurately measured as the time for delivery approaches. When coupled with time shifting (eg run air con during the day), grid interconnectivity accessing power up to 1000 km away using HVDC cabling, and demand management, the need for fossil fuel (eg gas peaker) backup goes away. A fully electrified wheeled transport system will ultimately provide huge accessible stored power. And of course there is massive adoption of grid-scale battery storage being implemented.

All of the above support energy security and avoid the sovereign risk of depending on fossil fuel supply from far away.

Expand full comment

Isn't demand management a little bit like recommending someone fast instead of eat lunch? It doesn't make them less hungry.

Expand full comment

OK let me give you a different perspective.

Until very recently power supply was built to cope with the maximum demand ... which might involve just a few hours in a year. This meant huge expense to cope with a few hours of extra power and capacity that mostly stood idle. Makes power prices expensive.

So what about making an attractive offer to users of power to pay them in times where demand was greater than easy supply? This can be an industrial group that can be flexible about power use, all the way down to letting your grid provider control of the timing of your pool pump.

I think it is pretty obvious that building your power supply to cope with a few hours of extreme demand annually makes little sense, and having a commercial arrangement to lower power usage for those tricky hours makes a lot of sense. Why wouldn't you allow your grid provider to change the time that your pool pump operated if they pay you?

The times when demand management is needed will change as renewables grids get sorted out. A lot of the demand management might end up just becoming time shifting of power delivery .... in your example, no less food, you just eat at a different time.

I suspect that a fully electrified grid and making your vehicle accessible to your grid provider when you aren't using the vehicle makes a lot of sense, as it will become another source of revenue for the owner of a BEV. With more robust battery technology (especially lithium iron phosphate instead of lithium/nickel/manganese/cobalt), concerns about battery life disappear. A fully electrified grid will become a huge resource for accessing power then needed (and storing power when there vis too much available).

The world is changing for the better.

Expand full comment

Shifting demand for the top few hours makes sense if the capital cost of having sufficient dispatchable capacity is prohibitive, but natural gas peaking facilities cost just $867 per KW of installed capacity and they have minimal fuel costs because they aren’t run very often.

The other problem that is not being given enough attention in the scenario you describe is that if the grid becomes largely dependent on nondispatchable generators the periods of low wind and sunlight will trigger the demand response event. These droughts can last a long time and there is no guarantee that the batteries in EVs will be charged, or that they will have enough juice to ride out the shortage.

There are a lot of plausible sounding ways to cope with the intermittency issue that don’t hold up when held up to scrutiny. These issues need to be taken seriously or we’ll end up with a high cost, low reliability power system like California.

Expand full comment

Economists love to get involved in grid operations. Been that way for decades. Nothing new here, the same old stuff that has been rejected regularly since the Carter administration. You could make the same argument for ambulances. They mostly just sit around.

California had an excellent opportunity to put your plan into practice when they scheduled the closure off their last Nuke plant. They blinked. The plant, and all the gas plants are still on and will be forever. They know “your” idea wont work and won’t result in re-election.

The only way to make this work is to force it on people. The government WILL drain your car battery whenever it chooses. Figure out some other way to get the girls to gymnastics class.

You cannot, within anyone’s lifetime, add enough renewable generation, or grid upgrades, to serve the existing load. It can’t happen. Never mind electric transportation. Wonderful fantasy, completely decoupled from reality.

Expand full comment

I live in a world where facts matter. The truth is that we are well down the path of renewable grids. It is happening at scale (grid level) and also at a personal level. With 10 kW of solar panels we produce substantially more power than our house and electric car uses. So we have a tiny power supply to the grid. 30% of Australian households have solar panels. Soon every house will have panels. This alone will provide a significant part of Australia’s electricity needs.

Much of what you claim is not true.

Expand full comment

I reckon it's too early to draw conclusions. I will say that I'm happy Germany, Australia, and California are leading the way and also that I do not live in any of these. Somebody else can fall on the energy security grenade whilst I observe from the cheap seats.

Expand full comment

If 66 cents per kWh is leading the way, where exactly are we going?

Expand full comment

Meanwhile China is subsidising PV production and virtually giving the stuff away. €120 per KW if you can pick it up in Shanghai.

We can either say:

- "This is wrong, we will tax you to protect our few remaining PV makers", or

- "Thanks, not I just need to figure out where to put the PV".

We should get out hands on cheap PV whilst we can. It probably makes sense for the EU to pay some subsidies to keep factories on standby, and maybe keep land next to the factories ready for expansion, just in case China decides to stop exporting.

Expand full comment

"Other countries cannot block the sun". Geoengineering most certainly can cause cloud cover to block the sun and greatly diminish solar panel performance. In fact, that is a strategy that Bill Gates and others are experimenting with as a means to reflect sunlight back into space to reduce global warming. And global warming itself will cause more cloud cover from increased evaporation. New England has experienced an unprecedented cloudy winter, reducing solar panel performance to 6% capacity factor for weeks at a time. Winds have also been relatively calm and studies have shown that wind velocities are in decline. Not good news for the transition. We'd best build next gen nukes and gas power plants ASAP because no amount of batteries will power the grid when wind and solar are AWOL for weeks or months at a time due to changing weather patterns.

Expand full comment

Ireland does have energy security risks because of renewables (wind) - namely that grid reliability costs are outsourced to natural gas. One need only look at government capacity auctions for years ahead to see how reliant the grid is on gas to underpin high renewables penetration.

Expand full comment

The impact of fossil fuels on energy security varies greatly by geography. In North America fossil fuels enhances energy security and national security, and the attempt to force a transition away from them undermines security.

This is particularly true since 2005 with the Shale revolution:


Expand full comment

o&G pr agent 🤣🤣 go home 🙋‍♂️🖤💚

Expand full comment

They do not need a PR agent. People are scrambling to buy both.

And I am pretty confident that you use plenty of oil and gas in your daily life.

Expand full comment

Considering nuclear, nuclear fuel and natural uranium is dense, harmless if not yet irradiated amd fuel price per kWh is low. Reactors also need to be refuelled in 1-2 year intervals.

Which means that you can easily store fuel for a transition period to a different supplier, so nuclear power has high energy security too!

Expand full comment

Developments in alternative sources of energy is a good thing. But degrowth is necessary for the immediate future. Anyone who does not advocate for that or even mention it, is basically advocating for climate catastrophe.

Expand full comment

No, we need to cut emissions of CO2.

Growth makes that easier. New electric technologies tend to be cleaner and better than what they replace.

Anyone who advocates degrowth is basically advocating for being in opposition, and probably allowing climate change deniers to be in Government.

Expand full comment

Anyone advocating for degrowth is also advocating for poverty, starvation and genocide, and many people worse off than they would be under a climate catastrophe.

Expand full comment

Troll go away you mix up things!

Expand full comment

Prove him wrong.

Expand full comment

I am glad that you responded Alex, since other people might have the same wrong opinions as you and this offers me a chance to address them.

We do need to cut emissions of CO2. In fact, according to IPCC, we need to cut CO2 emissions almost by half by 2030. New technologies are indeed cleaner and better than what they replace, but it is very unlikely that in the next 6 years we will manage to decrease CO2 emissions by half only through this way. This is why degrowth is necessary. In fact, CO2 emissions are keep increasing, although at lower rates (at least that was the case the last time I checked).

I don't really understand the last sentence of yours, and I am not sure I can see the connection of what you claim. Therefore, I will not comment on it.

Expand full comment

CO2 emissions = GDP X Carbon Intensity (CO2 emissions per unit of GDP).

The easiest way to cut emissions is to cut carbon intensity. We have the tools and knowledge to do that, certainly by 2050.

(Consider that China will soon have 1TW per year of solar PV production capacity - in theory that could replace all fossil fuels in 30 years - given some skilful engineering and economics).

Degrowth isn't going to happen, unless Putin kicks off a nuclear war.

Any political party that advocates degrowth (and the associated poverty) will not be elected. They will discredit the "green cause" (much as I hate that term :) ) and probably make way for denialists (like Trump, or various right wing parties in Europe) to enter government.

I can understand where the idea of degrowth comes from, but the idea of it is just ammunition for Global Warming denialists.

Expand full comment

Question for you Alex. Do you accept IPCC’s verdict that we need to reduce CO2 emissions almost by half by 2030? Do you think this can be done by striving to reduce the carbon intensity of production?

If you do not think that this will be possible, and you are against degrowth (which is not poverty, as you claimed, but I might write about it later) then it seems to me you are a climate science denier.

Expand full comment

I broadly accept the IPCC's verdict. The actual amount and the consequences are fuzzy.

Can we do this by reducing carbon intensity: No.

Can we do this by reducing GDP: No, unless you want to start a nuclear war.

Should we attempt to reduce GDP: No. We will need all the GDP we can get to help us adapt.

Expand full comment

So your take is that we should try to replace fossil fuels while in the meantime we should adapt to the consequences of climate change which are likely to occur. Alright.

May I ask how old you are as well as if you have kids and in case that you do, if you care about them?

Expand full comment

Are you suggesting we should NOT adapt to the consequences of climate change?

May I ask whether you live in a coastal city, and if so what plans are you making to adapt?

Expand full comment

Degrowth is the road to poverty and starvation, or do you want to degrow the population also? Who decides which humans can flourish?

Expand full comment

nobody is tallking about degrowth besides left neomalthusians! we are only talking about decoupling emission growth from gdp growth

this works look gernany


-40% emissions

gdp triplen up

Expand full comment

What about uranium? Isn't that a low carbon fuel that's disproportionately concentrated in autocracies?

Expand full comment

While Kazakhstan is the world’s leading uranium supplier and an autocracy, Canada and Australia are richly endowed with uranium. They can substantially increase their production and are doing so now that the world price of uranium is high enough to make it worth their while. The US also has a huge resource base that we have not been exploiting because prices were too low to support the investments needed.

There have been some political obstacles in each of those three countries, but those are being overcome. High prices have helped to change the landscape.

Uranium is somewhere between the situations that Hannah described for fossil fuels versus renewables. It is a fuel, but it lasts a long time before needing to be replaced. Conventional reactors replace 1/3 of their cores every 18-24 months. Those reloads or usually ordered a year or more in advance. Effects of any political cutoff would develop very slowly.

Uranium is also recyclable. The US, in particular, has an enormous strategic stockpile of already mined material that is suitable to fuel both existing and advanced reactors with the appropriate processing. The infrastructure for that does not yet exist, but it could be built with the right investments and political decisions. It’s known technology that has been in use for decades.

Expand full comment

putin and friends

although sits on 70% off world markerz and cheers in your uranium mines....🤣🤣🤣🤣

you masters of 🙈🙈🙈🙈

Expand full comment

It represents around 15 per cent of the final price of nuclear electricity. You can mine substantially more expensive resources with only a modest impact on competitiveness.

The resource base of nuclear energy is not a serious problem: interest rates, regulation, and above all, popular opinion make me skeptical on a nuclear Renaissance. But the resource base is un problematic.

Expand full comment

A little bit off topic: there are important synergies between renewables and electric vehicles:


Expand full comment

As I put it, "EVs will make or break the Energiewende".

If all these EVs charge up at 6pm, then grids will fail - probably by next winter.

If on the other hand they charge up when electricity is "green" and cheap (usually the same time), then there is scope for a lot more solar.

"Where is all the energy going to come from for these EVs" cry the sceptics? Solar is the cheapest form of electricity generation in history, and is ideally suited to EV charging with its day-long cycles.

So yes, the two will rise in lock step.

This is still problematic for northern Europe, where solar is pretty useless for 4 months of the year. Yes, there is a lot of wind resource here - but with its week-long cycles it is less usefull for EV charging. So what northern Europe will need is large energy transfers from the south, probably as HVDC.

Expand full comment

we are solving for europe 🙋‍♂️🙋‍♂️🙋‍♂️🍺🍺🍺

Expand full comment

May I ask who is "we"?

I think Europe has the hardest challenge because of it's high latitude. Almost all major cities North of 45 degrees latitude are in Europe (plus Seattle and Vancouver). If we can solve it for Europe, the rest is easy.

Expand full comment

There will be a market for technologies the can utilise intermittent supplies of energy. Or to look at another way, there will be a market for low cost energy which gets cheaper as it gets more unpredictable. Of course rechargeable batteries do this but have high capital cost. A really cheap cell to purify a metal by electrolysis could just sit there and soak up energy that would otherwise get dumped.

Expand full comment

I disagree with your claim there is less security risk with wind and solar. Our adversaries may not be able to turn off the wind and sun at-will, but we can’t turn it on at-will either. China controls most of the wind and solar mining, mineral processing and manufacturing. That concentration is far worse. There are dozens of countries contributing to the worlds supply of fossil fuels, including # 1 - the US, which produces more than it consumes. China controls the pricing for most of the minerals, the wind turbines and solar panels. As a large buyer, we are subsidizing China’s military build-up with our energy policy (Trillion$ from the IRA) while degrading the reliability of our grid with expensive, intermittent and unreliable energy.

Expand full comment

It is interesting that the temporal differences in energy security are not a key focus. Renewable and climate change are a longer term energy security risk while fossil fuel energy security is shorter term. How this is balanced is difficult and challenging. The potential to “lock-in” fossil fuels via the capital investment is a concern but a realistic time frame for the transition to low-carbon energy will be out beyond the 20-30 year life of these assets. This pushing out of the clean energy goals is likely and also going to make it more affordable.

Expand full comment

Published, peer reviewed and undisputed.

ISR = 1,368 W/m^2.

From the Sun’s perspective Earth is a flat, discular, pin head.

To average that discular energy over a spherical surface divide by 4.

(disc = π r^2, sphere = 4 π r^2)


(Not even close to how the Earth heats & cools + this is Fourier’s model which even Pierrehumbert says is no good.)

Deduct 30% albedo.

(Clouds, ice, snow created by GHE/water vapor.)


Deduct 80 due to atmospheric absorption.

(If this were so ToA would be warmer than surface.)

Net/net of 160 arrives at surface.

Per LoT 1 160 is ALL!! that can leave.

17 sensible + 80 latent + 63 (by remaining diff) LWIR = 160

Balance is closed, done, over, fini, “Ttthhhat’s ALL folks!!”

So where does this second source of surface upwelling heat flow of 396 come from?

396 is the S-B BB calculation for any surface at 16 C, 289 K, that serves as the denominator of the emissivity ratio: 63/396=0.16.

It is a theoretical calculation.

It is not real.

It is a duplicate “extra.”

It violates LoT 1.

396 up – 2nd 63 LWIR (How convenient.) = 333 “back” from cold to hot w/o work violating LoT 2.

Not that it matters.

Erase the 396/333/63 GHE “extra” energy loop from the graphic and the balance holds true.

IR instruments do not measure power flux, they are calibrated to report a referenced temperature and infer power flux assuming the target is a BB. (Read the manual.)

16 C + BB = 396 & incorrect.

16 C + 0.16 = 63 & correct.

There is no GHE.

There is no GHG warming.

There is no CAGW,

The consensus is wrong – aahhgain!!!


Bring science which is not appeals to authority, off topic esoteric Wiki handwavium and ad hominem gas lighting and insults.

Expand full comment

Rare-earth elements are technically relatively plentiful in the entire Earth's crust (cerium being the 25th most abundant element at 68 parts per million, more abundant than copper), in practice they only occur with low concentrations, so to obtain rare earths at usable purity requires processing enormous amounts of raw ore at great expense, hence the name "rare" earths. Opening new mines is a slow, politically and environmentally difficult process

As you point out separating the individual elements needs an expensive processing plant. Also needing time and investment to build.

A risk to energy transition that will be overcome.

Free market policies have handed China the power to hold the rest of the world to ransom over climate change. The rest of the world needs to take back control. (There is an irony somewhere here!)

Expand full comment