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‘Net-Zero’ Possible only If You Ignore Math, Science & Engineering

Written by Tony Thomas

DECARBit - Zero-emission pre-combustion power plants - SINTEF

Politicians and climate alarmists are running what amounts to a promises auction about getting the world to net-zero carbon dioxide emissions in 10 to 30 years.

It’s easy to bid as you will never be held accountable, you look virtuous and bids cost nothing, at least for the time being.

The best bid drama yet is from Extinction Rebellion, whose ferals were blocking traffic in Melbourne last week, as in other cities, and waving signs demanding “Zero emissions by 2025.”

Among the more respectable bidders is the Australian Academy of Science’s 500 Fellows, who want net-zero emissions by 2050. [1] They’ve cheered on state governments pledging likewise.

But here’s the problem: the 2050 game can only be played by those willing to ignore math and engineering.

Do the sums and it’s just pixie dust or, more accurately, fraud. What follows are some calculations and projections. I’ll provide the formulae lower down.

# Street blockaders: Your zero-by-2025 goal would require Australia to create the equivalent of an emissions-free Turkey Point, Florida, nuclear power plant – nearly the output of Hazelwood in Victoria – every 11 days from now to January 1, 2026. That’s 33 nuclear plants per year. [2]

# The Greens and Australian Conservation Foundation [3]: Your zero-by-2040 goal would require the equivalent of one Turkey Point plant every 43 days from now to January 1, 2041. That’s eight and a half plants a year. [4]

# Labor Party, Academy of Science and all state governments (except the sensible NT): Your zero-by-2050 goal would require the equivalent of one Turkey Point plant every 65 days from now to January 1, 2051. That’s five and a half per year.

# The Morrison government: You claim to be locked-in to net-zero at 2050 because your predecessor Turnbull, via Greg Hunt, signed on to the 2015 Paris Accord. Well, the Accord specifies a review of targets every five years by each signatory, so you are free to dump the zero-2050 nonsense in 2020-21. Go for it!

Such nuclear plants, essential for reaching zero-emissions, would cost about $US9 billion each in America. That’s $A13 billion in Australia — or heaven-knows-what by the time the CFMMEU has ransomed the jobs.

The costs, therefore, for our required 170 nuclear plants is about $2.2 trillion. For comparison, the entire Australian GDP last year was only $1.4 trillion. This is broad-brush stuff. Every technical tweak augments the cost and impracticability.

Forget the tree and tinsel, this is what Christmas looks like for the renewables’ rent-seekers.

I’ve provided the Australian numbers courtesy of a template from Dr. Roger J. Pielke Jr, writing in Forbes and published on September 30.

He’s a long-term IPCC author on weather disasters and his degrees include one in maths. Incidentally, he’s also a research expert on cheating in world elite sports.

Last June, Theresa May’s UK government made itself the world’s climate champion, signing into law a program for net-zero emissions by 2050 (previous UK law was an 80 percent emissions cut by 2050).

UK Labour joined the auction by bidding net-zero emissions by 2030. Pielke says that globally, a 2030 net-zero emissions target would need deployment of more than four Turkey Point plants a day, and for the US, several Turkey Points a week.

A commenter adds, “And who’s gonna build them? Millennials with degrees in woman studies?”

Maybe you don’t like nuclear plants and would prefer zero-emissions via those statuesque wind turbines. Substitute 1,500 wind turbines of 2.5MW to equal each Turkey Point plant.

For the “moderate” zero-2050 goal, that involves Australia adding 23 turbines a day (161 a week) from tomorrow until January 1, 2051.

That’s about 250,000 turbines in total. Each bloc of 1500 turbines needs close to 800 square kilometers of ground, so pity the bats and birds.

Turbines installed in penny packets would squander even more land. Conservatively, a quarter of a million turbines will need about 130,000 square kilometers — twice the area of Tasmania.

minced eagle wind turbine

Another wind-turbine casualty.

For the US, the wind turbine numbers required are 1500 a day until 2050, eventually covering the whole contiguous country in windmills and an additional “wet belt” of windmills two miles thick off the entire coastline. [5]

This zero-emissions crusade is madness on stilts. The developing world (China and India for starters) has no intention of strangling their economies with expensive and unreliable renewables.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has assessed energy and emissions trends for the period from 2018 to 2050 and says that by the latter date, developing nations will account for nearly 70 percent of global energy use (60 percent today) and 75 percent of human-caused CO2 emissions (66 percent now).

The EIA forecasts that the West’s energy growth will dwindle and emissions will reduce.

Worldwide fossil-fuel energy use through 2018-50 will climb 25 percent and CO2 emissions by 22 percent as poorer nations chase energy for prosperity. In other words, the West’s multi-trillion-dollar “tackling” of global warming is irrelevant.

Moreover, fossil fuels are the raw material for a host of plastics and synthetics essential to modern life. Work out the implications.

It’s not as though any meaningful global switch from fossil fuels is already underway. Each day humanity is moving in the other direction: more fossil fuels.

In 2018 the world added more than 280 million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE) of fossil fuel consumption compared with 106 MTOE of carbon-free consumption, says Pielke, citing BP.

To move towards net-zero, all of those 400 MTOE additions ought to be carbon-free, while replacing and retiring 400 MTOE of existing fossil fuel consumption.

“In a round number,” he remarks., “the deployment rate of carbon-free energy would need to increase by about 800 percent.”

All the non-considered factors in Pielke’s analysis seem to make his estimates conservative. For example, he doesn’t allow for the global resources demanded to build myriads of nuclear plants or millions of turbines, which wear out in 15-20 years.

Obviously, each new wind turbine will go on a less optimal site for power, and cross-interference further weakens their output.

Engineers point out that real-world power systems have to cater for daily and annual peaks, hence deployment estimates based on average power needed are way too low.

And no self-respecting business or institution (think Amazon and hospitals) will rely on renewable electricity without having a diesel-type generator in the basement for emergencies or orderly shut-downs.

How would that work in net-zero-emission 2050?

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) calculates that just to replace current US electricity consumption with wind power would need 580,000 turbines.

How many more turbine equivalents would be needed to replace non-electricity energy use, which beats electricity numbers by a factor of three or four?

Consider rail networks (140,000 miles in the US, 36,000km in Australia). If they were all electrified to cut diesel emissions, how would the electricity be generated and what battery back-up could move a freight train? 

Pielke’s simple formulae go like this: Global fossil-fuel consumption, 2018 – 11,743 MTOE (million tonnes of oil equivalent) [6]. Output of Florida’s Turkey Point 1400MW nuclear plant, 1 MTOE. Days left till end-2050 – 11,037.

Global deployment of nuclear power required by 2050 in Turkey Point units, more than one per day. To include forecast energy growth of 5800 MTOE (1.25% a year to 2040), add half a Turkey Point per day. One Turkey Point nuclear output equals 1500 wind turbines of 2.5MW each.

The recent BP Statistical Review of World Energy has fossil fuel energy use for the USA and Australia. BP puts Australia last year at 133 MTOE.

With assumed 20 years’ growth of usage at 1.25 percent p.a., the task by 2050 is to get rid of 170 MTOE.

Divide 11,037 days by 170 = one nuclear plant per 65 days. Concurrently, we’d also need to be decommissioning the equivalent in fossil-fuel power sources.

Pielke concludes, “When you see an ‘auction of promises’ in climate policy for emissions reductions, ask instead for rates of deployment of carbon-free energy technologies and rates of decommissioning of existing fossil fuel infrastructure. Then do the math, and see if it adds up.”

Actually, there’s a final twist to this folly. The idea that CO2 is the control knob for the globe’s intricately complex and chaotic climate is based on simplistic computer models that one top modeler has shown to be junk.

Numerous recent studies of temperature impacts from CO2 doubling put the sensitivity at or below the bottom end of the IPCC range of 1.5 to 4.5 deg C or half the IPCC’s “best estimate” on which the great CO2 scare is based.

If those studies are right, CO2 increases pose no threat to humanity and may well be beneficial.


Tony Thomas’s latest book, The West: An insider’s tale – A romping reporter in Perth’s innocent ’60s is available from Boffins Books, Perth, the Royal WA Historical Society (Nedlands) and available here and at Amazon (USA).

[1] Press release: “The Academy has previously called on Australian governments to implement policy measures to reduce carbon emissions over the coming decades with the ultimate goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

[2] Turkey Point, 1400MW. Hazelwood (coal) 1600MW. Liddell NSW (coal), 2000MW

[3] ACF wants net-zero by “2040-50”

[4] One route favored by the Greens is “by reducing the demand for material goods”.

[5] The turbines would need 3.3 million square miles while the US contiguous area is only 3.1 million square miles. The shoreline is 95,000 miles.

[6] BP Statistical Review of World Energy

Read more at Quadrant Online


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Comments (9)

  • Avatar

    Andy Rowlands

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    Great article that shows just how fallacious the ‘net-zero’ arguments are, unless you’re seeking a future without electricity, the means to heat your homes and anything but subsistence food intake.

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      Squidly

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      Another problem is, in an electricity free world, heating your home will actually produce more CO2 emissions than currently produced with the electricity you use. Burning wood and other materials produces not just a lot of CO2 emissions, but a lot of other particulate matter that is quite toxic. So, the net effect would be MORE CO2 emissions and MORE actual pollution !!

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    Tom O

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    Attaining “net-zero” is simple, it is just being looked at from the wrong perspective. All you have to do to attain “net zero” is kill off about 6 billion humans, possible a little more. And you thought it would be difficult!

    • Avatar

      Andy Rowlands

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      Well yes there is that way of doing it 🙂

      • Avatar

        Tom O

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        I only said that because when you consider the way things are going, it appears that is the chosen method to actually reach “net-zero.”

        In reference to the Tom Harding’s comment, the net total of lawsuits will be “net zero.” Law’s will be modified to protect the guilty, as they always are when the process used is government mandated. I agree that the “total damages will be mind staggering,” but the financial losses will, as I said, be “met-zero.”

    • Avatar

      Squidly

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      Attaining “net-zero” would certainly do that, all by itself.

  • Avatar

    Tom Harding

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    No totals yet on the number and value of all the lawsuits that will occur when people die in hospitals from power interruptions during surgery or when industry suffers power interruptions during critical manufacturing processes.
    The total damages will be mind staggering.

    • Avatar

      Andy Rowlands

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      Good point Tom, I hadn’t considered potential legal action following the potential incidents you mentioned.

  • Avatar

    tom0mason

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    “‘Net-Zero’ Possible only If You Ignore Math, Science & Engineering “, the wants and needs of the human population, and the reality that humans do not govern the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Comments are closed