No Minister

Energy Realities

with 7 comments

There have been some terrific graphs published recently that tell us much more about both the global energy situation and efforts to reduce AGW than any number of lengthy articles.

All these graphs but one are historical, showing how energy use has changed over time since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

First, some history of our reliance on different types of energy over the last two hundred years. Note that coal usage peaked around one hundred years ago and oil in the 1970’s. But note also how important they remain.

The reason for those changes can be seen in the next graph, which effectively demonstrates the energy content of the different types. It’s interesting to see that Biomass is churning out slightly more energy than ever, but as energy demands have risen it and other renewable energy sources have simply been left behind. Those fuels with higher energy density have taken over by massive margins.

The only exception to this is nuclear, which is still a pitifully small contributor despite having the highest energy density of all.

Those global figures have been driven by two nations in particular, the USA and China.

Here’s the US. Coal’s contribution has dropped by a huge margin in the last twenty years. The reason for that can be seen in the mirror-image increase in natural gas, which has steadily replaced coal for burning to generate electricity. That in turn has been driven by fracking and horizontal drilling that has unlocked huge reserves of gas on the continental USA, greatly reduced the long-term cost of gas, and thus caused power companies to shift over to using more gas, a process that will continue.

The result of all that has been the steady reduction of CO2 emissions per person in the USA over the last fifty years.

All without signing up to, and even rejecting, the Kyoto Treaty and Paris Climate Accord. So much for government “action”.

Unfortunately all this good work by the USA’s capitalist economy, with its relentless focus on increased productivity that demands getting more production with less energy, is being undone by China.

Not that you can blame them. They have 1.4 billion people that need to have their lives lifted to something approaching that of the West, and they are therefore following a similar path of energy production that the West has undertaken over the last two hundred years. It’s the only way for people to become more prosperous and comfortable in all aspects of life, especially food, housing, health, work.

Note how even the impact of a government lockdown of the economy had no effect on the burning of coal in China in 2020.

India’s 1.2 billion people are following China as fast as they can, as well as the rest of Asia and Africa.

If you want one graph to explain why renewable energy forms such a tiny part of all this, even after hundreds of billions of dollars and Euros of investment over the last thirty years, then the following graph is as good as any.

You just can’t beat physics.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 2, 2021 at 7:00 am

7 Responses

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  1. Realistically that best way to wean us off fossil fuel is Nuclear.

    How about a graph of demand vs solar generation.


    July 2, 2021 at 9:36 am

  2. regarding the USA’s falling co2 emissions, its yet another set of facts that don’t fit the prevailing narrative.


    July 2, 2021 at 11:53 am

  3. Meanwhile in Africa :

    “By ending funding for energy infrastructure projects that rely on natural gas, Europe and the United States have executed a “blanket ban” on supplying inexpensive and reliable energy to people living in poor countries.

    As Dr. Ramachandran details in Nature, a de facto natural gas ban effectively does nothing to propel growth in intermittently-available wind and solar energy.

    These renewable sources require a back-up energy supply that is ever-ready even when the Sun is not shining or wind is not blowing. They cannot function effectively as stand-alone energy sources.

    Banning gas therefore obstructs nearly 600 million Africans from finally achieving access to modern agricultural technology, refrigeration, transportation, hospitals, housing, schools, etc.”

    Source : No Tricks Zone (German Scientific site)

    Unintended consequences of the Green “Revolution” in energy, oh dear, never mind, how sad!


    July 2, 2021 at 6:58 pm

  4. Little Dorrit

    July 4, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    • Chuckle. The paradox here is that you really do think this is how arguments over science and technology are won. You just have no idea what to say in response to these realities except to scream snarking abuse at those who point them out.

      In terms of PR you’re no doubt very pleased at where things sit on this argument.

      I’m just pleased that reality has, as usual, refused to conform to what you so badly want.

      Tom Hunter

      July 4, 2021 at 4:53 pm

    • You have little insight into how utterly moronic that cartoon really is Little D.

      When you invoke “scientists” or “experts” to support a proposition it is an example of a logical fallacy – “argumentum ad verecundiam”.

      Most scientists throughout history have been wrong or at best partially correct in their ideas and the giants in the field have frequently challenged the prevailing scientific wisdom when they have made the intellectual leaps that have led to our modern understanding of the world. which of course will seem hopelessly naïve a hundred years from now….

      Challenging the accepted wisdom is how science works.


      July 4, 2021 at 5:55 pm

  5. Reblogged this on Utopia, you are standing in it!.

    Jim Rose

    June 20, 2022 at 9:00 pm

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