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Manhattan Institute

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New Report Debunks Narrative of an Imminent “New Energy Economy”

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New Report Debunks Narrative of an Imminent “New Energy Economy”

March 26, 2019
Energy & EnvironmentTechnology / InfrastructureClimate

The laws of physics render popular green energy proposals “magical thinking”

NEW YORK, NY – In a new Manhattan Institute report, senior fellow Mark Mills addresses the popular but problematic idea driving the Green New Deal and similar policy proposals: that America is on the verge of an energy revolution—akin in scale and scope to the tech revolution of Silicon Valley—that will enable 100% replacement of hydrocarbons with green alternatives. Proponents point to solar panels, windmills, and batteries as the key technologies in a “new energy economy.”

There’s just one problem: an analysis of the constraints imposed by Mother Nature reveals that such a revolution isn’t just unlikely—it’s impossible. Mills leverages scientific data to assert that until fundamentally new science is discovered, the “new energy economy” is, physically speaking, unattainable. Furthermore, as the U.S. continues to pour resources into yesterday’s green alternatives that cannot meet growing energy demands, it is missing the opportunity to invest in the basic research to find truly revolutionary new kinds of energy technologies.

The report relies on the laws of physics to show that a wholesale replacement of hydrocarbons with current green alternatives won’t materialize in the near future. Examples of the report’s findings include:

  • In the past two decades, the share of global energy supplied by hydrocarbons has declined by 2 percentage points, despite approximately $2 trillion in cumulative spending on non-hydrocarbon alternatives.
  • In the U.S., popular green alternatives—solar, wind, and batteries—supply only about 3 percent of the nation’s energy needs.
  • Solar technologies have improved greatly and will continue to become cheaper and more efficient. But the era of 10-fold gains is over; solar technology is now approaching physics limits and is improving at roughly the same slow rate as all other conventional technologies.
  • Because they rely on weather, solar and wind require back-up batteries in order to approach grid-quality reliability. Building enough batteries to store just two days of the nation’s electric demand would require 1,000 years of production from the Tesla Gigafactory, currently the world’s largest lithium battery factory.

Click here to read the full report.

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