By Tad Patzek: On the Green Queen’s Race


I wrote about the Red Queen’s race for diesel fuel here.

Tad Patzek today wrote about the Green Queen’s race for electricity.

Tad begins by pointing out that a recently update climate model is predicting more than 1 degree of additional warming than the previous model for our current CO2 levels. That’s bad news but seems consistent with what we observe every day in the news.

Then Tad gets to his main point:

…since 2004, the annual increases of total electricity consumption in the world have outpaced all electricity production by all PV arrays in the world…

This means that the Green Queen is not only not keeping up, she’s not even in the race. Except for one year, 2009, when the economy crashed.

Annual Electricity Change vs. Total PV Electricity

And we haven’t even begun to replace the other 84% of fossil energy that we use for non-electricity applications like heating, fertilizer, tractors, trucks, trains, ships, planes, mining, steel, cement, glass, etc..

Thus, there are no other paths but to shrink, shrink more and transit away from fossil fuels.

Once again I observe that facts don’t matter and denial defines our species.

16 thoughts on “By Tad Patzek: On the Green Queen’s Race”

    1. Yes, the other essays by Patzek in this series are also good…

      Part 1: The New Green Revolution, a.k.a. The Grand Transition to… ??

      Part 2: Green New Deal

      Part 3: Green New Deal, How?

      Part 4: Green New Deal, Any Other Paths?


  1. I like David Attenborough because he makes great nature docs that in addition to teaching about a particular species always stress & demonstrate the 1st rule of ecology – everything is connected. I think many people have learned more about the ‘natural’ world from watching Attenborough docs than they learned all through k-12.

    Just sharing this from today because it’s on topic

    David Attenborough says it’s ‘extraordinary’ climate deniers are in power in Australia

    “Appearing before the UK parliament’s business, energy and industrial strategy committee on how to tackle the climate emergency, the celebrated broadcaster and natural historian was asked about claims people were overreacting to the threat of a climate emergency.

    He replied: “I am sorry that there are people who are in power … notably, of course, [in] the United States but also in Australia [who are climate change deniers], which is extraordinary because Australia is already facing having to deal with some of the most extreme manifestations of climate change.”

    I don’t think it’s ‘extraordinary’ that climate deniers are in power in Australia or America. I think it’s absurd & to be expected givfn my understanding of what the humans are.

    What’s he difference between Trump & Trudeau? Trump denies AGW and uses what power he has to help the fossil fuel industry. Trudeau does not deny AGW & says all the right ‘fight climate change’ talking points and then uses what power he has to help the fossil fuel industry.

    What’s the diff?

    Deniers everywhere of all stripes. As far as I’m concerned anyone who thinks or hopes humans can change and mitigate the consequences of their self inflicted predicaments, at a scale that matters, or effectively address most of their myriad of self inflicted problems, is in denial.

    My question is how can hope continue when every year the things they hope to be remedied get worse? By the numbers it goes further in the opposite direction every year – across the board.

    The hope, like the denial & insatiable reward seeking is hardwired. Effectively unchangeable except for a few outliers on the behavioral bell curve who make no difference. Kinda like asexuals who live their lives without sex or reproducing. They have always been around but because they are such a tiny minority, they make no difference in population numbers one way or another. Through the evolutionary lens they don’t fit & nor do gays, but they are there, generation after generation regardless. I’m not sure about a genetic mutation in those ‘non denier’ doomer types, because I’m one of them – a thermodynamic & evolutionary determinist, but only changed my thinking to that, slowly over the last 20 years through much study & observation and only gave up all hope about 10 years ago. Perhaps it’s epigenitics? A no hope, no denial switch mechanism got turned on by our environment – the pending collapse of techno industrial civilization with a massive die-back and every increasing probability of die-off. That’ll throw that switch every time. I hope they isolate the no hope no denial gene, then that way we’ll be eligible for disability & possibly reparations if we can find someone or thing, living or dead, to pin it on. I await my monthly government cheques with bated breath.


    1. Haha. Nice one.

      I too am a fan of Attenborough. I have over 360 of his videos in my collection.

      You are right, there is no difference between Trump and Trudeau in what counts, behavior, although I suppose you could argue that Trudeau is a polite idiot rather than a rude idiot.

      I think denial, hope, and optimism in the face of unpleasant realities are all the same thing, and is uniquely hardwired in humans. Reward seeking, also hardwired, is present in all species.

      I did not become collapse aware until I was about 50 but I know that I’ve been different all of my life because the most important question for me about everything has always been why? For example, of course religions are wacky, but the really interesting question for me is why do the majority believe in them? Of course climate scientists are correct, but the really interesting question for me is why do they still fly and why do they remain willfully ignorant of the thermodynamic laws that govern our economy?

      I’m betting if you reflect on your early life you will see some differences that point to a genetic abnormality related to reality denial.


      1. It could be as our friend James has suggested, that some of us just have atypical brain wiring. If one has that & is exposed to at least some formal education & has access to the nearly unlimited knowledge base (libraries, internet, experts) like we had/have the privileged of having, that may be one of the reasons why. I’ve noticed something about many so called doomers – they seem to be very curious -Why daddy why? – regardless of their varied occupations and formal education levels.

        I played a number of sports at the most competitive levels as a kid & teen & it was/is a popular meme among coaches that you cannot teach speed. You can tweak it but, you either have it or you don’t. I think the same applies to curiosity – it can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t.

        I dropped out in grade 9, but was always reading, reading, reading & asking people questions & never stopped, nor could I if I tried. I think it would make me feel uncomfortable & restless to give it up or have it taken away. I could manage, without the internet, which I never had until I was 30 years old, but not having books or access to them would be tough.

        My dad was an elementary school teacher & many friends would think that somehow was an advantage for me, but the only time my dad came to the kitchen table to assist me or my brother & sister was for math. My dad was also curious & a life long learner (to a lesser degree than me). Among my parents hundreds of books, they had an encyclopedia set, a bunch of different atlases & other reference books & for every non math question anyone of us asked dad gave the same answer every time – Look it up. If there was an advantage it was that he made us do the work. We also had a ‘chores’ scheduled on our fridge & they were kinda strict about it.

        Other than the extreme curiosity, I have what many people who have know me well, call a ‘freakish’ memory. Later in life, I realized I was intuitively doing a lot of association, but I’m not sure that explains all of it because there is a powerful emotional component to memories of experiences that is different than all the facts, figures & trivial bits of science, history, etc. It’s had it’s advantages, but it’s a double edged sword since I vividly remember most of the bad shit as far back as 4 years old & that has been troublesome to say the least. I’ve informally tested some of these memories by telling them to my aunts, uncles & family friends & comparing them to their memories of the same thing & they were impressed with my recall. Although most people have inaccurate memories and even rewrite them through the passing years, so I have to factor that in.

        About 5 years ago I recalled to my aunt a memory of the day my parents separated during the school summer holidays a couple of months before I turned 6. My dad, 2 uncles, 2 ants & 2 of their friends were all drinking & listening to music (Cat Stevens & Blood, Sweat & Tears albums). My mom was working, but was hours late getting home. When she finally showed up she was half drunk and with a coworker. They went to the Calgary Stampede on a whim after work for a few hours, but no phone call. Dad flipped out when mom got home and threw a bunch of my moms clothes on the road. My aunts gathered them up & dad threw them on the road again. My mom grabbed some of her stuff & my sister & I did not see them again for 18 months. My aunt started crying when I told her my recollection of that incident and said, “I always hoped you kids would not remember that day”. I asked both my brother & sister and they do not remember the incident, just that our family was broken up & separated for 18 months. I remember all sorts of things just as vividly with all these seemingly unimportant details like what music was playing, what people were wearing,the weather, etc.

        It appears there is something going on that prevents my cognitive biases from doing their job of filtering or scrubbing my unpleasant memories like they do for most people. This is most likely why I’m not in denial or willful ignorance about the big pickle we are in. Hell, many times I wish I was – wandering around our consumer paradise in beautiful blissful ignorance.


        1. Very interesting. I wonder if curiosity is a side effect of having a lower tendency to deny unpleasant realities? Seems to correlate well with the fact that people who think economic growth is good and normal never ask what the implications of exponential growth are.

          I too have some unpleasant memories of early life. They may be the source of my jaded view that love is just one of evolution’s inventions for increasing reproductive fitness, as is our insatiable desire for more which manifests as economic growth being the top priority of every country in the world.


  2. “the Green Queen is not only not keeping up, she’s not even in the race”

    Funny that this line appears immediately above a graph showing that that “green queen” is catching up, and catching up from an abysmally-low start just a few years previous. IOW, the “green queen” is doing just fine, and as good as could possibly be expected at this early date in its evolution.


    1. I think you may have misread the graph. It is a little confusing. It compares the annual CHANGE in total electricity consumption, with the annual TOTAL PV production. This does mean that PV is not even in the race.


  3. Tim Morgan today confirmed Patzek’s observation…

    – According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), additions of new renewable generating capacity have stalled, with 177 GW added last year, unchanged from 2017. Moreover, the IEA has stated that additions last year needed to be at least 300 GW to stay on track with objectives set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

    – The IEA has also said that capital investment in renewables, expressed at constant values, was lower last year (at $304bn) than it was back in 2011 ($314bn). Even allowing for reductions in unit cost, this reinforces the observation that renewables capacity simply isn’t growing rapidly enough.

    – In 2018, output of electricity generated from renewable sources increased by 314 TWH (terawatt hours), but total energy consumption grew by 938 TWH, with 457 TWH of that increase – a bigger increment than delivered by renewables – sourced from fossil fuels.

    The latter observation is perhaps the most worrying of all. Far from replacing the use of fossil fuels in electricity supply, additional output from renewables is failing even to keep pace with growth in demand.

    Morgan observes that the construction rate of renewable energy is proportional to available subsidies. I would add that subsidies are made possible by surplus wealth, and surplus wealth is made possible by affordable fossil energy, and so as fossil energy depletes we will build less renewable energy. Thus there will be no transition to anything other than a medieval lifestyle, at best.

    The deceleration in the rate at which renewables capacity and output are being added seems to be linked to decreases in subsidies.


  4. Tim Watkins elaborates on the same issue…

    Put simply, there is not enough Planet Earth left for us to grow our way to sustainability. The only option open to us is to rapidly shrink our activities and our population back to something that can be sustained without further depleting the planet we depend upon. Continue with business as usual and Mother Nature is going to do to us what we did to the dodo and the passenger pigeon. Begin taking some radical action – which still allows the use of some resources and fossil fuels – to switch from an economy of desires to one of needs and at least a few humans might survive what is coming.

    The final problem, though, is that very few people – including many of those who protest government inaction on the environment – are prepared to make the sacrifices required. Nor are our corporations and institutions prepared to forego their power and profits for the greater good. And that leaves us with political structures that will inevitably favour business as usual.

    So no, I don’t hate “renewables” – I just regard those who blithely claim that we can deploy and use them to replace fossil fuels without breaking a sweat to be as morally bankrupt as any climate change denying politician you care to mention. There is a crash on the horizon, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the fourteenth century. When the energy cost of securing energy – whether fossil fuel, nuclear or renewable – exceeds the energy cost of sustaining the system; our ability to take mitigating action will be over. Exactly when this is going to happen is a matter of speculation (we should avoid mistaking inevitability for imminence). Nevertheless, the window for taking action is closing fast; and promising Bright Green utopias as we slide over the cliff edge is not helping anybody.


  5. Germany is one of the few countries in the world that has made an honest effort to reduce carbon emissions by switching to non-fossil energy. Alice Friedemann explains that Germany’s program has failed, as will any other country that tries to run a modern civilization on PV and wind. The underlying physics won’t permit it. Rapid population reduction is the only useful policy for reducing future suffering.

    The goal of Energiewende was to make Germany independent of fossil fuels. But it hasn’t worked out. The 29,000 wind turbines and 1.6 million PV systems provide only 3.1% of Germany’s energy needs and have cost well over 100 billion Euros so far and likely another 450 billion Euros over the next two decades. And much more than that when you add in the extra cost of maintaining fossil generation systems to back up the lack of wind and sunshine from seconds to weeks.

    Other news about Energiewende:

    – Germany’s Federal Audit Office has accused the federal government of having largely failed to manage the transformation of Germany’s energy systems (Energiewende program), and will miss its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and the share of renewable energy in transport.
    – At the same time, policy makers had burdened the nation with enormous costs. The audit further concluded that the program is a monumental bureaucratic nightmare.
    – The build-up of renewables benefited from more than $800 billion in subsidies.
    – The country has not just been burning coal; it has been burning lignite, one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet. In fact, in 2016, seven of the 10 worst polluting facilities in Europe were German lignite plants.
    – When it’s windy and bright, the grid is so flooded with power that prices in the wholesale market sometimes drop below zero.
    – Transport consumes 30 percent and mining & manufacturing 29% of Germany’s power, but for each, only 4 percent of its energy comes from renewables. Households use 26% of power, but only 13% of it comes from renewables, and Trade, commerce and services 15% but just 7% renewables.
    – Germany’s carbon emissions have stagnated at roughly their 2009 level. The country remains Europe’s largest producer and burner of coal, which generates more than one-third of Germany’s power supply. Moreover, emissions in the transportation sector have shot up by 20 percent since 1995 and are rising with no end in sight


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