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Net Zero could cost Americans more than $50 trillion, new paper warns

March 17, 2023

By Paul Homewood


An eminent researcher has warned that any attempt to decarbonise the US economy by 2050 is doomed to failure.
Professor Michael Kelly, from the University of Cambridge in the UK, has previously studied the impact of Net Zero projects in the UK and his native New Zealand, and has now turned his expertise to the United States.
His headline findings are a stark warning for politicians across the country.
“The cost to 2050 will comfortably exceed $12 trillion for electrification projects, and $35 trillion for improving the energy efficiency of buildings. A work-force comparable in size to the health sector will be required for 30 years, including a doubling of the present number of electrical engineers. The bill of specialist materials is of a size that, for the USA alone, is several times the global annual production.”
Professor Kelly warns that politicians are not thinking through the scale of the project they are pursuing.
“It’s clear that no country has the manpower, the materials, or the money to deliver Net Zero. It cannot be attempted without establishing a command economy, and even then it would fail. This is a fool’s errand.”

Michael Kelly: The Feasibility of a Net-Zero Economy for the USA by 2050 (pdf)

I usually work on a ratio of 10 to 1 when comparing US and UK GDP, so this would equate to about £4 trillion in UK terms, which is broadly in line with other estimations.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. David Coe permalink
    March 17, 2023 2:42 pm

    4 trillion in UK terms.

  2. Terence David Breverton permalink
    March 17, 2023 2:43 pm

    Surely over £4 trillion UK cost?

  3. Terry Breverton permalink
    March 17, 2023 2:46 pm

    Hi Paul, UK £4 trillion not £4 billion cost

    Sent from Outlook

  4. Carnot permalink
    March 17, 2023 2:46 pm

    Ahem, I think you mean $4 trillion for the UK. $4 billion would not even buy an aircraft carrier. I do not think $4 trillion is unreasonable. Just look at HS2.

  5. Gamecock permalink
    March 17, 2023 2:50 pm

    ‘and $35 trillion for improving the energy efficiency of buildings’

    Nope. US building structure is fairly new, and has been built with energy efficiency in mind. Hence, energy efficiency of buildings has already been accomplished. There is no there there.

    • Nigel Sherratt permalink
      March 17, 2023 3:02 pm

      $35 trillion is to get them to zero energy input (passivhaus). Very interesting paper, worth reading. Houses twice the size and a lot of air conditioning.

      Report: Deep Retrofits Can Halve Homes’ Energy Use and Emissions. ACEEE

      • Gamecock permalink
        March 17, 2023 4:24 pm

        Sorries. I prefer nonfiction.

    • gezza1298 permalink
      March 18, 2023 11:40 am

      It depends on whether you consider the CO2 output of buildings as to whether there is a huge cost to be met by the owners. New York is the crash test dummy for this one as highlighted by WUWT yesterday.

  6. dave permalink
    March 17, 2023 3:23 pm

    “Deep Retrofits…”

    AKA “money pits.”

  7. Cheshire Red permalink
    March 17, 2023 3:26 pm

    If a UK estimate of 4 trillion is anywhere near accurate then it’s clear we cannot afford this project.

    Not just ‘it’s a bit too rich for me, guv’. I mean we literally *cannot* afford it.

    I say this is now a direct threat to UK national financial security. Forget rhetoric; it really would bankrupt the nation.

  8. markl permalink
    March 17, 2023 3:36 pm

    The cost will never be realized because it won’t take that long before NZero is abandoned. The law of diminishing returns has already hit renewable efforts to do away with fossil fuels. Even all out conversion to nuclear generated electricity won’t/can’t eliminate fossil fuels.

    • stevejay permalink
      March 17, 2023 4:50 pm

      The OBR estimate £573.1 billion for the UK. Our PM is still talking about “carbon capture”. When will they ever learn?stevejay

      • gezza1298 permalink
        March 18, 2023 11:43 am

        Sushi didn’t get to be PM due to his intelligence, knowledge and insight did he? Not even the MPs voted him to the job.

  9. Brian O'Hara permalink
    March 17, 2023 4:20 pm

    I sent the following letter to the Editor of the Telegraph at the end of February. Not heard anything since. I failed to mention that Senator Kennedy asked Dr. Rob Letterman whether he believed in the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy.

    Dear Editor,
    In the past decade this country has gone to the dogs. Politicians once had the population’s interest at heart and made tough decisions with that ethos in mind. At the moment – and this goes for the USA as well – strange ideologies have been able to manifest themselves and thrive in the on-line world of ‘dogmatism’. The most pervasive of these ideologies is ‘Climate Change’. I’ve reached the ripe old age of 80, so I remember the time before the term ‘climate change’ was coined and such phenomenon was referred to as the ‘seasons’. I used to read Christopher Booker’s Sunday column in which he debunked the outlandish claims made by the UN’s propaganda machine, pompously known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This whole circus was kickstarted by Al Gore’s DVD entitled ‘An Inconvenient Truth (2006)’. Regrettably, ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle (2007), was not given the same hype and the apocalyptic scenario of Al Gore’s DVD gripped the imagination of the UK and the USA. As a result, the green blob now hold sway by dictating the government’s energy policies; which, put mildly, are catastrophic. In the US, at their Senate Budget Committee Meeting (15th Feb 2023) Senator Kennedy asked Dr Oltz-Eakin the question, ‘What would it cost for the US to reach net zero’. He estimated the cost to be, approximately, 50 trillion US dollars. Senator Kennedy then asked Dr Oltz-Eakin another question, ‘If the US spends 50 trillion dollars on climate solutions, how much would it reduce the earth’s temperature’. The answer was, ‘I don’t know’. The question was put to Dr. Rob Letterman – another climate expert – and his answer was, also, ‘I don’t know’. I can only guess that if the same question was put to our own climate tzars the answer would be the same. If that would be the case why is the government hell bent on bankrupting the country and making a nonsense of having an energy policy when they don’t know what it would cost for this country to reach net zero, or what effect it will have. Is it because this ideological zealotry that has gripped the subconscious of our politicians, to such a degree, that to question the ‘consensus’ would upset ‘Extinction Rebellion’ and the rest of the ‘green blob’? Surely, when the Country is experiencing an energy crisis, that in itself is causing other crises, the government should ask itself the same question, ‘If the UK spends X trillion pounds making the UK reach net zero, by how much will it reduce the earth’s temperature’? If the answer is, ‘I don’t know’, then why are they taking the Country, and its population Soviet style, over the cliff like Lemmings?

    Yours sincerely,

    Brian O’Hara

  10. Harry Passfield permalink
    March 17, 2023 4:32 pm

    Oh! The wet dreams the Left must be having thinking about all those NZ jobs. But of course, they fail to see that none of them are actually wealth-creating. They are all a cost to the economy. And like the CS, are kept in their jobs by workers in the private sector.

  11. March 17, 2023 4:42 pm

    Back in the day, Senator Stevenson from IL was quoted as saying, “A few hundred billion here, a few hundred billion there; before you know it you are talking real money.” Change that to trillion$ and you are up to date. Forty years of failed climate predictions and all that changes is the price tag. NEXT….

    • March 17, 2023 10:22 pm

      Wikipedia: “The saying, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money” has been attributed to Dirksen, but there is no direct record of Dirksen saying the remark.” [That would be Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois.]

      • March 18, 2023 7:16 pm

        Thank you for correcting me. I get my senators from the 1960s mixed up some times.

  12. John permalink
    March 17, 2023 4:45 pm

    Paul, I think you meant £4trln not bln for the cost for the UK to achieve net zero

    • March 17, 2023 6:32 pm



      • John permalink
        March 18, 2023 11:48 am

        Paul, your work on debunking the great climate change scam, following up on the sterling work of the much missed Christopher Booker, is absolutely invaluable. What do you think it would take to convince our politicians to see sense? Or might there be a more sinister reason for their obsession? At the risk of being accused of promoting conspiracy theories, there’s no doubt in my mind that there must be forces at work that are generating huge fortunes for themselves at the expense of humanity and with the additional objective of creating a new world order. Sounds far fetched I know but so does everything else in this crazy world

  13. John Brown permalink
    March 17, 2023 5:12 pm

    In the Spring Budget the Chancellor announced £20bn of government support for CCUS (Carbon Capture, Utilisation & Storage) “to capture 20-30m tons of CO2 each year by 2030”.

    So we’re going to spend £20bn (plus at least a doubling of energy costs as a result of the inefficiency of the process) – £700/income taxpayer – to effectively reduce world global CO2 emissions by less than 0.1% per annum (IEA 2021 figure 36bn tons – which will be much higher by 2030 as China, India et al continue to increase their annual consumption of coal).

    Another of the many examples of why Net Zero is going to destroy our economy for no planet saving benefit whatsoever and I bet, like HS2, that £4tn is an underestimate. Net Zero is a chimera.

    BTW “Climate action” is only number 13 in the UN’s list of “Sustainable Development Goals”. They know that increasing CO2 increases food production whilst because of IR saturation (see the work of Wijngaarden & Happer) increasing levels of CO2 have an almost zero increasing warming effect. They should know, they “own the science”.

    • March 17, 2023 5:48 pm

      Carbon capture? Are they gonna capture cow farts next? This is utter foolishness. Carbon is a building block of life on this planet. Carl Sagan quoted the phrase, carbon-based life forms. What part do they not understand?

  14. David Wojick permalink
    March 17, 2023 7:33 pm

    The batteries alone could easily mcost over $50 trillion:
    A simple reason why net zero is impossible
    By David Wojick

    Here is the beginning:
    “I have a new study out, titled “Constraining Renewables is a National Need”, that provides a simple reason why net zero is impossible. It is simply impossible to provide enough energy storage to make renewables reliable. The headlong rush to replace thermal power generation with renewables must therefore be constrained. Congress, FERC and NERC must act to prevent disaster

    The full study is here:

    Here is (the beginning of) my Executive Summary: Renewables cannot be made reliable with storage so their penetration must be constrained and managed. The North American Reliability Corporation (NERC) must develop Reliability Standards to ensure that the reckless growth of renewables does not destabilize the grid.

    Grid scale storage at the scale needed to replace fossil fuels with wind and solar is impossibly expensive. Even assuming fantastic price reductions, analysis shows the cost of the required battery storage still nearly equals the $23 trillion annual American GDP. The likely cost would be many times GDP. Clearly this is economically impossible. Despite this impossibility, present government policies and utility practices are driving toward massive grid penetration by renewables. This reckless drive must be properly constrained and managed, in order to protect reliability. American grid reliability must be maintained.”

    Lots more in the article. Please share it.

    • John Brown permalink
      March 18, 2023 3:47 pm

      Thanks for your post and report. Yes, not only are such large, unaffordable batteries required but also the additional installed/nameplate capacity of renewables needs to be enormously increased if we are to have reliable/dispatchable power.

      I calculate that with an overall battery efficiency of 80% then it is necessary to install 4 GW of wind capacity for each 1 GW of reliable/dispatchable power.

      In the case of hydrogen produced by electrolysis as a store of energy then for wind it is necessary to install 8 GW of capacity for each 1 GW of reliable/dispatchable power. For solar in the UK we need 30 GW for each 1 GW of dispatchable power.

      They of course know this, which is why there is no storage showing on our “Mission Zero” or NG ESO FES energy flow diagrams. We are being informed that “behaviour change” is necessary, so that demand matches supply, through surge pricing and rolling blackouts controlled via our smart meters. Our only hope is for some technological breakthrough….

  15. March 17, 2023 8:20 pm

    Thank you for your frank honesty, it is refreshing.


  1. Nothing New Under The Sun 2016

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