What the Media Won't Tell You About the Energy Transition


Over the past few days, I’ve searched the NewsBank archive for uses of “energy transition.” One of the earliest uses of that now-ubiquitous phrase occurred in the Christian Science Monitor in 1981. In a dispatch from Nairobi, a reporter named Richard Critchfield explained that some “4,000 delegates from 154 countries” were gathering in the Kenyan capital for a two-week United Nations conference on new and renewable sources of energy. “The purpose of the conference,” Critchfield explained, was to “promote better understanding of the global energy transition from oil to such new sources as geothermal, solar, wind, ocean, and hydropower or energy from biomass, fuelwood, charcoal, peat, draught animals, oil shale, and tar sands.”

The article doesn’t mention climate change. Instead, it focuses on Kenya’s reliance on imported energy, the country’s geothermal potential, and the “classic third-world poverty trap of soaring oil costs and stagnant export earnings.”

Today, 43 years later, we are inundated with news reports about climate change and claims that we are in the midst of an energy transition that will eliminate our need for hydrocarbons. Myriad examples can prove that point, but consider the Earth Day press release from the White House. The April 22 release included the word “climate” 52 times and references the energy transition three times. For instance, it said President Joe Biden has launched a new “Clean Energy Supply Chain Collaborative to work with international partners to diversity supply chains that are critical to a clean and secure energy transition.” It continued, saying the president is “mobilizing other governments to follow the U.S. lead and commit to achieve net zero government emissions by 2040.”

Before going further, let me be clear about my politics. I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican. I am Disgusted. I have no truck with either party. As a journalist focused on energy and power systems, my affiliation is with the math and the physics. My job is to spotlight the trends and the numbers and to separate the hype from the reality. Unfortunately, much of the media coverage about the energy transition is just that: hype. As I will show in these charts, the hype has soared during the Biden administration.

Last month, the EPA announced rules to “reduce pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants.” In the agency’s April 25 press release announcing the new regulations, the word “transition” appears three times. The EPA said  it was providing “regulatory certainty as the power sector makes long-term investments in the transition to a clean energy economy.” It also quotes the BlueGreen Alliance’s Jason Walsh as saying the EPA mandate provides a “toolbox of critical investments targeted to the workers and communities experiencing the economic impacts of energy transition.”

In these 10 charts, I abide by W. Edwards Deming’s commandment: “In God we trust, all others must bring data.” The numbers I’m presenting aren’t my numbers, they are the numbers. Here’s what the media won’t tell you about the energy transition.

Chart 1

I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it: the concept of the energy transition is essentially a Western conceit. The U.S. and Western European countries are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on programs like the Inflation Reduction Act and the Energiewende to fund buildouts of solar, wind, batteries, and tutti-fruity-colored hydrogen, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world will do the same. There is no evidence that China and India are going through an energy transition.

Read the rest of this piece at Robert Bryce Substack.

Robert Bryce is a Texas-based author, journalist, film producer, and podcaster. His articles have appeared in a myriad of publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, Time, Austin Chronicle, and Sydney Morning Herald.

Photo: Cooling towers at India’s Mahatma Gandhi Super Thermal Power Project, a 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant in Haryana, by Vikramdeep Sidhu via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.