The 'New Energy Economy:' An Exercise in Magical Thinking

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: Hydrocarbons supply over 80% of the world’s energy. They are cheaper and more reliable than the renewable energy systems like wind and solar being advocated for today. There is no possibility that the world is undergoing – or can undergo – a near-term transition to a "new energy economy." And if one is ever to arise, it must come from a return to basic scientific research. 

Hydrocarbons (oil, natural gas, and coal) are easily the world’s principal energy resource today and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. That is because hydrocarbons are, so far, the most optimal ways to power what society needs and wants.

Oil, natural gas, and coal are the centerpiece of a global economic system that continues to need more energy, meaning that their use rates can only increase.  Technology has continually improved society’s energy efficiency. But far from ending global energy growth, efficiency has enabled it. The develped West has demonstrated to the still developing world that always available energy is a necessity.

Higher costs and basic physics suggest that renewable energies and their accompanying battery systems will still account for just a small portion of the world’s energy supply. Europe is a prime example showing that those countries seeking the most renewable energy development have the highest energy prices. These higher costs are not an option for the still developing world where the vast majority of new energy demand will take place. Further, there are a variety of hidden costs of a “green grid” fueled by renewables that should not continue to go ignored. 

Sometimes, the established technology is the best solution and nearly immune to disruption. Hydrocarbons, bricks, concrete, and stone are examples of this not “old” but “optimal” reality. The “new energy economy” that some are demanding in the near-term is simply not possible and currently sits beyond the horizon.

And an energy revolution will only come from the pursuit of basic sciences. Almost all private-sector R&D spending and the majority of government R&D is directed at “development” and not basic research. If policymakers want a revolution in energy techology, the single most important action would be to radically refocus and expand support for basic scientific research.

Read the full study here

Feature Charticle

European Wind/Solar Capacity and Electricity Prices

Manhattan Institute



  • Human society demands always available energy, explaining why hydrocarbons have long dominated. 
  • Physics and higher costs will limit the future contribution of wind, solar, and their accompanying battery systems. 
  • Technological advance and higher efficiency work to increase the need for energy. 
  • Hydrocarbons are not "old" but "optimal."
  • There will be no near-term "new energy economy," and one can only eventually come from the pursuit of basic sciences.

Read the full study here: