Last week, I asked readers what’ll happen once governments realise that net zero is unattainable. Will they abandon their commitments and return to fossil fuels, or decide to cut us and our energy demands down to size?

I’m only one third of the way through the 170 emails we received in response… but here’s some of what you wrote.

Hi Nick,

In today’s email you ask for thoughts on Net Zero and which way our politicians will go. Here are my thoughts on this.

The most likely of your two options, in my opinion, will be a combination of the two. We won’t achieve net zero and we will also have all the restrictions of your second option. But we will be lied to, and told that we are achieving net zero; that some other country is responsible for increasing atmospheric CO2 levels. Just as we have been misled and lied to by all successive governments. There is no way that the world is going to get to net zero, at least for a very long time.

Harsh to say that we are repeatedly lied to? Well, consider as an example, motor transport. We were told that modern cars are more efficient and we should scrap old cars and buy new – with government subsidies to do so. Newer cars are, in general, marginally more efficient than old cars, but if you take the total energy consumption in making the car, driving it and then scrapping it, it is estimated that about 60-70% of the total energy consumed is overhead of the manufacturing process.  

If the government were serious about reducing CO2 emissions they would encourage making cars that last as long as possible and mandating manufacturers to make spares available as long as their cars are on the road. But that would not be acceptable to car manufacturers.    

Now, we are told, we should all be going electric. But with solar and wind generating at full capacity, and still with 45% of electricity being produced from hydrocarbons, any additional load on the grid is just moving CO2 emissions from an exhaust pipe to a power station chimney. And then there is the manufacturing cost of electric cars. Lithium for the batteries requires huge energy use in its mining and refining, and battery life is relatively short, at least if you aim for an extended car life. One future, we are told is hydrogen. But producing hydrogen requires huge energy inputs.

Petrol now contains a proportion of ethanol to make it “greener”. Another lie! The energy used in growing the crop (tractor fuel, fertilizer and pest control), and then converting the crop to ethanol is more than the energy contained in the ethanol produced. In a world where people are short of food, I just think this is immoral.

No longer can we trust the news media either. Hardly a day goes by without some “once in a century” weather event, “caused by global warming” or some other climate related concern. But there are so many places, and different climate potential events, that statistically we would expect a “once a century” event somewhere in most years.    

We cannot even trust the “science” now. Academic research has been corrupted by the political agenda. Research is funded if it will support the current thinking. A scientist trying to publish research suggesting contra conclusions will likely find him/herself losing his career.

And then, of course, increasing CO2 may have some beneficial effects. We know that CO2 is the major limitation on plant growth. In Holland, for example, greenhouses have been built in association with gas powered power stations. The CO2 enriched exhaust piped into the greenhouses enables very rapid growth of tomatoes enabling 4 to 5 crops per year. And it has been identified that plants can be more drought tolerant at higher CO2 concentrations.

But all of this may pale into insignificance as the world seems hell bent on hurtling into World War III. There may not be enough people left to have any effect on the climate.

I am sorry if this has been a bit of a rant. But I do have strong views on the subject. And you did ask for comments.

And yes, if any of this is worthy of inclusion in your excellent commentary, you are welcome to quote it.


If you’re more worried about World War III than climate change, or climate lockdowns, you must’ve watched my interview with global forecaster David Murrin.

As you identify, moving to a carbonless future will require more expenditure/investment than is available with current living standards/consumption and may even be impossible with the physical and political limitations.

We need to understand the problem. It is not a shortage of energy – the sun delivers energy to earth at the rate of 173,000,000,000,000 watts. Total human energy use is about .0001% of this vast number. Energy efficiency doesn’t matter – there is no shortage of energy.

Global warming is the tiny difference between the vast energy delivery and earth’s radiation of energy into space. The problem is the change we have made to the atmosphere which prevents energy leaving and most of the proposed actions to mitigate this actually involve short term worsening for unproven long term gains. In simple terms the answer is obvious – stop changing the atmosphere. The solution is equally simple – make adversely changing the atmosphere prohibitorily expensive and subsidise improving it. 

I have no doubt that a swingeing carbon tax, with no exemptions, imposed by the rich world on itself and at its borders would free the market to find the best and fastest solutions. A concomitant matching elimination of other taxes would reinforce the effect and could, perhaps, be politically acceptable.

Or, to put it the socialist way, Carbon emissions need to be rationed in reducing amounts until eliminated and reversed. Is this possible – yes. Will it happen – very doubtful.

So where are we going? Politicians, who hate simple solutions, will decide to back all manner of expensive, carbon spewing boondoggles, some of which will be useful. They will wring their hands as poor people die in far-off lands or local wars, as their voters are impoverished and the earth calmly adjusts, as it always does, to its new climate and sea level, developing new species to fill the new niches while a reduced humanity copes with its failures, clings on and rebuilds.


I suspect the emissions issue is dominated by an emerging middle class in developing countries more than the rich in developed ones. The free market would deal with government intervention in the form of a carbon tax by moving carbon overseas. (Industry and me along with it.)

Hello Nikolai,

I trust that this reply finds you well.

You ask an interesting question, regarding the ‘charge’ toward net carbon zero.

Although, you have tailored the options to use in response to give only limited choices.

As most people probably do; I feel that there should be a collective effort to reduce carbon emissions.

However, I wonder just how widespread the message has been accepted, or fully understood, across even a small Country like the UK?

We have a well educated population but rely on politicians for the will to push for improvement.

Boris Johnson’s deadlines look like the adequate response needed but they are based on wishes not deliverables, I feel.

I do not believe that many have a grasp of what we are facing or what to do to improve our response.

When the truth dawns, of what the costs and sacrifices involved are, to meet Boris’ aspirations; then the British people will reject the moves.

I am sure that the argument will re-surface, “why are we suffering, when China is still burning Coal”?

We are a small country, in terms of global carbon emissions. It raises the question; how much difference we can make compared to China and the USA?

In addition, there are many other countries who are (very) slow to react to calls for carbon emission reduction.

We could be seen as setting a global example, but who follows the UK these days?

We are geared for cheap power availability and it will take time and education to elicit a change of attitude.

I think that the above will result the deferment of the targets for carbon use cars and for power generation.

This could be due to public feedback and pressure on political parties.

Or, more likely, the required infrastructure and public response to calls for change will not be at an acceptable level.

I looked at a recent offer from EDF, to install an air source heat pump system to my house.

This would cost around £12,000 to install, after a government grant of £5,000.

It would be ‘greener’ but the cost saving in annual consumption pf £200. 

Certainly no financial incentive, that’s for sure, 60 years to repay the outlay!

I spent my working life in the Chemical, Oil and Gas Industries, so should be considered public enemy number!

My industrial mind boggles at what we need to do, in order to build the infrastructure and power production facilities to support the electrification needs.

Then, as a consumer, I see that electricity costs four times what gas costs per kilowatt hour. Going green is not cheap!

I see nuclear as our best option for generation of power, albeit not over clean in terms of waste.

Small scale nuclear power stations would be desirable, as they should be much quicker to construct and commission.

There would need to be quicker response to receiving planning permission, to avoid the present (normal) endless series of delays.

If spread around the Country, they could simply and reduce the upgrade of the power distribution needed.

Using hydrogen to replace natural gas sounds reasonable, but in my industrial life it was always regarded as a very dangerous gas.

It can permeate seals and pipe work, also it has the largest flammability range of any gas. Do you want this in your house?

To return to your question, the option of personal demand being controlled by local government sounds scary.

However, it may be just a bridge too far for many people. There could be a backlash against local government and even climate activists.

People will not be as tolerant of rationing now, as they were in our past. We have become over coddled, so are unwilling to put up with personal discomfort.

I am unsure of just how violent or not protests will be, but our governments, in recent times, have shied away from any turmoil.

So, I would expect a collapse in the resolve of our leaders, if faced with public protest, especially if it became violent.

You have my approval to publish any of this drivel, should you wish to.

Wishing you all the best, and congratulations on your excellent political statements and insights. Keep them coming.

Kind regards,


I’m sure we can all disagree about whether it’s drivel or not, but that was quite a tour of all the issues I’ve been looking into for the upcoming Fleet Street Letter report. More on that soon.

A few readers gave versions of this take:

You are, as usual, spot on Nick. Net Zero is impossible so the prolonged use of fossil fuels is inevitable to sustain what we have become accustomed to. Our common sense and the government’s efforts, constrained by their needs to be re-elected, could at least put off the inevitable in the hope of giving technologies enough time to come up with a viable solution.


According to critics of net zero, the whole idea is built on the presumption that technology will bail us out of our constraints… somehow. That allows companies and governments to pollute now while assuming away future emissions by way of carbon capture, for example. Perhaps in the hope that, at some point in the future, when net zero is abandoned, no harm done, only foul.

Hi Nick

First of all, can I thank you for all the sterling work you do. I always look forward to reading your stuff and your videos with Nigel (the best prime minister we never had).

The answer to your question is both will happen. The east will give up (if they ever start) and we in the west will be left shivering, checking our ration cards.

The idea that the UK is going for net zero (< 2% of global emissions?) while the east build numerous coal fired power stations is barmy. What will the government think of next? A no pissing end in swimming pools?

I worked out that if every car went electric with the smallest engine around, it would on its own exceed the capacity of the grid overnight, leaving no capacity for the normal load. (I’ve spent my entire life in electronics.)

You have my permission to use my comments as you wish.



My electrical safety switch is triggered when I open my garage, run the washing machine, air conditioning, laptop and modem at the same time. Imagine adding the electrification of everything to the load…

The next reader is almost as cynical as me about government initiatives. He’s got a good example of Goodhart’s Law: when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

The targets will be met, unfortunately. Political targets are always met, because achieving the target replaces the purpose the target was intended to achieve as the objective.

Need more tractors, but not enough tractor wheels being made? Set a target to double tractor wheel production. Result, the manufacturers produce four times as many small front wheels and four times fewer big back wheels. Target met, but tractor production reduced by 75%…

The net zero targets will be met, by ‘Enron’ carbon accountancy, and at the cost of untold collateral damage to the planet and the national infrastructure. I predict that the damage to the housing stock by inappropriate insulation and draft reduction to solid brick houses, leading to condensation, damp, and mould will be catastrophic.

I shall believe in the ‘green revolution’ when governments and ‘experts’ acknowledge that ‘going green’ will require a huge expenditure of energy in order to transition from fossil fuels, and a huge amount of electrical metals, and when the debate shifts from targets to the most effective route to transition.

For example, with over 200 lbs of copper required for each EV, is the transition from IC to EV private cars the most efficient use of the available copper to reduce carbon? Would that copper be better used if manufacturing wind turbines and upgrading the grid was given priority over EVs for the available copper? Can a satisfactory alternative to copper be found to replace its non-electrical uses, so as to free more of the available copper for electrical applications? Given the huge energy requirement to produce the materials to ‘go green’, what is the least polluting fossil fuel, and how can it be used in the least polluting way?

If you don’t ask the right question, the answers you come up with are certain to do more harm than good.

Feel free to publish.



That’s all for now. I’ll get back to reading the remaining 117 emails…

Nick Hubble
Editor, Fortune & Freedom