A Free-Market Energy Blog

“The Unpopular Truth” Trues Up “Clean” Energy

By -- April 28, 2023

To understand the massive misunderstanding of the fundamentals of energy and electricity, Lars Schernikau discussed the conclusions reached from 70 interviews over three years with various ministries, governmental economic organizations, universities, industrial conglomerates along with energy think tanks…. “The overarching theme from these interviews,” he found, “was a lack of understanding of the true full cost of electricity and the continued misuse of the marginal cost measure LCOE to compare the cost of variable ‘renewables’ with conventional sources of power.”  

I recently finished reading The Unpopular Truth: about Electricity and the Future of Energy by Dr. Lars Schernikau and Professor William Hayden Smith.  The authors address how the energy market works rather than how the mainstream media, environmental activists, and policymakers portray it. 

Not surprisingly, the book explores the misunderstandings of policymakers and their advisors about the workings of the electricity and energy systems.  These misunderstandings have led to, and if not changed will continue leading to, expensive and less reliable power.  At the same time, these policies do less to decarbonize the world’s economy than policymakers believe, while reducing the future wealth and living standards of the world’s population. 

Schernikau is an energy economist and commodity trader focused on energy raw materials, while Smith is a Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences at Washington University.  At one point in his career, Schernikau worked for the Boston Consulting Group in Europe and North America, so he has been a strategic advisor to companies and governments.  His training and real-world experience (trading commodities) provides him with the background to understand the weaknesses of the policies that are revamping our electricity system. 

By viewing the energy-system transition exclusively through the prism of carbon emissions, policymakers embrace more expensive renewables that use more land and resources and leave the electricity system less reliable.  Those weaknesses harm the policymakers’ constituents. 

I was introduced to Schernikau via an early March Close of Business Tuesday podcast “Truth in Energy” conducted by Veriten, a knowledge and media platform focusing on energy, technology, and environmental trends hosted by Maynard Holt.  As Veriten says on its website, “A central theme to all of Veriten’s efforts will be an evergreen analysis of ‘What will the energy world look like in ten years?’  In other words, how will today’s decisions and policies shape our future?  For those interested in energy and its evolution (transition), the firm’s conversations prove enlightening because they dig into the numbers and technology challenges. 

What I learned from Veriten’s conversation with Schernikau spurred us to order and read his book as well as read the scientific papers that provide the foundation for the book.  Those papers deal with the full cost of electricity (FCOE) and energy returns on investment (eROI).  These are key issues in building an energy system that is affordable, reliable, and clean – the primary concerns of consumers and policymakers. 

Energy Misunderstandings

To understand the massive misunderstanding of the fundamentals of energy and electricity, Schernikau discussed the conclusions reached from 70 interviews over three years with various ministries, governmental economic organizations, universities, industrial conglomerates along with energy think tanks like the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the ASEAN Center for Energy (ACE), and leading strategy consulting firms.  “The overarching theme from these interviews,” he found, “was a lack of understanding of the true full cost of electricity and the continued misuse of the marginal cost measure LCOE to compare the cost of variable ‘renewables’ with conventional sources of power.”

Schernikau also pointed out that the “overarching desire – especially in developing nations – was to support a sustainable yet economically viable energy policy to transition away from fossil fuels over time.  The costs and downsides associated with this transition – limited by today’s technologies – were rarely understood or researched.”  This is a huge indictment of energy advisors and the policymakers they are advising.  Why?  Because the energy system is more complex than people appreciate. 

For most people, the power in their home comes from a wall plug or a light switch.  How that power arrived and was immediately available when the switch was flipped, or a device was plugged in is unknown.  Yet, the details behind the power are crucial to the decisions about what fuels are used and how they are employed.  In the effort to make electricity simple to understand, the physical realities of energy generation, transmission, and storage are ignored, and popular solutions are based on fantasies.

Moreover, no one ever asks those proposing revamps to our energy and electricity systems what the cost will be, how long it will take, and what are the downside risks in their recommended solutions.  It is no surprise that in places like California or Germany that have embraced renewable energy as the only choice for their new power systems, consumers face the highest and fastest rising electricity costs.  Moreover, this strategy has made power less reliable.  Addressing these failures is what Schernikau and Smith explore in the book.  With a 2023 publication date, it is the most up-to-date analysis of energy challenges.  Ignoring the realities of energy and electricity will perpetuate the economic disasters we are experiencing.


  1. John W. Garrett  

    I am not interested in being a lab rat in the physics and economics experiment currently being conducted for the edification of the poetry, English, sociology, ecology and art history majors who are now setting energy policies in California, New York and The Mistake On The Potomac (a/k/a Washington, D.C.).


  2. Peter Salonius  

    Subject: Matt Ehret’s description of the irrational stampede to ditch nuclear electrical generation


    “Any nation committed to raising the living standards and productive powers of its people cannot tolerate a de-carbonization or de-nuclearization plan for even a minute.”

    Germany Celebrates Fealty To Depopulation Lobby With Shut Down Of Nuclear Energy Sector
    APR 30

    Originally published on The Last American Vagabond

    This week, Germany signaled its willingness to serve as some techno feudal sacrifice appeasing Gaia’s demands for blood by shutting down the last three nuclear reactors. Amidst the greatest (self-induced) energy crisis caused by demands to cut Europe off of cheap Russian gas, Germany’s Minister for the Environment Steffi Lemke stated with all the confidence of a devoted cult member “The position of the German government is clear: nuclear power is not green. Nor is it sustainable… We are embarking on a new era of energy production.”

    As we will soon come to see, this “new era of energy production” is in truth, merely a euphemism for depopulation which would be easier to see if the political class had not been intellectually castrated in the basics of energy, science, or morality.

    Germany is not alone in this race to the bottom but joined by a handful of other European nations which have been told that the disaster that tore apart the lives of millions of people in Fukushima in March 2011 was so dangerous that all nuclear energy had to be dismantled post haste. In Ireland, laws were passed in 1999 making it illegal to ever construct nuclear power, and in Switzerland, a 2017 referendum demanded that all reactors be shut down. In 2021 Belgium had voted to completely shut down its nuclear sector by 2025 while Spain committed to shut down its entire nuclear sector in 2019 which currently supplies the nation with 20% of its energy. Earlier Denmark passed a resolution in 1985 to never build a nuclear reactor, and Italy shut down its last reactors in 1990. Between 2011-2020, 48 GW of nuclear energy was lost (primarily in western nations trapped within the zero-growth cage of NATO).

    The fact is that 12 years after the Tsunami struck the west Coast of Japan killing 18,000 civilians, not one Fukushima death is traceable to radiation exposure. While a meltdown did strike three of the ten reactors in the Daiichi complex, those which suffered damages used outdated technology and cut corners in safety standards such that no coolants were available once electricity was lost after the 8.9 earthquake struck. Those deaths which did occur in the aftermath, had more to do with heart attacks caused by the vast fear-driven evacuation of 160,000 citizens from towns across the coast of Japan — many of which remain abandoned to this day as 100,000 are still considered “nuclear refugees”. After extensive testing, the WHO found radiation levels of evacuees to be undetectable… a fact which has done little to reverse the deeply embedded fears within the Japanese zeitgeist, whose robust layout of 54 nuclear plants providing high quality, reliable and affordable energy to Japanese industry and citizens in 2011 has fallen to a mere 10 operational plants today (with only 5 actually supplying energy at any given time).

    The Positive Effects of Low Dose Radiation
    Just to put it into perspective, nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s put over 100 times the radioactive waste into the atmosphere and oceans than what was released in Fukushima. In Utah, radiation in the 1950s and 1960s were also well over 100 times greater than the worst of Fukushima due to atomic bomb testing, but the state has enjoyed the lowest rates of cancer across America for over 60 years. Also of note, scientists studying A-Bomb survivors who received ionizing radiation in WWII were surprised to discover abnormally long life spans and low rates of cancer. This effect of low dose radiation providing extremely positive health benefits became known as ‘hormesis’

    Today, in spite of the craze to ban Japanese tuna and other seafood from western markets for years, the actual radiation levels are far below the 1200 becquerel limit set by FDA standards and one would get larger doses of radiation by eating a banana or flying in an airplane. Believe it or not, but the Potassium-40 of an average banana releases 3000 beta decays/second and is deemed very good for living tissue and is known as “Low Dose Radiation” which is found in all bio-organic life and natural background radiation from food, the soil, and sky.

    The Fallacy of Decarbonization
    For those in Japan and Germany celebrating that the exit from nuclear is providing an opportunity to embrace solar and wind energy, a sad slap of reality has also occurred. Not only have energy costs skyrocketed wherever green energies been built, but the toxic waste caused by those photovoltaic cells far outpaces anything produced by the dirtiest nuclear reactor.

    In 2017, the Japanese Ministry of the Environment issued the warning that by 2040, Japan would accumulate over 800,000 tons of solar panel waste with no means of disposal — which is 300 times greater than nuclear power. Solar panels have life expectancies of 25 years, after which their disposal becomes nearly impossible as they contain similar heavy metals and toxins as is found in computers and cell phones. They also contain vast toxic metals such as lead and carcinogens such as cadmium.

    Disproving the very definition of “renewable energy”, wind mills (which are as tall as a Boing 747) cannot produce the energy density to melt the steel and produce the material needed to build a windmill.

    Germany’s celebrated de-carbonization scheme has resulted in a total failure with no carbon reduction after a 10 year effort, sky rocketing energy prices and a vast destruction of ecosystems. The think tank Frontier Center recently wrote of Germany’s energy debacle:

    “Construction of solar and wind “farms” has already caused massive devastation to Germany’s wildlife habitats, farmlands, ancient forests and historic villages. Even today, the northern part of Germany looks like a single enormous wind farm. Multiplying today’s wind power capacity by a factor 10 or 15 means a 200 meter high (650 foot tall) turbine must be installed every 1.5 km (every mile) across the entire country, within cities, on land, on mountains and in water.”

    It is ironic that Germany’s shutdown of its nuclear sector has caused the nation’s carbon emissions to soar to 10 times those of France who still gets 70% of its energy from nuclear power. Energy deficits could only have been met by Russia, whose oil and gas supplied 60% of the European Union’s energy needs before Europe was told to commit seppuku in defense of “Ukrainian democracy.”

    What’s even more shocking is that entire forests face clear cropping in the name of solar and wind farms whose demands for vast swaths of land are gargantuan in comparison to the space needed to operate a modern 3rd generation reactor (see image).

    Solar and wind energy also fail the “sustainability test” on yet another front: mining. As demonstrated by the graph below, the amount of materials which must be produced, mined and utilized in the construction of “green” energy systems far outweighs the same metrics used to create and maintain a nuclear power plant.

    Michael Moore’s otherwise misanthropic 2020 film Planet of the Humans fails to demonstrate what a competent energy plan for humanity would look like, but did a remarkable job of demonstrating the absolutely devastating effects to nature and humans caused by the mining requirements underlying the Green New Deal

    Radioactivity is Natural!
    The idea that radiation is deadly has been spread by a Malthusian lobby which has pushed the absurd notion that ALL doses of radiation are deadly under the theory of the Linear No-Threashold Model (LNT) which was adopted as a standard of medicine in 1959. This LNT hypothesis asserts without evidence that if a lot of radiation will kill you 100% of the time, a fraction of that dose will kill you a fraction of the time… which is equivalent to saying that if drinking 100 liters of water will kill you 100% of the time, drinking 1 liter of water will kill you 1% of the time.

    Nicholas Fisher, a nuclear expert at Stony Brook University in New York responded to the fear mongering by reminding his readers that “we live on a radioactive planet in a radioactive universe. All life has evolved in the presence of natural radioactivity.”

    Without that natural radiation emitted by stars, supernova, earth’s soil, cosmic radiation, etc., then our very cellular functions break down and we get sick. This was demonstrated in tests conducted on lab rats in the 1990s which were isolated from natural background radiation, including in their food. People with arthritis and cancers have been recorded for generations to receive great benefits by soaking their bodies in radiation-rich mineral waters in Ukraine or the radioactive black soil beaches of Brazil proving that low dose radiation is beneficial for life. Another surprising 2010 study proving the benefits of radiation followed 250,000 nuclear workers found a much lower rate of cancer mortality relative to control groups.

    Fear of radiation is a fraud pushed by a Malthusian lobby whose goal has been to dismantle the sovereign nation state by getting its victims to undermine their own basis of existence. This is the realization of the Trilateral Commission policy announced by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker who called for a “controlled disintegration” of industrial civilization in 1978. This is the program of Maurice Strong as he decapitated Canada’s nuclear program in the 1990s and called for the collapse of industrial civilization. This is the policy which is at the heart of the Green New Deal being spread by London bankers like Mark Carney and Prince Charles which is really just another name for de-population.

    Any nation committed to raising the living standards and productive powers of its people cannot tolerate a de-carbonization or de-nuclearization plan for even a minute.

    Japan has begun to wake up to the fact that its commitments to denuclearize based on nothing more than fear and technocratic pressure was not a good idea, and on March 6, 2023 Prime Minister Fukida announced that Japan would begin to re-activate and refurbish its vast complex of 33 reactors, all but 5 of which are currently inactive.

    Russia and China have taken nuclear energy diplomacy to a whole new level in recent months with both Xi Jinping and Putin having hosted the May 19, 2022 ceremonies unveiling the construction of four new nuclear reactors in China built using Russian technology totalling 37.6 billion kilowatt hours of power. China is planning to triple its nuclear sector by 2032 to power its vast growth program and Russia’s ambitious nuclear energy program is tied directly to Putin’s recent decision to challenge the Liberal Malthusian order by name. For the first time in history, African nations have access to two major powers who are enthusiastic to offer the abused continent technology transfers and funding for nuclear power with Rosatom having signed active nuclear deals with seven African nations and opened active negotiations with 15 sub-Saharan nations for nuclear builds. On April 17, 2023 Bangladesh announced that it would enter the nuclear age with the first of two reactors built by Rosatom with a $12.65 billion Russian loan to be paid over 28 years in Chinese Yuan.

    Anti-Malthusian offers not seen since the days of John F Kennedy are being extended with the Belt and Road Initiative all across the world and even western developed nations targeted for disintegration under a Great Reset are being offered the opportunity to work on new energy breakthroughs that Russia, India, and China are driving forward with.

    Yes, these Eurasian nations are also building green energy programs and they intend to lower their rates of CO2 output by 2060. However, unlike the post-modern basket cases in the West who are clamoring for a Fourth Industrial Revolution, Eurasian nations are not resting their entire development strategies on windmills and solar panels. Instead what we find are competent programs for hydropower, oil, coal, natural gas, hydrogen power, and importantly, next generation nuclear power (with pioneering work on Molten Salt thorium as well as fusion power in the works).


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