STEP (solar thermal electrochemical production) theory is derived and experimentally verified for the electrosynthesis of energetic molecules at solar energy efficiency greater than any photovoltaic conversion efficiency. In STEP the efficient formation of metals, fuels, chlorine, and carbon capture is driven by solar thermal heated endothermic electrolyses of concentrated reactants occuring at a voltage below that of the room temperature energy stored in the products. One example is CO2, which is reduced to either fuels or storable carbon at a solar efficiency of over 50% due to a synergy of efficient solar thermal absorption and electrochemical conversion at high temperature and reactant concentration. CO2-free production of iron by STEP, from iron ore, occurs via Fe(III) in molten carbonate. Water is efficiently split to hydrogen by molten hydroxide electrolysis, and chlorine, sodium, and magnesium from molten chlorides. A pathway is provided for the STEP decrease of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to pre-industial age levels in 10 years.