Clean energy is not that clean – The Independent

Construction of the required ETM mines and refineries is not in progress. And if such plans were formulated to the extent that Biden’s energy transition needed, the world would face enormous ecological, economic and social challenges as well as geopolitical risks.

Clean energy is not that clean

– By Howard Sierer –

President Biden wants to convert 100 percent of the country’s electricity generation to renewable energies by 2035. No less a person than the International Energy Agency says he’s kidding.

The IEA is not a front-line group of oil companies: it is the world’s leading provider of energy information to governments around the world. Its members are virtually all the governments of the world’s developed economies. Their guiding principle is a safe and sustainable energy future for everyone. Renewable energies and climate change are at the center of the political alternatives presented to the heads of government.

So if the IEA has all this green credibility, why is it throwing Biden’s cold water gates on?

In a 287-page report published this month, “The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions,” the IEA explains why so-called clean energy isn’t that clean, isn’t easy, and won’t happen anytime soon. The data-filled IEA report focuses on a critical – and so far largely ignored – aspect of the energy transition: it requires mines and infrastructure that do not exist.

Wind, solar and battery technologies are based on a variety of what the report calls “energy transition minerals” or ETMs that need to be mined and processed. The IEA notes that if President Biden envisions a global energy transition, the demand for key minerals such as lithium, graphite, nickel and rare earth metals would explode, increasing by 4,200%, 2,500%, 1,900% and 700% respectively by 2040 .

Construction of the required ETM mines and refineries is not in progress. And if such plans were formulated to the extent that Biden’s energy transition needed, the world would face enormous ecological, economic and social challenges as well as geopolitical risks.

Renewable energy systems require far more ETMs than conventional energy systems. The IEA report states: “A typical electric car requires six times more ETM inputs than a conventional car, and an onshore wind turbine requires nine times more ETM resources than a gas-fired power plant. Since 2010, the average amount of ETMs required for each new unit of power generation capacity has increased by 50% as the share of renewables has increased. ”That was only to bring wind and solar to a share of 10% of the global To bring electricity.

The IEA report goes on to say that so-called clean energy is a “shift from a fuel-intensive to a material-intensive energy system”. Like it or not, oil and gas exploration leaves a comparatively light footprint that can be restored. Hydrocarbon pipelines are energy efficient and have a small footprint.

In contrast, the mining of rocks and solid materials leaves a long-term scar on the land and requires energy-intensive transportation to get the ore to chemical processing and refining facilities.

Just mentioning the prospect of new mines will spawn legions of opposing environmental activists and their lawyers. The IEA notes that every mining company knows, “It took an average of 16 years to get mining projects from discovery to first production.” The new ETM edition would not start until after 2035.

Surprisingly, the green left is rejecting even some of today’s clean energy projects that don’t involve new mines: a solar power project in nearby Moapa Valley, a hydropower project in Maine, and others. Once not-so-clean ETM mines and ore processing facilities are proposed, expect lawsuits from environmentalists to hamper production for years.

The IEA points out another environmental complication. “Mining and mineral processing require large amounts of water,” a serious problem when around half of the world’s lithium and copper production occurs in areas of water scarcity. The report states that water used in mining “poses a risk of contamination through acidic pit drainage, sewage discharge and the disposal of overburden”.

The IEA breaks the usual norm for international organizations and shows that expanded ETM mining will mainly take place in countries with “low governance values” where “corruption and bribery are a high liability risk”. In addition, the three leading manufacturers control more than 80% of the global supply for three important ETMs. China is at the top of a list that barely mentions the US.

The energy consumption per pound extracted increases. The IEA data shows that, depending on the location and type of future mines, emissions from the production of ETMs could nullify a large part of the emissions saved by driving electric cars.

If this report was from a carbon-friendly company, the report would be banned as fraudulent by the censors on Facebook and elsewhere. Thank the IEA for courageously going where few policymakers have gone before.

Full Disclosure: I’m not a caveman. I am planning to buy a fully electric SUV to be charged with solar panels on the roof of my house. If the IEA is right, it sounds like I’d better hurry up before prices go up and I’m branded a polluter!

The viewpoints and perspectives expressed in The Independent are those of the individual contributors. They do not necessarily reflect those made by the employees of the The independent one or our advertising sponsors. Your comments, refutations and contributions are welcome in accordance with our Terms of Use. Please be respectful and abide by our community rules. If you have any privacy concerns, you can view our privacy policy here. Many Thanks!

Click here for an article, a guest review, or a Letter to the editor

Promotional pricing for southern UtahAdvertise with The Independent of Southern Utah, we’re celebrating 25 years of print!

Comments are closed.