'Renewable' Energy Costs the Earth: Report
The environmental side-effects of abandoning hydrocarbons in favour of renewable energy will be huge, according to a report published July 9 by the Manhattan Institute. Governments are turning their attention to rebuilding economies in what they see as a more sustainable way as the Covid-19 pandemic ebbs, the author Mark Mills writes, in Mines, Minerals, and “Green” Energy: A Reality Check. But the environment will actually suffer from this, he says.
"Oil, natural gas, and coal are needed to produce the concrete, steel, plastics, and purified minerals used to build green machines. The energy equivalent of 100 barrels of oil is used in the processes to fabricate a single battery that can store the equivalent of one barrel of oil," he writes.
He points out that all energy-producing machinery must be fabricated from materials extracted from the earth and replaced with more of the same and then disposed of safely, so no energy system is actually “renewable.” He says green machines entail, on average, a 10-fold increase in the quantities of materials extracted and processed to produce the same amount of energy as hydrocarbons. This has huge implications for minerals previously sufficient for their existing uses and now mined more extensively to satisfy new demand, he says.
As many of these minerals are unevenly distributed around the globe, this also has geopolitical implications as countries such as the US, largely self-sufficient in oil and gas, come to rely more on emerging markets, making the US energy supply chain vulnerable. It is now 100% dependent on imports for some 17 key minerals and over 50% dependent for a further 29.
Building wind turbines and solar panels to generate electricity, as well as batteries to fuel electric vehicles, requires, on average, more than 10 times the quantity of materials, compared with building machines using hydrocarbons to deliver the same amount of energy to society, he says.
The report may be read here.