World’s Greatest Environmental Frauds: There’s Nothing ‘Clean’ or ‘Green’ About Wind & Solar

The hackneyed claim that wind and solar power are ‘clean’ and ‘green’ doesn’t stand first contact with reality. Both chew up monumental volumes of minerals, chemicals, rare earths and energy just to create the panels and turbines. Both leave monumental volumes of waste when turbines and panels are spent – after a decade or so – much of it incapable of being recycled and plenty of it monumentally toxic.

So, call wind and solar whatever you like, but there’s simply no sensible basis to call them clean or green.

Mark P. Mills is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Mills has provided plenty of detailed analysis which supports STT’s view that wind and solar constitute the greatest economic and environmental fraud the world has ever known. Including his critical primer: The “Energy Transition” Delusion A Reality Reset.

A few weeks back, Mills appeared before US House Committee on Energy and Commerce to deliver the same message; namely, that there’s nothing ‘green’ about intermittent and unreliable wind and solar.

A summary of his testimony appears below. The full transcript is available here: Mills Testimony

Testimony to Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on: “Exposing the Environmental, Human Rights, and National Security Risks of the Biden Administration’s Rush to Green Policies”
Manhattan Institute
Mark Mills
26 April 2023

Testimony Summary

Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I’m a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute where I focus on science, technology, and energy issues. I am also a Faculty Fellow at the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University where my focus is on future manufacturing technologies. And, for the record, I’m a strategic partner in a venture fund focused on energy software, and I’m also a director of an oil-field services company.

Permit me to begin by observing two indisputable facts about our future. First, economic growth is the fundamental driver of energy demand. And second, while periods of slow growth and recessions are inevitable in all societies, those periods always end. But any subsequent growth can be stifled if energy supplies are either unavailable or too expensive.

Energy supply itself is not as much a matter of finding resources as it is one of building machines, regardless of the natural resource used, whether sun, wind, water, oil, gas, coal, or uranium. Thus realities around machine-building determine costs and all the associated environmental, social, and geopolitical impacts.

We know a lot about those impacts—both the good and the bad—associated with energy machines that use hydrocarbons because we’ve been using those technologies at scale for a long time, and because that’s how 85 percent of U.S. and global energy is supplied. We’ve learned a lot less about impacts from wind, solar, and battery technologies because they’re relatively new and, so far, supply only a few percent of society’s overall energy.

The Biden Administration has a stated policy goal to see America powered increasingly, eventually entirely by renewable energy. I should like to stipulate that the future will doubtless see far greater use of wind and solar technologies, and electric cars, if for no other reason than the sheer scale of future energy needs, and because developed countries are wealthy enough to pay higher costs.

However, there are many misconceptions about the realities of renewable energy technologies at scale, especially if the goal is to replace rather than supplement hydrocarbons. It begins with the core reality that renewables aren’t green. In fact, nor are renewable technologies inherently cheaper, nor more geopolitically secure.

That renewable energy isn’t green is a consequence of an unavoidable feature of wind and solar resources; they have very low energy density. That means, compared to using hydrocarbons, one must build machines that occupy roughly ten-times more of the earth’s surface to deliver the same amount of energy to society—whether it’s an hour of heat, or light, or computing time, or a mile of driving.

Essentially all life occupies the thin, surface interface of our planet, whether it’s land or water. One of humanity’s greatest achievements has been the radical reduction in the amount of that interface we use to deliver increasing quantities of food and fuel.

The inherent low-energy-density of renewables also means that far more machinery must be fabricated to deliver the same energy as now supplied by hydrocarbon machines. That in turn translates into a radical increase in global mining and minerals processing to supply all the critical materials needed to build renewable machinery.

Renewable plans proposed or underway will require from 400 percent to 8,000 percent more mining for dozens of minerals, from copper and nickel, to aluminum, graphite, and lithium. The IEA says the world will need hundreds of new mines, soon. Given regulatory realities, those won’t be here. Instead, most will be in emerging economies and most will be on or near the lands of indigenous people in areas that are culturally and ecologically valuable and fragile.

And given machine realities, the huge jump in mining required will increase energy use in that sector, thus offsetting a lot, in some cases all the CO2 emissions saved later by replacing hydrocarbons in powerplants and cars. Global mining today already accounts for 40 percent of worldwide industrial energy use, which is dominated by hydrocarbons, and will be for decades.

It bears noting that renewable-energy machines are like all machines; they wear out. This means the near future will see megatons of worn-out hardware, of trash, much at unprecedented scale because of the unprecedented quantities of energy machinery needed. Some of it cannot be recycled at all, some not easily, much of it expensively.

The huge land footprint and materials requirements of renewable machinery shows up in the economics too. Despite claims of cost parity, the fact is that in every state and nation, a rising share of wind and solar on grids has brought higher electricity costs. EVs, for similar reasons, are locked into inherently higher prices because of greater use of underlying resources.

Finally, the claim that renewables are geopolitically superior is exposed by one now well-known fact: China has a 40 to 80 percent market share in producing or refining energy minerals needed to build renewable machinery. That is a strategic dominance roughly double OPEC’s market share in oil. Building assembly plants in the U.S. for EVs and solar panels doesn’t change that fact.

There is, however, one common claim for renewables that’s true: they create more jobs. That emerges directly from the excess land, materials and machinery needed to deliver the same energy. The problem is that much of that work isn’t in America. And, to the extent it can be, any new jobs come at a time when our nation doesn’t necessarily need more jobs, as much as it needs more people willing and able to fill the jobs we have, especially in the skilled trades.

Full testimony here: Mills Testimony 
Manhattan Institiute


May 10, 2023 at 02:33AM

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