Energy Doublethink

Doublethink: The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

Michael Lynch provides the latest doublethink example regarding global energy in his Forbes article International Energy Week Is A Lesson In Cognitive Dissonance. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

A climate activists from the Extinction Rebellion group.. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by … [+]AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The slogan for London’s prestigious International Energy Week now going on is “Transitioning out of Crisis,” reflecting the focus of the conference on the post-Ukrainian-War energy industry and the transition to renewables. As their website says, it is “the global conference focused on transitioning out of the geopolitical and environmental crises facing energy….Climate change impacts and projections are worsening; international prices post-COVID are volatile and hitting consumers hard; and the effects of Russia’s devastating invasion of Ukraine are rippling out across the global economy. The energy transition offers enduring solutions, some immediate, others longer-term.”

Most of dozen primary speakers are from the renewable energy industry, or renewable/low carbon executives in the fossil fuel industry, with only two ‘pure’ oil executives, the CEOs of BP and Petronas. Presumably, the organizers would argue, the future is a transition to renewable and low-carbon energy, thus the emphasis.

But at the same time, though, we had industry executives commenting: “Demand is expected to hit record levels in the second half of the year,” Vitol Chief Executive Officer Russell Hardy said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “The prospect of higher prices in the second half of the year, in the sort of $90-$100 range, is a real possibility.” International Energy Week Returns to London With Talk of $100 Oil – Bloomberg

Cognitive dissonance is the holding of contradictory views:
expecting higher fossil fuel demand while arguing that the crisis is heralding
an accelerated energy transition seems a perfect example.

The lesson of the current energy crisis is not that acceleration of the transition is needed, but that renewables are not capable of stepping up in a crisis and that consumers cherish cheap energy much more than ‘clean’ energy. Imagining a conference that provides much more realistic assessments of our energy future is easy; imagining those arguments given serious consideration by most media and pundits, not so much.

As I have written recently, oil prices could be higher later this year, but they could also be lower, depending on what happens to supply from Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Angola, Libya and Nigeria, not necessarily in that order. But record levels of demand are much more certain for the simple fact that the heavy investments in renewables and electric vehicles have had marginal impact to date on oil demand, or fossil fuel demand overall, as the figure below shows.

Global Energy Consumption in Exajoules THE AUTHOR FROM BP DATA.

Careful scrutiny does show a couple instances when demand fell, namely the 2008 financial crisis and the 2020 pandemic, however, it seems unlikely that policy-makers will promote those as solutions to climate change.

To paraphrase the famous quote from the Vietnam War,
“We have to destroy the economy in order to save it.”

To date, it appears that renewables have largely supplemented not replaced fossil fuel consumption, despite large-scale investments and much enthusiasm about the glowing success and prospects for the renewable industry (including electric vehicles). This resembles past transitions where consumption of the dominant fuel such as coal does not disappear but new demand is met from its successor, such as oil and gas.

One problem with the conference’s approach is the long-standing tendency
for pundits to embrace consensus, sometimes without regard for reality.

One famous energy pundit in 1983 remarked “But then, in late 1981 and early 1982, U.S. consumers, encouraged by some unknowing writers and economists, began to believe that OPEC members were no longer able to hold up oil prices and that all of America’s energy problems were over. This misperception, which was encouraged by the desire for a simple view and a simple solution, obscured the nature of the energy situation.”[emphasis added; citation from “A Cautionary Tale for Oil Companies Navigating the Energy Transition,” on Cautionary Tale for Oil Companies in the Energy Transition | RealClearEnergy] Two years later, the price collapsed and remained low for fifteen years, as if a host of experts had not predicted otherwise.

Additionally, at most conferences the ‘sexy’ is favored over the boring. This is reminiscent of the way Enron was the darling of the media for its insistence that “Vertically integrated behemoths like ExxonMobilXOM -1.9% Corp. (XOM ), whose balance sheet was rich with oil reserves, gas stations, and other assets, were dinosaurs to a contemptuous Skilling.” (emphasis added; source ibid) Speeches hailing the coming of the ‘virtual corporation’ proliferated—until Enron collapsed in scandal and bankruptcy.

Larry Goldstein and I have written about the possible failure of the energy transition, but it is hardly a popular view. Like Midas’ barber, we could be whispering into a hole in the ground: the potential failure is not so much secret as unwanted.

Perhaps there should be a sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth,”
focusing on the difficulties of the transition and the potential that it would not
live up to even the more modest expectations of some advocates.

This probably sounds like the many eccentrics who point out that the scientific community has often been wrong, for example, refusing to accept the theory of continental drift. But that doesn’t mean that the scientific consensus should be ignored, rather that skeptical views should be considered rather than rejected out of hand. And by considered, I do not mean cherry-picking opposite views as evidence. (Something my peak oil critics often did.)

See Also 2022 Update: Fossil Fuels ≠ Global Warming


World Energy Wake Up Call

Are we heading toward an all-renewable energy future, spearheaded by wind and solar? Or are those energy sources wholly inadequate for the task? Mark Mills, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of The Cloud Revolution, compares the energy dream to the energy reality. How Much Energy Will the World Need?

Video Transcript

We’re headed toward an exciting all-renewable energy future. Wind and solar will power the world of tomorrow.

And tomorrow isn’t far off!……..

…It’s time to wake up.

You’re having a dream.

Here’s the reality.

Oil, natural gas, and coal provide 84% of all the world’s energy. That’s down just two percentage points from twenty years ago.

And oil still powers nearly 97% of all global transportation.

Contrary to headlines claiming that we’re rapidly transitioning away from fossil fuels, it’s just not happening. Two decades and five trillion dollars of governments “investing” in green energy and we’ve barely moved the needle.

This was supposed to be easy. Why is it so hard?

In a word: rocks.

To get the same amount of energy from solar and wind that we now get from fossil fuels, we’re going to have to massively increase mining.

By more than 1000%.

This isn’t speculation. This is physics.

Copper, iron ore, silicon, nickel, chromium, zinc, cobalt, lithium, graphite, and rare earth metals like neodymium. We need them all.

And then those metals and materials have to be turned into motors, turbine blades, solar panels, batteries, and hundreds of other industrial components. That also takes lots of energy, which requires even more mining.

As a World Bank study put it, these green “technologies … are in fact significantly more material intensive” than our current energy mix. That may be the understatement of the century: raw materials account for 50-70% of the costs to manufacture both solar panels and batteries.

Until now it hasn’t really mattered that much because wind and solar still account for only a few percentage points of the global energy supply. They’re an applause line for environmentalists—not a major energy player. And it’s unlikely they will be in the foreseeable future.

But for the sake of argument, let’s say we sharply ramp up mining. Where would these new mines be located?

Well, for one, China.

That country is today the single largest source for most of our critical energy materials. The United States is not only a minor player but is dependent on imports for 100% of 17 critical minerals. Do we want to give China more political and economic leverage? Europe has made itself dependent on Russia for 40% of its natural gas. How well has that worked out?

Ironically, we have all the minerals we need right here in North America.

But good luck trying to get them out of the ground.

Proposals to build mines in the United States and, increasingly almost everywhere else, meet fierce opposition if not outright bans. To give just one example, in 2022 the Biden Administration canceled a proposed copper and nickel mine in northern Minnesota. This was after years of delays, navigating a maze of environmental regulations.

Yes, the same environmentalists and green-leaning politicians who tout all the benefits of electric cars are the same people who make mining the materials essential to build those cars—like copper and nickel—all but impossible.

Try to square that circle.

So far, we’ve only talked about today’s energy needs. What about tomorrow’s?

Future energy demand will be far greater than today’s. That’s been true for the entire history of civilization. The future will not only have more people but also more innovations. And entrepreneurs have always been better at inventing new ways to use energy than to produce it.

It’s obvious but worth stating: Before the invention of automobiles, airplanes, pharmaceuticals, or computers, there was no energy needed to power them.

And as more people become more prosperous, they’ll want the things others already have—from better medical care to vacations to cars.

In America, there are about 80 cars for every 100 citizens. In most of the world, it’s about five per hundred citizens.

Over 80% of air travel is for personal purposes. That’s two billion barrels of oil a year.

Hospitals use 250% more energy per square foot than an average commercial building.

And the global information infrastructure—the Cloud— already uses twice as much electricity as the entire country of Japan, the world’s third-largest economy. The massive data centers at the heart of the Cloud alone consume almost 10 times more electricity than the world’s 10 million electric cars.

E-commerce has taken off and is propelling record growth in warehouses, increasingly filled with energy-hungry robots. America’s truck freight index more than doubled in the past decade to deliver the goods to and from those warehouses.

These are today’s known trends. While we can’t predict the future, we can predict there’ll be more innovation—in robotics, drones, quantum computing, biotechnology. And new industries not yet imagined.

All of it will require more energy—a lot more.

Fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and yes, renewables will be required.

But if you think we can get it all from wind and solar, dream on.

I’m Mark Mills, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, for Prager University.

See Also

West’s Obsession with EV Tech Puts China in World Driver Seat

Southwestern Solar: Bright Shining Disappointment

Solar farms in Southwest USA from Solar Energy Maps

D. Dowd. Muska reports in his National Review article A Bright Shining Disappointment.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

Solar has failed in the Southwest.  In the ’70s, it all seemed so simple.

President Carter issued a proclamation declaring the sun “an inexhaustible source of clean energy.” A joint resolution of Congress predicted that “the development of solar technologies will provide an abundant, economical, safe, and environmentally compatible energy supply.” Robert Redford assured Americans that “the sun will always work” and “never increase its price on a heating bill.”

But nearly 50 years later, solar’s failure is blindingly clear. The Southwest Public Policy Institute, where I serve as a senior fellow, recently explored the contribution sunshine makes to utility-scale electricity generation in eight states: Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. What we discovered was jarring.

In the Southwest, solar generates a mere 6.4 percent of utility-scale power (power from facilities where total generation capacity is one megawatt or greater), despite the region enjoying the sunniest skies in America. While California (16.7 percent) and Nevada (14.4 percent) had the heaviest solar shares, the drop-off in the other states we studied was profound: Utah (8.1 percent), Arizona (5.5 percent), New Mexico (5.0 percent), Texas (3.1 percent), and Colorado (3.0 percent). Coming in last — and by a country mile — was the Sooner State, at a miniscule 0.1 percent.

These disappointing figures are all the more perplexing when one considers the massive level of government succor that has flowed the solar industry’s way since the late 1970s, the era of Annie Hall, the Bee Gees, and the Star Wars Holiday Special. In 2012, an audit by the Government Accountability Office found that federal agencies have overseen hundreds of “initiatives that support solar energy across the four key federal roles”: R&D; “fleets and facilities,” “commercialization and deployment,” and “regulation, permitting, and compliance.” For decades, wildly generous tax credits have been offered at the federal and state levels. And in the late 1990s, lawmakers began to adopt renewable portfolio standards, which required power suppliers to generate or purchase “green” electricity. In Arizona, 15 percent of power must satisfy these standards by 2025. In Nevada, the rule is 50 percent by 2030. And in New Mexico, all electricity is mandated to be “zero carbon” by 2045.

Enjoying both free fuel and government-conferred advantages, solar power should play a leading role in the Southwest. Yet it doesn’t.

This indicates that solar’s problems are fundamental. As the Institute for Energy Research recently noted, sunlight is “relatively weak because it must first pass through the atmosphere, which protects the Earth from the sun’s intensity.” In 2015, a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology described the solar radiation that reaches us as suffering from “low energy density.” In addition, even the most-efficient photovoltaic panels in common use today convert far more solar irradiance to heat than electricity.

Intermittency, in energy journalist Robert Bryce’s opinion, is another “killer drawback” for solar: “Lower power output on cloudy days and during the winter — and zero output at night — means that solar power facilities must be paired with expensive batteries or conventional power plants in order to prevent blackouts or brownouts.”

“Free” fuel, it turns out, isn’t so free. As the Manhattan Institute’s Mark P. Mills explained:

Claims that wind, solar, and EVs have reached cost parity with traditional energy sources or modes of transportation are not based on evidence. Even before the latest period of rising energy prices, Germany and Britain — both further down the grid transition path than the U.S. — have seen average electricity rates rise 60%-110% over the past two decades. The same pattern is visible in Australia and Canada. It’s also apparent in U.S. states and regions where mandates have resulted in grids with a higher share of wind/solar energy. In general, overall U.S. residential electricity costs rose over the past 20 years.

But those rates should have declined because of the collapse in the cost of natural gas and coal — the two energy sources that, together, supplied nearly 70% of electricity in that period. Instead, rates have been pushed higher thanks to elevated spending on the otherwise unneeded infrastructure required to transmit wind/solar-generated electricity, as well as the increased costs to keep lights on during “droughts” of wind and sun that come from also keeping conventional power plants available (like having an extra, fully fueled car parked and ready to go) in effect by spending on two grids.

Then there’s the NIMBYs. Utility-scale solar, in community after community,
faces resistance from locals.

In November, the Roswell Daily Record reported that a New Mexico regulatory agency “voted against three proposed [solar] projects after hearing objections from county residents.” Issues raised included fencing that “will deter from scenic views and hurt property values” and “concerns that the panels contain hazardous substances.” According to The Durango Herald, residents near Hesperus, Colo., have banded together to fight a photovoltaic project, citing concerns about “water runoff” and “direct loss of 1,900 acres of elk habitat.”

In short, solar has not been shining very bright since it came on the scene in the ’70s. Indeed, even in the sun-drenched Southwest, solar has proven inefficient, unreliable, and — when all costs are considered — expensive. That should be a warning:

If it struggles here, in ideal conditions, how well
can it be expected to perform in the rest of the country?

D. Dowd. Muska is a senior fellow at the Southwest Public Policy Institute, a research institute dedicated to improving the quality of life in the American Southwest by formulating, promoting and defending sound public policy solutions.

When it opened in 2014, the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility was the world’s largest solar thermal power station, covering 4000 acres in the Mohave desert. While Ivanpah was supposed to be the future of clean energy, it seems that the rate at which it burns fossil fuel might actually outweigh any environmental benefits of solar power production.

Green Energy is Like Breaking Windows

Michael Munger explains at AIER (American Institute for Economic Research) in his article Green Energy is the Modern “Broken Window”.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

John Goodell studied literature at Berkeley, then got an M.F.A. at Columbia. He has edited Zyzzyva, a literary magazine in San Francisco, and been a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. Pretty impressive.

None of that qualifies him as a climate scientist or economist. So it’s surprising that web searches yield hundreds of solemn, even pious, invocations of Goodell’s economic wisdom:

“In reality, studies show that investments to spur renewable energy and boost energy efficiency generate far more jobs than oil and coal.”

I have not been able to find a source; the quote itself has become self-recommending, using authority by reference: “studies show…” My good friend Russ Roberts often inveighs against the “studies show” formulation, but I think we have to give Goodell credit here. Studies really do show that dismantling, preferably destroying, the existing energy grid really would create jobs.

The question is, why is maximizing jobs something we want to do?

Frederic Bastiat famously showed that destroying wealth creates jobs, in his discussion of the broken window fallacy. But there was a broader context for Bastiat’s observations on the seen and the unseen: a serious proposal that all of Paris should be burned down. Yes, because it would create jobs. Really.

Bastiat referred to research (“studies show!”) done by a fellow Frenchman on this score:

“What will you say, disciples of good M. Chamans, who has calculated with so much precision how much trade would gain by the burning of Paris, from the number of houses it would be necessary to rebuild?” (From The Broken Window)

Now, it appears that Bastiat was having a little fun; Auguste Louis Philippe de Saint-Chamans (1777-1860) was a viscount and a high-level French government official. Viscount de Saint-Chamans had argued that London’s “Great Fire” (1666) had led to substantial net economic gains; he had not said anything about Paris.

Still, the point was portable: the increased use of resources, and substantial bump in construction employment, had increased economic activity in England by the equivalent of 25 million French francs. France should not be allowed to fall behind on the “destroy wealth to create jobs” race. Bastiat was just taking the Viscount at his word, improving the French economy by burning and rebuilding Paris.

It is worth reproducing Bastiat’s argument, from Economic Sophisms, at some length:

“I originally thought that we might base a great deal of hope on fire, without neglecting war or pestilence. To start fires at the four corners of Paris with a good west wind would certainly ensure the population the two major benefits that the protectionist regime has in view: work and high prices, or rather, work by means of high prices.

Do you not see what an immense impetus the burning of Paris would give to national industry? Is there a single person who would not have enough work to last him twenty years? How many houses would there be to rebuild, items of furniture to restore, tools, instruments, fabrics, books, and pictures to replace! I can see from here the work that will move step by step and increase by itself like an avalanche, for a worker who is busy will give work to others, and these employ yet others…

What constitutes our wealth? Our needs, since without needs there is no wealth; without disease, no doctors; without wars, no soldiers; without court cases, no lawyers and judges. If windows did not break, glaziers would be gloomy; if houses did not crumble, if furniture was indestructible, how many trades would be held up! To destroy is to make it necessary for you to replace. To increase the number of needs is to increase wealth….

Either you believe that wealth consists in having more while working less, and therefore you allow [goods and products] to enter, or you think that it consists in having less with more work, and in this case, you burn Paris.”

One wonders what Bastiat would say about the current movement now in vogue among those who propose to increase jobs by destroying all the production, transportation, and power-generation capital devoted to fossil fuels. Burn all the gas-powered cars? Jobs! Tear down all the oil and gas-powered power plants, so we have shortages of electricity? So many jobs!

Once you are duped into believing destruction is productive, almost everything that a rational public policy would label as a cost becomes, by some judo move of seraphic intuition, a benefit.  If need is wealth, then it makes sense to outlaw fossil fuels immediately, because of all the jobs created trying desperately to provide basic transport and energy.

The problem is that jobs are not wealth. Wealth is access to the goods,
products, and services that make our lives better.

It is true that “studies show” that wiping out all our productive wealth based on fossil fuels efficiently would create jobs. Those “studies” are among the best arguments against doing anything of the sort.

If my choices are to have wealth but no job, or to have a job but no wealth, I’d rather have the wealth. But we don’t have to choose: we can have both wealth and jobs, if we don’t go around breaking all the darned windows.

Michael Munger is a Professor of Political Science, Economics, and Public Policy at Duke University and Senior Fellow of the American Institute for Economic Research.  His degrees are from Davidson College, Washingon University in St. Louis, and Washington University.  Munger’s research interests include regulation, political institutions, and political economy.

Footnote Q & A:

Q:  What is the difference between Golf and Government?

A:  In Government you can always improve your lie.

–Anonymous Source

See Also World of Hurt from Climate Policies-Part 1  

Zero Carbon Means Killing Real Jobs with Promises of Green Jobs

Now is the Winter of Our Renewables Discontent

Ralph Schoellhammer writes from Vienna at Spiked Renewables won’t keep us warm this winter.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

The cold snap is exposing the limits of wind and solar – and the insanity of the green agenda.

There are already many German loan words in the English language, but the latest addition should surely be the term ‘Dunkelflaute’. It describes a period of time in which virtually no energy can be generated using wind and solar power. It is a word that captures the grave problem that both Britain and Germany are facing today – namely, that you cannot run a modern economy on renewable energy. Especially during a windless and dark winter.

As real-time data from Electricity Maps shows, electricity production from renewables in Germany and the UK over the past few days has been abysmal. In Germany it is coal that is keeping the lights on, while in Britain it is gas. Falling temperatures are rapidly increasing both countries’ need for fossil fuels. It is not yet clear whether reserves for this winter are going to be sufficient.

Using electricity is a bit like breathing. Even a short break could prove lethal.

An economy needs constant access to energy (electricity in particular), or it will collapse. We cannot simply expect households to live without electricity for a few days, unless we are prepared for civil society to break down.

Some may argue that if humanity has lived without modern technology before, we should be able to do so again. Perhaps. But such a transition would be neither desirable nor entirely peaceful. Once the Promethean flame of modernity has been acquired, few will want to give it up.

The fact is that renewables simply do not offer a viable alternative energy source at the moment. The technology does not yet exist to effectively store electricity, meaning we cannot stockpile any surplus produced by wind and solar during summer. So it doesn’t matter how impressively renewables perform between June and August if they provide barely any energy between November and March. To keep an industrialised economy going requires energy all year round.

Most governments are aware of this. Which is why, despite the elites’ lip-service to renewables, both Germany and Britain have maintained a fleet of fossil-fuel power plants to make up for the unreliability of wind and solar. Unfortunately, those fuels are becoming more expensive as a result of the global energy crunch. With no proper alternatives in sight for energy production, it is consumers who increasingly have to pay the price.

And it is not as if this month’s Dunkelflaute is a bolt from the blue. Everyone knew that the current energy crisis was going to hurt us most during winter, when it is cold and dark, and when renewables, especially solar, are barely producing any power.

Yet still, green activists and politicians insist the answer to our energy crisis lies in expanding our use of wind and solar. This is a form of cognitive dissonance. It is like an ancient tribe, disappointed that throwing virgins into a volcano has not led to better harvests, deciding to double down on the child sacrifices. No amount of solar panels will brighten a northern European winter.

On 11 December, for instance, renewables contributed a measly three per cent of electricity generation in Britain – with solar clocking in at an impressive 0.00 gigawatts. The forms of energy keeping Britain going this winter are mostly gas, some nuclear (including imports from France) and even some coal.

In Germany, the situation is even worse. Last week, low renewable generation led Germany to burn more coal than it has in any week since 2019, and to burn more gas for electricity generation than ever before.

The German government has not only committed heavily to renewable energy, it is also determined to switch off its nuclear power plants. Green Party politicians, like economy minister Robert Habeck, have tried to claim that abandoning nuclear power will have no effect on electricity generation. This is despite the fact that during windless nights, Germany’s three remaining nuclear power plants contribute more to the grid than all of its wind farms and solar panels combined. This winter, nuclear will play a key role in keeping the lights on.

Yet these plants are slated to be decommissioned in April next year.

Greens will no doubt claim that the days when renewables are completely useless only materialise a few times a year – that these Dunkelflaute days are outliers. While that is true to an extent, it is tantamount to a doctor saying that your heart is in good condition, apart from a few days per year when it stops pumping blood through your system. A ‘blackout’ of this vital organ for even a few minutes is usually known as a heart attack. Statisticians might describe such an event as an ‘outlier’, but its consequences would surely be long-lived.

By favouring renewables ahead of more reliable sources of energy, many countries are currently creating all the conditions necessary for such blackouts. Although there are a few laudable exceptions, such as Poland, Finland, Hungary and the Netherlands, which are planning to give nuclear power another try.

It is not only the electricity grid that is suffering from the myopia of our green elites, but our finances, too. UK wholesale day-ahead electricity prices surged to a record high on Monday due to the disappointing performance of Britain’s wind farms.

Activists may claim that a switch to renewable energy is a scientific and moral imperative. But making our energy needs ever more dependent on the whims of the weather is neither scientific nor moral. Higher electricity prices will ultimately lead to higher prices of everything. This will impoverish those who are already suffering financially.

There are signs, however, that outside the minds of pundits and politicians, the hype over renewables is already fading. For instance, the most recent number of new orders for new offshore turbines at the world’s largest producer, Vestas Wind Systems, was the same as Britain’s solar electricity generation while I was writing this article: zero. So perhaps the winds are already changing.

If so, it would signal a welcome return to sanity on energy production.

Ralph Schoellhammer is an assistant professor in economics and political science at Webster University Vienna.















Green Energy Profiteering Scam

J.B. Shurk writes at Gatestone Institute The Green Energy Profiteering Scam.  H/T Tyler Durden.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

“Green” Profits Can Only Rise if Citizens’ Freedoms Fall

In free markets, commodities bought and sold possess perceived value. When a buyer and seller reach an agreed upon price for any product, there is a “meeting of the minds.” The value of any natural raw material is proportional to its scarcity. The more of it there is, and the more easily it can be obtained, the less value it holds. A vendor who sells ordinary rocks cannot make a living when his product is found freely all over the ground. If he transacts in gold or silver, diamonds or rubies, however, his hard-to-find “rocks” are worth a small fortune.

If only there were a way to turn ordinary rocks into valuable commodities!

There are, in fact, two well-known ways to do so. An unscrupulous vendor could simply paint ordinary rocks gold and pretend that common minerals are rare, and an unsuspecting customer might never be the wiser. Through fraud, the seller can hijack the perceived value of his goods and undermine the agreed “meeting of the minds” between himself and any deceived customer. His “precious” rocks actually hold no value but provide him with ill-gotten gains. Over time, however, this type of fraud does not last. More discerning customers eventually catch on to the ruse, and that information is shared among prospective buyers. And unless he is quick to move on to a new town with new buyers yet to be deceived, old swindled customers are likely to end his livelihood or much worse. Engaging in fraud comes with serious personal risks.

There is another, safer way, however, to turn ordinary rocks into valuable commodities. The vendor could petition the king of the realm for the exclusive right to gather and sell ordinary rocks. If granted such an extraordinary license — whereby ordinary rocks may only be possessed if first stamped with the vendor’s mark — then an abundantly available natural resource becomes scarce overnight. What was once free now costs whatever the vendor and the king’s tax-collecting chancery decide to charge for the use of regulated rocks. Perhaps citizens with special status or recognized allegiance to the king will still get their rocks for next to nothing. Yet the classical mechanics of supply and demand still come into play for everyone else. Even if the price charged for an officially sanctioned rock is kept low, its value on secondary markets is determined entirely by the scarcity of available vendor-stamped rocks.

How much are licensed rocks worth if they are the only ones that may be legally owned? When a king and vendor conspire to make only a small fraction of available rocks “legal,” then their manufactured “unavailability” makes them extremely valuable. Legally imposed scarcity comes with much fewer personal risks. Licensed monopoly on high-demand commodities is a license to print money.

From this lens, it is easy to see why so many investors love
government intervention in energy markets.

  • When governments limit drilling and mining for hydrocarbons in the ground, they manufacture scarcity.
  • When only certain wealthy individuals and companies can afford artificially expensive hydrocarbon energies as regular business costs, then budding entrepreneurs and small firms can no longer compete. Those at the peak of society’s wealth pyramid have a much easier time staying on top when the same natural sources of hydrocarbon energy once used to amass fortunes are now denied to those who would do the same.
  • A war on “fossil fuels” is a superb tactic for protecting private market share. It is a profitable ideological cause for fattening government revenues. And it is a constant source of income for environmental “nonprofits” and other special interests….
  • Can plastics, heating oil, and most synthetic materials found around a home be magically manufactured without petroleum?

  • Can the global population stave off famine and starvation if farmers are forced to overhaul agricultural and livestock production methods in order to abide by “green” laws limiting the use or release of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen, and phosphate — molecules and compounds essential to basic farming and high crop yield fertilizers?
  • Ideology hijacks the market’s natural direction toward an objective and transparent “meeting of the minds.” There is an unspoken but unmistakable fraud. Until governments, including hostile adversaries such as Russia and the United States, conspired to limit the use of hydrocarbon energy and “go green,” the idea that anybody could turn a profit from the wind or sun would have seemed as absurd as a vendor selling rocks freely available all around us.

  • Are electric vehicles as powerful as their internal combustion engine counterparts? Can wind and solar energies really provide nations with reliable power grids robust enough to avoid rolling blackouts? Can plastics, heating oil, and most synthetic materials found around a home be magically manufactured without petroleum?

Pictured: An electric car at a charging station in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

Will not these “green” initiatives wind up looking remarkably similar to the example of the unscrupulous vendor above who learned how to swindle his customers by treating common minerals as rare and painting ordinary rocks gold — or perhaps now, a resplendent green?

Is that not what the imposition of Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) standards upon markets accomplishes? Is ESG not a concerted effort to warp trading markets with acutely political aims that seek to reward companies and capital investments for their pledged commitment to ideological beliefs rather than their likelihood for generating future profits?

When boardrooms and investors distort free markets by treating stocks and other assets as more valuable than they really are, simply because they are painted a shiny “green,” then ESG overvaluation turns misguided yet “politically correct” fantasies into gold.  Government-enforced environmentalism has created its own class of “green” billionaires. Whenever and wherever governments have mandated that citizens purchase certain goods or suffer legal consequences, the producers of those goods have made financial killings.

Anyone once blissfully unaware of that kind of crummy crony capitalism surely learned a thing or two watching global vaccine mandates drive up pharmaceutical industry profits, while government-granted indemnification clauses rendered vaccine makers free from financial liability for any resulting injuries.

When governments subsidize entire industries, force citizens to purchase those industries’ products, and protect those industries from the legal consequences of their products’ harm, then money flows into the pockets of those with ownership stakes.

Does that sound remarkably similar to another political philosophy that is predicated on the abolition of all private property? What is that old saying somewhat apocryphally credited to Vladimir Lenin? “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” Or perhaps today it is the “green” capitalists who make money by rendering food and fuel scarce, virtue-signaling “green” advocates who cheer the one-sided transaction, and the increasingly impoverished Western citizens who end up worse off than ever.

This much is certain: irrespective of prevailing politically correct Western “wisdom” and the current environmental “madness of crowds,” should the hydrocarbon bedrock of the global economy be traded for worthless “green” rocks, neither wealthy capitalists nor poor citizens will long survive.

Bye Bye Bourgeois Environmentalists

Getty images.

Brendan O’Neill writes at Spectator The trouble with ‘bourgeois’ environmentalism Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images. H\T John Ray

The left needs to shake off its ‘bourgeois environmentalism’. It needs to distance itself from the ‘bourgeois environmental lobby’ and make the case for fracking and the building of new nuclear power stations.

Who do you think said this? Some contrarian commentator? A right-winger irritated by eco-loons? Nope, it was Gary Smith, the general secretary of the GMB trade union.

In an explosive intervention in left-wing discourse, Smith has accused Labour of a ‘lack of honesty’ and of ‘not facing reality’ on the energy question. We are living through a severe energy crisis and yet still Labour is sniffy about fracking and down on nuclear power, he says. All because it is in thrall to bourgeois greens who just don’t like industry and modernity very much.

Yes, climate change is a problem, he says, but we need energy. ‘We import a huge amount of fracked gas’ from America, he points out, so why don’t we just frack our own? We should get serious about developing nuclear power too, says Smith.

The GMB represents 460,000 working people, including the majority of workers at the UK’s nuclear-power stations. So it is logical – and good – that Smith would defend the nuclear industry. But his broader point is even more important.

‘(The) question’, he says, ‘is where is the electricity going to come from? We cannot do it by renewables and we cannot rely on energy imports.’ In short, we should get cracking – and fracking – on generating our own abundant sources of energy.

His killer comments concern the aloof, elitist tendencies of green activists. The renewables industry – ‘and many of those who espouse it in politics’ – have ‘no interest in jobs for working-class communities’, he says. He continues:

‘(We) should stop pretending that we’re in alliance with them.

The big winners from renewables have been the wealthy and big corporate interests. Invariably the only jobs that are created when wind farms get put up, particularly onshore wind, have been jobs in public relations and jobs for lawyers.’

This is really important stuff. Smith has laid down a gauntlet to the modern left – are you on the side of working-class communities who benefit from well-paid jobs in the energy sector and from the domestic production of energy, or are you on the side of ‘bourgeois’ greens who are offended by any kind of human intervention in nature, whether that’s digging down for gas or unleashing the awesome power contained in uranium?

For far too long, Labour and left-wingers more broadly have been embracing the ideology of environmentalism. This has always struck me as utterly bizarre, because it seems pretty clear that green politics run entirely counter to the interests of working-class communities.

It is not a coincidence that environmentalism is the favoured political pursuit of the upper middle classes, posh influencers, privately educated columnists and even our new King (God save him). Because this anti-industrial worldview, this ideology that looks with such horror upon our mass consumer society, and the masses who partake in it, is the perfect vehicle for the expression of an older aristocratic disdain for modernity.

Environmentalism is a modern manifestation of the 19th-century Romantic reaction against the Industrial Revolution. Only back then it was more honest – it was all puffy-collared rich folk shocked that the serfs who once worked their lands were now headed into teeming new cities to work in factories. Today, the misanthropic scorn for modernity tends to be more deceitfully dressed up. It’s less ‘Who will toil my farmland now?!’ and more ‘What will happen to the air I breathe if millions of gammon are driving to Aldi every day?’.

Smith, who made these comments in an interview with the New Statesman, is dead right: ‘bourgeois’ is exactly the right word for modern environmentalism. It is alarming that the left has bought into all this middle-class green nonsense. I trust Spectator readers will forgive me for quoting Trotsky, but he did say that the task of left-wing revolutionaries was to bring about the increase of ‘the power of man over nature and the abolition of the power of man over man’. The modern left does the precise opposite of this. It seeks to shrink man’s power over nature and to boost man’s power over man, via new forms of authoritarianism and censorship. Please, right-wingers, I implore you: stop calling modern leftists ‘Trots’.

Gary Smith has done something incredibly important. He hasn’t only put pressure on Labour to think seriously about fracking and nuclear. He has also forced the left to ask itself why it has lost touch with working-class concerns and found itself so beholden to posh pursuits like ‘saving the planet’. A left that represents bourgeois interests is of no use to anyone. Except, of course, the bourgeoisie.

Energy Options: From All the Above Down to One

Mark Krebs writes at Master Resource Environmentalists Petition EPA to Ban Natural Gas Use in Buildings.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

It never ends…. In the wake of the 725-page “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA), consumer choice for energy could be intentionally restricted to electricity by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Or at least that seems to be the plan. According to a petition submitted by environmentalists, EPA should regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from using natural gas in homes and businesses.

The eco-lobby has been emboldened by their “win” with the passage of the IRA. Never satisfied, their petition is one of the first attempts to expand it.

An article by Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law, Vermont Law School, originally published on August 24th in the academic law journal The Conversation (original article) claimed the IRA empowers EPA regulation of GHGs (greenhouse gases):

The Inflation Reduction Act amends the Clean Air Act to add seven specific new programs to reduce greenhouse gases and provide funding to the states to develop their own plans. Taken together, these provisions go a long way to address Roberts’ concern that Congress has not spoken plainly enough about EPA’s authority to tackle climate change.

But it falls short of granting EPA the authority to revive the generation shifting approach of the Clean Power Plan.

To get the bill through the sharply divided Congress, the Senate’s Democratic majority used a process called budget reconciliation. That process allows for legislation to pass with only a simple majority of the vote. But legislation passed that way must be closely tied to spending, revenue and the federal debt limit – it cannot set broad national policy.

Mark Krebs provides relevant quotes from the IRA:

Having been pointed to Title VI of the IRA, Secs. 60107 and 60113, I started reading. Sec. 60107 starts on page 668 and Sec. 60113 starts on page 678. Among other things, Sec. 60107 modifies the CAA to promote:

“(1) activities of the Environmental Protection Agency for the purposes of providing financial and technical assistance to reduce methane and other greenhouse gas emissions…..” and

‘‘(E) mitigating health effects of methane and other greenhouse gas emissions, and legacy air pollution from petroleum and natural gas systems…”

Under Sec. 60113, starting at the top of page 681, a carbon fee per metric ton is authorized:

‘‘(c) WASTE EMISSIONS CHARGE.—The Administrator shall impose and collect a charge on methane emissions that exceed an applicable waste emissions threshold under subsection (f) from an owner or operator of an applicable facility that reports more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases emitted per year pursuant to subpart W of part 98 of title 40…”

I venture to guess the fee may be the “Social Cost of Carbon” (SCC), which now stands at $51 per metric ton under the Biden administration (up from $1 per ton under Trump). However, the fees for methane emissions are explicitly stated on page 682:

2024: $900
2025: $1,200
2026 and thereafter: $1,500

Devils in the Details

At a minimum, these provisions provide an opening for EPA to regulate carbon and methane emissions. How wide of an opening is at least debatable and probably will be litigated (as Professor Parenteau anticipates).

This could result in CO2 and methane emissions regulated at the point of use (“point source”) as additional “criteria pollutants,” regulated because they are deemed harmful to human life.

What the environmentalists seem to be trying to do via their petition to the EPA is to make homes and businesses point sources for future regulation of carbon emissions. So why didn’t the environmentalists petition EPA to also target electric utilities? After all, electric utilities consume significantly more natural gas and emit more resultant CO2 than residential and commercial gas customers combined.

The answer is: That would not be consistent with the partnership that has developed between the electric utility industry and environmentalists to achieve their utopian goal of all-renewables-all-the-time.

An Unholy Alliance

I discussed this connection in my MasterResource article last month titled All-Electric Forcing in the “Inflation Reduction Act” (up to $14,000 per home). In that article, I referenced another article about a 2018 pact between the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) titled Warring Against Natural Gas: Joint EEI/NRDC Statement to NARUC (crony environmentalism at work).[See my synopsis Perils of Everything Electrified]

On September 2, 2022, Politico, published an article that (unintentionally) revealed the close working relationship between EEI and Biden’s Climate chief (ex-NRDC’s) Gina McCarthy in crafting the Inflation Reduction Act. Mission complete, she is leaving the White House, and John Podesta is replacing her. The article is titled “Climate chief Gina McCarthy leaving White House as John Podesta returns.”

Other sources of the electric utilities’ motivation include:

1.  The lure for electric utility CEOs to double sales through political means (and the bonuses they engender none-the-less) without really having to earn it through competition.
2.  The prospect for electric utilities to control gas markets and put an end to their supply curtailments when residential gas consumers traditionally get top priority during periods of limited supply due to extreme cold. (No more residential consumers, no more curtailments.)
3. It is at least plausible that electric utilities don’t really believe that the best form of backing-up renewables is with batteries because they want to keep their product from getting priced out of the market. Gas-fueled power plants would economically serve peaking requirements, but not if their fuel is curtailed. Also note that at least some types of batteries have a hard time during very cold weather.

EPA also has some perverse motivations. One of these is claiming regulatory efficiency by eliminating all the small point sources (gas consumers) with a relatively few large point sources left (e.g., electric utility power plants).

Overloading Electricity

Regardless of the rationale, transferring the energy requirements presently served by fossil fuels for both transportation and heating (etc.) on an already teetering electric grid is a recipe for failure. We can already see it starting in Europe and now in California:  

Vehicle electrification alone could double electricity generation requirements. Building electrification could more than double electricity peak generation requirements considering extreme cold weather events presently dominated by the direct use of gaseous fuels and fuel oil. Some of my colleagues have estimated it would take as much as 7 times present peak generation to handle “polar vortex” events.

How much battery storage you need depends on the maximum length of outage you’re planning for. “Wind droughts” have lasted 7 days. Typical batteries can produce their rated (fair weather) output for 4 hours. And what happens when it’s too bitterly cold and snowy for wind, solar and batteries to deliver?

Do the math considering the worst-case scenario because people’s lives depend on it. Basically, it becomes apparent that all renewables (with batteries) isn’t going to happen.” But you might die from them trying.

One way or another, you will pay for their folly. In fact, you already are.

Cost Analytics

If reducing carbon emissions is really the primary objective, then why not mandate that consumers replace all electric resistance appliances with natural gas-fueled equivalents? At least in the Midwest, it is relatively straight-forward to show how such fuel switching from electricity to natural gas is a very cost-effective strategy for reducing the atmospheric release of carbon emissions. In fact, the American Public Gas Association did so in 2017  (summaryfull report).

A second phase of this study estimated typical costs per household state-by-state. The full report, and its customizable data spreadsheet, is available on the Energy & Environment Legal Institute’s (E&E Legal) website. According to the report, electrifying the entire nation, with a goal of eliminating the direct consumption of fuel to reduce carbon emissions, would conservatively cost between $18 trillion and $29 trillion in first costs.

At least conceivably, total costs could be double these estimates. Going all-renewable all the time will force costs much higher than these estimates. Also, constructing and implementing an “all-electric” energy monoculture will include other significant costs such as stranded assets and deadweight losses.

Summary & Conclusions

The environmentalists petition to the EPA is just the opening salvo following passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (a.k.a., Green New Deal Lite). The overall mission is forcing increased social control by eliminating free markets. Reducing carbon is a secondary objective and a front. Hyperbole? Take it from The Green(ish) New Deal

This next salvo might be targeting industrial electrification: It’s explained in the (just released ) DOE Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap.  Along with the Biden Administration’s “electrify everything” mentality, expect more electricity shortages. Consequently, expect more taxpayer derived “emergency” funding directed to the electric utility industry.

“Manufacture a crisis and then don’t let it go to waste.” Maybe that is the plan. A better plan would be for electric utility CEOs to start listening to their engineers responsible for keeping the lights on, affordably if possible, and stop pandering to socialistic environmentalism.

In truth, natural gas utilities and electric utilities need each other. Consumers need energy diversity and utility regulators need to return to their roles as impartial referees and honest brokers safeguarding consumers best interests.


Mark Krebs, a mechanical engineer and energy policy analyst, has been involved with energy efficiency design and program evaluation for more than 30 years. He has served as an expert witness in dozens of State energy efficiency proceedings, has been an advisor to DOE and has submitted scores of Federal energy-efficiency filings.

Perils of Everything Electrified

Mark Krebs exposes the unreality of the current drive to electrify everything, including vehicles and home heating. His Master Resource article is All-Electric Forcing in the “Inflation Reduction Act” (up to $14,000 per home).  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

Basics of Peak Demand: Electric vs. Gas

Traditionally, both electric utilities and gas utilities designed peak capacity for worst-case scenarios plus a safety margin of around 10 percent. Electric utilities were summer-peaking due to cooling demand, while gas utilities were winter peaking due to heating demand.

In terms of maximum Btu demand, winter peaks tend to be much higher than summer peaks. The reason is largely a matter of inside to outside temperature differences between summer peaks and winter peaks. For example, assuming a winter design temperature of -10 deg F. and an interior thermostat setpoint of 75 deg. F, the difference is 85 deg. F. Assuming a summer design temperature of 110 deg. F. and the same interior thermostat setpoint of 75 deg. F, the difference is less than half the winter difference.

Without gas utilities to serve heating demand,
electric utilities will become winter peaking,
requiring massive investments of generating capacity and/or battery storage.

The worst-case scenario would then be a prolonged “polar vortex” with no wind (a.k.a., “wind drought”) coupled with snow covered photovoltaics. During such periods, all the heat from a typical electric heat pump will be in the form of electric resistance that is built into it; that’s just how typical heat pumps work.

If your local electric utility has “transitioned’ to all renewables, they will need several days’ worth of battery storage. Also, battery capacity drops sharply in extreme cold. That’s just how batteries work. Altogether, this equates to astronomical costs that get passed on to consumers. In short, if you are “all-electric,” you will need to fend for yourself and should at least consider investing in your own emergency generator system, assuming you can afford it.

Shame on Electric Utility Industry Who Know Better

The electric utility industry deserves much of the blame for these travesties. Leading electric utility industry trade associations support HR 5376. This was documented by an S&P Capital IQ on July 28th in an article (behind a paywall) titled “US climate package contains ‘robust’ clean energy tax incentives.”

What the article inadvertently documented is that the electric utility industry doesn’t like how they too may see income tax increases, and they aren’t holding back their disapproval of such provisions. But, on the other hand, the Federal government is essentially transferring the energy delivered by gas utilities over to electric utilities, and they will be collecting more revenue from increasingly captive consumers as their size at least doubles.

The electric utilities are not complaining about that. Maybe that will change in time as electric utilities realize their product is no longer reliable or affordable. But that may not matter since they became “the only game in town.”

Some of us saw this coming. Electric utility interests have been aligned with those of “all renewables all the time” advocates for several years. This alliance was announced in 2018 at a national conference of utility regulators, which I wrote about: Warring Against Natural Gas: Joint EEI/NRDC Statement to NARUC (crony environmentalism at work). Their efforts are largely being augmented by the Federal government subsidies and DOE’s “national labs,” since the Biden (mis)Administration took control or the lack thereof).

Let Consumers Freeze in the Dark

Politicians and pundits from both parties appear reluctant to question obvious restraint of trade issues and reduced consumer choice impacts. Why?

♦  For politicians, it’s because their interests lie elsewhere, like using “other peoples money” to trade with vested interests in return for campaign donations and insider information. It’s also because they don’t want to risk a reduction in generous campaign contributions from electric utility interests. [1]

♦  For pundits, it’s because most of them cater to environmental interests that are “in on it.” They even have their own trade association: The Society of Environmental Journalism. The one thing they do best is to “stick to the script.”

But who wrote the script? Globalists and global warming activists along with electric utility-oriented organizations like the “nonprofit” Rewiring America boast about their role in drafting these provisions. This is further evidenced by the following yahoo finance article: Inflation Reduction Act would lead to $1,800 in savings for average household, analysis finds.

We have recently begun to witness how Green New Deal variants are failing within the EU. We are also witnessing how the inherent intermittency of renewables put lives at risk. Now “reimagine” the combination of “all renewables all the time” and a major cold weather emergency event (a.k.a., “polar vortex”) like what happened in Texas last year. Further “reimagine” being without coal or natural gas for electric generation as well as natural gas and propane for home heating.

People will die at a far great pace than the 247 that died in Texas last year from Winter Storm Uri. This vicious cycle will just get worse the more reliant our society becomes upon on supposedly “clean” (but unreliable) energy sources. And yet, most politicians are reluctant allow for an opportunity for healthy/democratic debate. Instead, most House and Senate hearings have become infomercials for monied interests.

Renewables Forcing: How Much, How Far

The following EIA based graphic from a recent Washington Post article portrays the magnitude of transforming (perhaps unwittingly) the present energy generation mix to renewables. But be reminded, they are also planning to transfer the energy requirements presently served by the direct use of natural gas over to electricity. This could easily double or triple electric generation requirements. That effect isn’t shown in the following chart.

Another observation to be made from the above chart is that there is still a lot of black (coal) and orange (natural gas) in them. Basically, this means that switching to all-electric may have little if any carbon reduction benefits in such states. It is likely that in at least some states, fuel switching to electricity will increase carbon emissions. So “buyer beware” (in terms of both carbon savings and utility bill savings).

Clearly, the electric utility industry stands to profit from doubling (or more) in size and rate-basing much more expensive renewable technologies, all with the increased cost of “monopoly rents.” The environmentalists also get what they’ve craved: economic control.

Together, they can achieve social control; awarding energy compliance and
punishing energy disobedience; like how the system presently works in China.

Summary & Conclusions

For whatever reason, the gas utility industry has not been very effective in countering these threats. I really don’t have an explanation why, but most gas utilities are owned by electric utilities. This fact is also reflected within gas utility trade associations.

All I know for sure is complacency kills and gas utilities will either capitulate or litigate. I also know that the “Inflation Reduction Act” will cause $billions in stranded gas utility assets.

My advice to gas utilities:

♦  Assuming there is still “fight in the dog,” it’s time to start fighting like your livelihoods (and those of your customers) depend on it, because they do.

♦  Also study up on the takings clause in the constitution and find a way to live with the long-term liability of safeguarding our country’s abandoned gas pipes.

My advice to consumers:

♦  Be prepared to fend for yourself by investing in a natural gas or propane-fueled emergency generator system (if you can afford one). But note that if you have an electric heat pump, you’re going to need a much larger generator than if you didn’t.

I also have some closing advice to regulators: Do your job. Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) should not be Institutionalized Revenue Plundering and Demand-Side Management (DSM) should not be Deceptive/Strategic Marketing. Instead, reconsider Least-Cost Planning that was the standard before it was hijacked by corrupted IRP and DSM.


If That Tesla Battery Could Talk

Let’s imagine what an EV battery could tell us about its reality. A short story.  H/T Graeme Weber

The packed auditorium was abuzz; nobody seemed to know what to expect. The only hint was a large aluminum block sitting on a sturdy table on the stage.

When the crowd settled down, a scholarly-looking man walked out and put his hand on the shiny block, “Good evening,” he said, “I am here to introduce NMC532-X,” and he patted the block, “we call him NM for short,” and the man smiled proudly. “NM is a typical electric vehicle (EV) car battery in every way except one; we programmed him to send signals of the internal movements of his electrons when charging, discharging, and in several other conditions. We wanted to know what it feels like to be a battery. We don’t know how it happened, but NM began to talk after we downloaded the program.

“Despite this ability, we put him in a car for a year and then asked him if he’d like to do presentations about batteries. He readily agreed on the condition he could say whatever he wanted. We thought that was fine, and so, without further ado, I’ll turn the floor over to NM;” the man turned and walked off the stage.

“Good evening,” NM said. He had a slightly affected accent, and when he spoke, he lit up in different colors.

“A few days ago, at the start of my last lecture, three people walked out. But here is what I noticed about them. One was wearing a battery-powered hearing aid, one tapped on his battery-powered cell phone as he left, and a third got into his car — which would not start without a battery. So, I’d like you to think about your day for a moment; how many batteries do you rely on?”

He paused for a full minute which gave people time to count their batteries. Then he went on, “Now, it is not elementary to ask, ‘what is a battery?’ I think Mr. Tesla said it best when they called us Energy Storage Systems. That’s important. We do not make electricity — we store electricity produced elsewhere, primarily by coal, uranium, natural gas-powered plants, or diesel-fueled generators. So, to say an EV is a zero-emission vehicle is not at all valid. Also, since 40% of the electricity generated in the U.S. is from coal-fired plants, it follows that 40% of the EVs on the road are coal-powered, n’est-ce pas?”

He flashed blue again. “Einstein’s formula, E=MC2, tells us it takes the same amount of energy to move a 5,000 lb. gasoline-driven automobile a mile as it does an electric one. The only question again is, what produces the power? To reiterate, it does not come from the battery; the battery is only the storage device, like a gas tank in a car.”

He lit up red when he said that, and then he continued in blue and orange. “Mr. Elkay introduced me as NMC532. If I were the battery from your computer mouse, Elkay would introduce me as AA, if from your cell phone as CR2032, and so on. We batteries all have the same name depending on our design. By the way, the ‘X’ in my name stands for ‘experimental.’

“There are two orders of batteries: rechargeable and single use. The most common single-use batteries are A, AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, and lantern types. Those dry-cell species use zinc, manganese, lithium, silver oxide, or zinc and carbon to store electricity chemically. Please note they all contain toxic, heavy metals.

“Rechargeable batteries only differ in their internal materials, usually lithium-ion, nickel-metal oxide, and nickel-cadmium.

“The United States uses three billion of these two battery types a year, and most are not recycled; they end up in landfills. If you throw your small, used batteries in the trash, here is what happens to them.

“All batteries are self-discharging. That means even when not in use, they leak tiny amounts of energy. You have likely ruined a flashlight or two from an old, ruptured battery. When a battery runs down and can no longer power a toy or light, you think of it as dead; well, it is not. It continues to leak small amounts of electricity. As the chemicals inside it run out, pressure builds inside the battery’s metal casing, and eventually, it cracks. The metals left inside then ooze out. The ooze in your ruined flashlight is toxic, and so is the ooze that will inevitably leak from every battery in a landfill. All batteries eventually rupture; it just takes rechargeable batteries longer to end up in the landfill.

“In addition to dry-cell batteries, there are also wet-cell ones used in automobiles, boats, and motorcycles. The good thing about those is, 90% of them are recycled. Unfortunately, the cost of recycling EV batteries is more expensive than the cost of mining and creating a new battery. EV batteries that don’t have enough potency to power a vehicle can sometimes be used to power home appliances, street lights or solar panel backup until they finally lose all their energy.

“But that is not half of it. For those of you excited about electric cars and a green revolution, I want you to take a closer look at batteries and windmills and solar panels. These three technologies share what we call environmentally destructive embedded costs.”

NM got redder as he spoke. “Everything manufactured has two costs associated with it: embedded costs and operating costs. I will explain embedded costs using a can of baked beans as my subject.

“In this scenario, baked beans are on sale for $1.75 a can. As you head to the checkout, you begin to think about the embedded costs in the can of beans.

“The first cost is the diesel fuel the farmer used to plow the field, till the ground, harvest the beans, and transport them to the food processor. Not only is his diesel fuel an embedded cost, so are the costs to build the tractors, combines, and trucks. In addition, the farmer might use a nitrogen fertilizer made from natural gas.

“Next is the energy costs of cooking the beans, heating the building, transporting the workers, and paying for the vast amounts of electricity used to run the plant. The steel can holding the beans is also an embedded cost. Making the steel can requires mining taconite, shipping it by boat, extracting the iron, placing it in a coal-fired blast furnace, and adding carbon. Then it’s back on another truck to take the beans to the grocery store. Finally, add in the cost of the gasoline for your car.

“But wait — can you guess one of the highest but rarely acknowledged embedded costs? It’s the depreciation on the 5000-lb. car you used to transport one pound of canned beans!”

“But that can of beans is nothing compared to me! I am hundreds of times more complicated. My embedded costs not only come in the form of energy use; they come as environmental destruction, pollution, disease, child labor, and the cost to be recycled.”

He paused, “I weigh 1,000 pounds, and as you see, I am about the size of a travel trunk. I contain 25 pounds of lithium, 60 pounds of nickel, 44 pounds of manganese, 30 pounds cobalt, 200 pounds of copper, and 400 pounds of aluminum, steel, and plastic. Inside me are 6,831 individual lithium-ion cells.

“It should concern you that all those toxic components come from mining. For instance, to manufacture EACH auto battery like me, you must process 25,000 pounds of brine for the lithium, 30,000 pounds of ore for the cobalt, 5,000 pounds of ore for the nickel, and 25,000 pounds of ore for copper. All told, you dig up 500,000 pounds of the earth’s crust for just. one. battery.

“I mentioned disease and child labor a moment ago. Here’s why. Sixty-eight percent of the world’s cobalt, a significant part of a battery, comes from the Congo. Their mines have no pollution controls, and they employ children who die from handling this toxic material. Should we factor in these diseased kids as part of the cost of driving an electric car?”

400MW/1600MWh Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility in California Image: LG Energy Solution

“Finally, “I’d like to leave you with these thoughts. California is building the largest battery in the world near San Francisco, and they intend to power it from solar panels and windmills. They claim this is the ultimate in being ‘green,’ but it is not! This construction project is creating an environmental disaster. Let me tell you why.

“The main problem with solar arrays is the chemicals needed to process silicate into the silicon used in the panels. To make pure enough silicon requires processing it with hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, trichloroethane, and acetone. In addition, they also need gallium, arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, and cadmium-telluride, which also are highly toxic. Silicon dust is a hazard to the workers, and the panels cannot be recycled.

“Windmills are the ultimate in embedded costs and environmental destruction. Each weighs 1688 tons (the equivalent of 23 houses) and contains 1300 tons of concrete, 295 tons of steel, 48 tons of iron, 24 tons of fiberglass, and the hard to extract rare earths neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium. Each blade weighs 81,000 pounds and will last 15 to 20 years, at which time it must be replaced. We cannot recycle used blades. Sadly, both solar arrays and windmills kill birds, bats, sea life, and migratory insects.

“There may be a place for these technologies, but you must look beyond the myth of zero emissions. I predict EVs and windmills will be abandoned once the embedded environmental costs of making and replacing them become apparent. I’m trying to do my part with these lectures.”

See Also World of Hurt from Climate Policies, Part 3 Wind and Solar Infrastructure Consumes Rare Metals Far Beyond World Supplies

Global critical metal demand for wind and solar power plants

When considering a global perspective, the critical metal demand for our future renewable electricity production is significant. This graph shows the annual metal demand for the six most critical metals, compared to the annual production. The dotted line represents present-day annual production.