Real threats to planet and people
By Paul Driessen
web posted July 5, 2021
Environmental activism was already nasty and lethal when I wrote Eco-Imperialism: Green Power – Black Death 18 years ago. It’s gotten steadily worse since then, especially with hysteria about the “looming manmade climate apocalypse” driving ever more extreme demands that we rid the world of fossil fuels and prohibit or roll back modern living standards.
The demands have reached previously unimaginable extremes – based primarily on GIGO computer models and wild assertions about planetary temperatures, weather, icecaps and vanishing wildlife. The claims have little basis in real-world evidence, but are presented as Gospel Truth by climate alarmists.
One group of extremists wants to make what it calls “ecocide” an “international crime” – then prosecute and imprison political leaders and corporate executives who have engaged in “mass ecological destruction” that these zealots assert has now reached a magnitude “similar” to Nazi genocide.
Others are agitating for a “Great Reset” – demanding that corporations reject their traditional roles and goals, and focus instead on “saving the planet” and advancing racial and gender “equity.” This unavoidably means companies must embrace “a certain degree of eco-dictatorship,” corporate-state tyranny and “top-down authoritarianism.” But in exchange they will reap huge profits by trying to replace reliable energy, while reducing middle and working class living standards, in the name of climate stability.
The radical left routinely employs eco-hysteria and Nazi analogies to deflect attention from the horrific disease and death tolls they have inflicted on Third World “people of color,” by denying them access to reliable energy, spatial insect repellants and modern farming technologies. Slinging these epithets at fossil fuel providers, users and defenders is as wanton, wicked and baseless as claims the Nazis made to justify exterminating Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, disabled people and other “undesirables.”
Meanwhile, in the real world, the actual threats to our planet, people, wildlife and freedoms come from the green zealots who demand we replace hydrocarbon energy with electricity generated by weather-dependent wind turbines and solar panels, and backed up by half-ton Tesla-style battery modules.
This Green New Deal would reverse job creation, economic growth, revenue collection, and human health and welfare gains. It would also inflict ecological damage on scales unprecedented in history.
The Harris-Biden Administration wants 80% hydrocarbon-free electricity generation by 2030, 100% by 2035 and elimination of fossil fuels from all sectors of the U.S. economy by 2050. This would require replacing coal and natural gas for generating electricity; gasoline and diesel for powering vehicles; natural gas for smelting and manufacturing; and natural gas for heating, cooking and water heating.
Together, this would send the nation’s annual electricity requirement soaring from about 2.7 billion megawatt-hours (the fossil fuel portion of total U.S. electricity in 2018) to almost 7.5 billion MWh per year by 2050. Substantial additional generation would be required to constantly recharge backup batteries for windless, sunless days, to safeguard society against blackouts, cyberattacks and wholesale collapse.
Generating all that electricity without new nuclear and hydroelectric plants would require tens of thousands of 850-foot-tall offshore wind turbines, hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of somewhat smaller onshore turbines, and billions of photovoltaic solar panels. Backing up sufficient nationwide electricity for even one week of windless, sunless days would involve well over a billion battery modules. Connecting all this and our cities would require thousands of miles of new transmission lines.
The number are sky-high because wind and sun generate electricity only 25-50% of the year in the best locations (less than 33% on average nationwide), and the more “green” electricity we need, the more we must put turbines and panels in lower quality areas, where they generate power only 15-20% of the year. Just President Biden’s plan to install 30,000 megawatts of wind power off America’s coasts by 2030 would require 2,100 14-MW turbines. Even if they operated at full capacity 24/7, they would not meet peak summer electricity needs for New York State, much less coastal states or the entire USA.
Even if wind and solar facilities avoided the most highly sensitive areas, they would still disrupt or destroy scenic areas, croplands and wildlife habitats. Turbine blades would kill millions of birds and bats. Vibration noise from offshore turbines would disrupt whale and dolphin navigation and communication.
All these turbines, panels, batteries and power lines would require tens of billions of tons of non-renewable iron, copper, aluminum, cobalt, lithium, rare earth elements, plastics, limestone and other materials. That would necessitate mining, crushing, processing, refining and transporting tens of billions of tons of ores – from thousands of mines and quarries, using gigantic gasoline and diesel equipment – followed by smelting and manufacturing, all with fossil fuels. None of this is clean, green or sustainable.
These energy-intensive activities often employ hazardous chemicals and release toxic pollutants. They require enormous volumes of water, often in the world’s most water-deprived regions. They cause acid mine drainage, create mountains of waste rock, and often result in vast “lakes” of toxic chemicals.
Just that initial Biden offshore wind program would require millions of tons of materials, including 110,000 tons of copper. At an average of 0.44% copper in all types of copper ore deposits today, that means just those first 2,100 offshore turbines would require mining, crushing and processing 25 million tons of copper ore, after removing some 40 million tons of overlying rock to reach the ore bodies.
Add in materials for solar panels, onshore wind turbines, backup battery systems, subsea and onshore electrical lines, electric vehicles, electric heating systems and other technologies – and the “U.S. energy transformation” would require raw materials in excess of the entire world’s current and foreseeable mining and processing capabilities. A global Green Deal would require mining half our solar system.
Environmental fanatics insist that the United States continue to stymie or ban mining, even to support their grand energy, economic and societal reset. They and Team Biden insist that we outsource all this mining, mostly to China. They couldn’t care less about compromising our national security or their supposed commitment to environmental protection, human rights and climate justice.
Chinese companies already control the mining and processing of many GND minerals mined in Africa and other countries; they manufacture a majority of USA-bound wind turbines, solar panels and batteries. They certainly don’t adhere to U.S. laws and standards for environmental protection, pollution control, mined land reclamation, workplace safety, fair wages, child and slave labor, or human rights.
Some 40,000 children as young as four already toil with their parents in Democratic Republic of Congo mines, for a few dollars a day, under constant threat of cave-ins and exposure to toxic and radioactive mud, dust and water – just to meet today’s cobalt needs, which would skyrocket under a Green New Deal. The cobalt ore is sent to China for processing in plants that have equally abominable safety and pollution conditions, and have been linked to alarming cancer, blood disease and other health problems.
An enormous toxic dump for effluents from rare earth mining and processing in Inner Mongolia has destroyed agriculture and created serious health issues for workers and residents. China uses Uighur slave labor to build solar panels for sale to the United States and Europe.
Woke climate and human rights activists become apoplectic when clothing and coffee producers and importers fail to meet their lofty “fair trade” standards. Maybe they should travel to Moscow, Kinshasa, Beijing, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, don their ski masks, and rage, burn and loot for our planet, Uighur rights and “responsible sourcing” of raw materials for the Green New World they want to foist on us
Meanwhile CFACT’s amicus curiae brief supports a multistate lawsuit against the Biden Administration over its fossil fuel eradication plans and phony “social costs of carbon” claims. It brings much-needed reality to the “climate chaos” and “renewable” energy charade, including costs to people and planet.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy, climate change, human rights and economic development.