As a follow-up to the excellent letter from Michael Smith (Courier, Sept. 5), I would ask your readers to consider the following information from Mr. A. Mills, a Senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute; namely, “Renewable Energy is a Misnomer. If you want renewable energy, get ready to dig.”
Some people (Greens/Andrew Weaver) dream of powering society entirely with wind and solar farms combined with massive batteries, realizing this would require the biggest expansion in mining the world has seen and would produce huge quantities of waste.
Wind and solar machines and batteries are built from non-renewable materials. When they wear out, they must be scrapped, generating millions of tons of waste, resulting in old-panel disposal, doubling the tonnage of all global plastic waste.
Consider this: a single electric car battery weighs about 1,000 pounds. Fabricating requires digging up, moving and processing more than 500,000 pounds of raw materials somewhere on the planet.
When electricity comes from wind or solar machines, all units produced require far more materials and land than fossil fuels. That physical reality is visible in Palm Springs, California.
One turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of non-recyclable plastic. Solar power needs even more cement, steel and plastic.
The International Energy Agency forecasts global silver and indium mining will increase 250 per cent and 120 per cent, respectively, to build the solar panels.
World demand for rare-earth elements will rise 300 per cent to 1,000 per cent by 2050. If electric vehicles replace conventional cars, (Mr. John Horgan?) demand for cobalt and lithium will rise 20 fold, not counting back-up wind and solar grids.
The demand for minerals won’t be met in Europe or the U.S., but in nations with oppressive labour practices.
The Democratic Republic of Congo produces 70 per cent of the world’s cobalt, however, China controls 90 per cent of the cobalt refining, meaning miners will have to go to areas that have maintained a high level of biodiversity not presently disturbed.
Mining and fabrication requires the consumption of hydrocarbons. Building enough wind turbines to supply half the world’s electricity would require nearly two billion tons of coal to produce concrete and steel and two billion barrels of oil to make composite blades.
More than 90 per cent of the world’s solar panels are built in Asia on coal-heavy grids.