Every time you see congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez showing up in the news, she almost always begins preaching the “Green New Deal” that she spoke of endlessly on the campaign trail. Under this plan, we would supposedly move the United States to 100% renewable energy (or very close to it) while shutting down the fossil fuel industry entirely. It’s a progressive wish list item which helped her gain traction throughout the midterms.
But just how “green” is this deal? There are a number of problems with it. For one thing, it shuts down nuclear power (which produces no greenhouse gases, by the way). That’s an element of the “deal” being pushed heavily by Bernie Sanders. Of course, when they shut down all nuclear energy in his home state they wound up having to burn oil to keep the power grid alive last winter. Super plan there, Bernie.
But the bigger crisis we’re looking at with the Green New Deal has to do with our ability to actually manufacture all the equipment required to generate that kind of energy. A new report from Leiden University in the Netherlands reveals one factor that progressives don’t seem to have considered. Expanding production of solar and wind power facilities is going to require a vastly larger supply of what are known as “rare-earth metals” like neodymium, terbium, dysprosium, and praseodymium. Here’s the problem. The current global supply of these metals is nowhere near the anticipated demand and the countries that control most of those supplies aren’t exactly our best friends. (Washington Examiner)
Moving the world to 100-percent renewable energy under a Green New Deal, or the Paris climate accord, will require at least a twelvefold increase in the not-so-green practice of hardrock mining, according to a new study backed by prominent environmental consultants.
“The current global supply of several critical metals is insufficient to transition to a renewable energy system,” a new study released Thursday by Leiden University in the Netherlands and environmental consulting firms Metabolic and Copper8 concludes.
Transitioning to a global renewable energy system devoid of fossil fuels will place a strain on the supply of certain metals required to manufacture solar panels and wind turbines, according to the study, requiring twelve times today’s production by 2050.
And that estimate does not include increasing demand for other electronic goods like electric cars and iPhones, which also require the same metals, the study said.
Known as “hardrock mining,” the processes required to obtain these metals are generally on par with strip mining (not exactly a favorite of the people trying to save the Earth). It’s a dirty, destructive process which requires intense labor to return the land to normal conditions when you’re finished.
Also, the demand for these metals is already high, particularly for any industry relying on a lot of battery power. (Think cell phones and electric cars.) Adding that much new demand will make the prices skyrocket, making any chance of this green energy revolution being affordable highly unlikely.
But we should also consider who we’ll need to go to in order to lay our hands on that much of these rare-earth metals. The word “rare” is is in the name for a reason. This 2017 report from Investing News explores where these minerals are found and how big the proven reserves are in each country. China, Brazil and Russia not only have the largest supplies of rare-earth metals, but they dwarf everyone else, holding more supplies than the rest of the world combined. The United States is sitting on some supplies, but we produced exactly zero tons of them in 2017.
So if you want to move ahead with this plan, there appear to be two choices. We could start doing a massive amount of hardrock mining here in America, no doubt driving the environmentalists insane. Alternately, we could go to China and Russia with our hat in our hands. We’ve only recently gotten the boot of OPEC off our collective throats by becoming a world leader in the oil and gas industry. Now we’re going to replace OPEC with the Russians and the Chinese and leave our fortunes in their hands?
Somebody didn’t think this plan through very well. It definitely needs another look before our elected leaders sign onto it.