Digging It: Mines, Minerals, and “Green” Energy: A Reality Check

It takes audacity to suggest that the wholesale environmental destruction wreaked by the wind and solar industries is all for the good of planet.

Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans managed to lift the lid on green hypocrisy, focusing on the raft of inconvenient truths behind the greatest economic and environmental fraud of all time.

Such as the fact that those ‘planet saving’ solar panels that give virtue signallers such a warm inner glow are really ‘coal’ panels, where the core ingredient is made from strip-mined quartz, which is converted to silica using coal-fired furnaces. Inconvenient for those claiming renewable energy piety, but true enough.

Mark P Mills treads the same path with his investigation into hypocritical claims that renewable energy is all about saving the planet when, in reality, wind and solar are simply devouring it.

Mines, Minerals, and “Green” Energy: A Reality Check
Manhattan Institute
Mark P Mills
9 July 2020

Executive Summary
As policymakers have shifted focus from pandemic challenges to economic recovery, infrastructure plans are once more being actively discussed, including those relating to energy. Green energy advocates are doubling down on pressure to continue, or even increase, the use of wind, solar power, and electric cars. Left out of the discussion is any serious consideration of the broad environmental and supply-chain implications of renewable energy.

As I explored in a previous paper, “The New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking,”[1] many enthusiasts believe things that are not possible when it comes to the physics of fueling society, not least the magical belief that “clean-tech” energy can echo the velocity of the progress of digital technologies. It cannot.

This paper turns to a different reality: all energy-producing machinery must be fabricated from materials extracted from the earth. No energy system, in short, is actually “renewable,” since all machines require the continual mining and processing of millions of tons of primary materials and the disposal of hardware that inevitably wears out. Compared with hydrocarbons, green machines entail, on average, a 10-fold increase in the quantities of materials extracted and processed to produce the same amount of energy.

This means that any significant expansion of today’s modest level of green energy—currently less than 4% of the country’s total consumption (versus 56% from oil and gas)—will create an unprecedented increase in global mining for needed minerals, radically exacerbate existing environmental and labor challenges in emerging markets (where many mines are located), and dramatically increase U.S. imports and the vulnerability of America’s energy supply chain.

As recently as 1990, the U.S. was the world’s number-one producer of minerals. Today, it is in seventh place. Even though the nation has vast mineral reserves worth trillions of dollars, America is now 100% dependent on imports for some 17 key minerals, and, for another 29, over half of domestic needs are imported.

Among the material realities of green energy:

  • Building wind turbines and solar panels to generate electricity, as well as batteries to fuel electric vehicles, requires, on average, more than 10 times the quantity of materials, compared with building machines using hydrocarbons to deliver the same amount of energy to society.
  • A single electric car contains more cobalt than 1,000 smartphone batteries; the blades on a single wind turbine have more plastic than 5 million smartphones; and a solar array that can power one data center uses more glass than 50 million phones.
  • Replacing hydrocarbons with green machines under current plans—never mind aspirations for far greater expansion—will vastly increase the mining of various critical minerals around the world. For example, a single electric car battery weighing 1,000 pounds requires extracting and processing some 500,000 pounds of materials. Averaged over a battery’s life, each mile of driving an electric car “consumes” five pounds of earth. Using an internal combustion engine consumes about 0.2 pounds of liquids per mile.
  • Oil, natural gas, and coal are needed to produce the concrete, steel, plastics, and purified minerals used to build green machines. The energy equivalent of 100 barrels of oil is used in the processes to fabricate a single battery that can store the equivalent of one barrel of oil.

By 2050, with current plans, the quantity of worn-out solar panels—much of it nonrecyclable—will constitute double the tonnage of all today’s global plastic waste, along with over 3 million tons per year of unrecyclable plastics from worn-out wind turbine blades. By 2030, more than 10 million tons per year of batteries will become garbage.
Manhattan Institute

7 thoughts on “Digging It: Mines, Minerals, and “Green” Energy: A Reality Check

  1. The next time you see a wind turbine, ask yourself, how the hell does that stand up?

    It is sad to see the young people of today being moulded and manipulated into a ‘Green’ malleable blob! It would be so much healthier to see them pursuing a career, such as an airline pilot for example, instead of gluing themselves to the road!

    Video Title – MUST SEE! TWO COOL LADIES piloting HEAVY MD-11F ULTIMATE COCKPIT MOVIE [AirClips full flight series]

    Video published by Air-Clips.com

    The video above was published prior to COVID-19. But just in case you were wondering, ‘Air-Clips’ have also published a video showing how the airline Air Baltic are dealing with the crisis. The AIRBUS A220-300 certainly looks to be an impressive aircraft. Note the large high bypass ratio, super efficient engines, proving the point that aviation is fully engaged in improving and reducing both emissions and noise over the old pure jet technology of yesteryear. Lowering emissions does not have to mean lights out! Society has to find a middle ground. Forcing a 100% Renewable energy and Zero net emission target upon society is I feel, an ‘unreasonable request’. Just look at how many jobs are at risk in these two videos alone. Jobs going on in the background that depend on the aviation industry. And aviation has proven to be invaluable during the pandemic, carrying all sorts of foreign aid and PPE gear.

    The climate change cheer squad would see aviation in its current form…


    Video Title – COVID Times Flying: Patrick’s exclusive look behind the Air Baltic scenes! [AirClips Investigative]

    Video published by Air-Clips.com

    Those in ‘Melbourne Lockdown 2.0’ may find the Air-Clips YouTube Channel to be of interest.

    Web link for Air-Clips.com below…


    1. Apart from the STT suggestion, nuclear energy can be applicable elsewhere than AU…

      With on demand water supply damming gorges is unnecessary. This supplies more land for wildlife and people: Green the deserts. We have an eastern electricity grid why doesn’t a water grid make sense?

      What’s so natural about a dam, or city for that matter. It would also make the Bradfield river diversion scheme and the other 17 AU projects redundant.

      RE supporters believe water displacement is only a theory and international evidence other than what supports the IPCC is wrong and inapplicable. This helps ‘localise’ and limit understanding of available information, but when they’re subsidised at all government levels they should be addressed as such by media especially; they don’t bite the hand that feeds.

      Is it warming, displacement (along with cities on porous ground sinking, eg., London) or both that are a problem that wind and sun can’t fix?

      Research and speak with politicians, as ordinary people, they don’t research and vote on party lines.

  2. The media greet all these windfarms without having a clue what goes into their construction, like this headline a couple of days ago “More than 10,000 tonnes of steelwork has departed Indonesia bound for the Hornsea Two offshore wind farm.” https://www.energyvoice.com/otherenergy/258805/infrastructure-hornsea-two-wind-farm-indonesia/ . All that steel travelling heaven knows how many miles – so green because it’s for a windfarm and nothing else matters.

    1. Correct Brenda, and nor is the huge amount of fossil fuel needed for the extraction, blast furnace processing and milling of that steel mentioned in the promotional propaganda supporting such “green” projects. In fact it’s fair to say that steel relies on cheap plentiful fossil fuel, “green energy” just won’t cut it, a world without fossil fuel essentially would be a world without steel.

  3. It may be possible that older movers and shakers, concentrated in cities, have been brain damaged by leaded petrol. On the other hand it may all be a simple case of international private finance graft and corruption defended by NATO. With those on both sides making a living via media; it’s all news and entertainment to them. With most not giving a damn about lives until the recent phenomenon of “Oh dear me I’ll lay flowers for someone I never knew to show my concerned commitment humanity”.

    Criminality being a top down process, the further along the chain of despair the richer and greater ignorance of laws is allowed. Until the head of the cult of celebrity claims a divine right of lineage to self-appointed King David.
    Yeah, wave the Ag Show windmill; tradition is a fancier name than habit, and the wicker chair ride down the Madeira mountain is naturally, more fun than a theme park roller-coaster.

    The figures don’t seem to add up. With spaced nuclear desalination plants providing an on demand water system grid, removing the necessity for large scale weather dependent environmentally destructive storage dams, it would seem a no-brainer. But no, the contradictory ingrained principle of destruction abounds. While the obvious lies and stupidity of dead-end destructive technology provides profit against logic.

    Maybe my mental cogs are misaligned and missing something like sacrificing others’ lives for a jet-setting greed motive.

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