International Energy Agency report shows that green energy transition is a fantasy because of dependence on key rare minerals

A prestigious intergovernmental organization created by the world’s advanced economies is pointing out the bottleneck in the plans to substitute so-called green energy for hydrocarbon-based energy: the availability of key minerals necessary for battery storage, wind farms, solar panels, and other gizmos necessary for the switchover. Simply put: the world can’t provide the quantity of those minerals that would be necessary, and the environmental and social impact of trying to mine them in sufficient quantities would be devastating.

The cure, in other words, is worse than the disease.

 You can download the 287-page report here.

The International Energy Agency is an intergovernmental organization founded by the OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis to provide information and policy suggestions to help the advanced economies cope with energy needs. It currently is focused on the green energy transition so desired by many of the world’s most powerful special interests. 

The report on minerals is part of a larger project on the green energy transition. Mark P. Mills cites some of its most important findings in the Wall Street Journal.

The IEA assembled a large body of data about a central, and until now largely ignored, aspect of the energy transition: It requires mining industries and infrastructure that don’t exist. Wind, solar and battery technologies are built from an array of “energy transition minerals,” or ETMs, that must be mined and processed. The IEA finds that with a global energy transition like the one President Biden envisions, demand for key minerals such as lithium, graphite, nickel and rare-earth metals would explode, rising by 4,200%, 2,500%, 1,900% and 700%, respectively, by 2040.

The world doesn’t have the capacity to meet such demand. As the IEA observes, albeit in cautious bureaucratese, there are no plans to fund and build the necessary mines and refineries. The supply of ETMs is entirely aspirational. And if it were pursued at the quantities dictated by the goals of the energy transition, the world would face daunting environmental, economic and social challenges, along with geopolitical risks.

When honest grownups take a close look at the plans being offered --- even by serious governments (The UK and California, for instance, plan a complete phase out of gasoline powered cars) and companies (GM plans to go all-electric vehicles) – they notice that practical considerations rule them out. Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, for instance,

…criticized what he described as excessive hype over electric vehicles, saying advocates failed to consider the carbon emitted by generating electricity and the costs of an EV transition.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said Japan would run out of electricity in the summer if all cars were running on electric power. The infrastructure needed to support a fleet consisting entirely of EVs would cost Japan between ¥14 trillion and ¥37 trillion, the equivalent of $135 billion to $358 billion, he said.

“When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?” Mr. Toyoda said Thursday [December 10, 2020] at a year-end news conference in his capacity as chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Other elements of the green energy transition run into impossible-to-overcome obstacles, such as the unavailability of land for solar and wind farms:

Of course, other factors, including the incurable intermittency of renewables as well as the massive amounts of materials, including steel, concrete, copper, and rare earth elements, will limit the deployment of wind and solar. But the biggest barrier is the land-use problem. The ferocity and extent of rural land-use conflicts are showing that any attempt to convert the domestic economy to run solely on renewables is destined to fail.

It is now evident that the plans agreed upon by almost all of the world’s most powerful institutions, from governments, to corporations, to media and academia, are flawed to point of impossibility. Meanwhile, China merrily chugs along building coal-fired electric generation stations and putting out more CO2 increases than the rest of the world combined. If one asks the classic question about this green new deal plans, “cui bono?” (“who benefits?”), the answer is first and foremost China, which is hobbling its economic rivals, the advanced industrial economies, followed by “rent-seekers” (aka, grifters) who gain subsidies and loan guarantees for their schemes that often (Solyndra and Tonopah for instance) spectacularly fail to deliver on their promises.  

To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.