It’s time for transparency of the embedded costs of going “green”
By Ronald Stein
The worldwide movement toward the electrification of everything, from intermittent electricity by industrial wind and solar farms, to more electric vehicles, the political actions are supportive of jumping onto the green train, most-likely not knowing there is a darker side of green technology, associated with environmental degradation, humanity atrocities, and other embedded costs for materials.
A recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) notes: “A typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car and an onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired plant.”
- Nickel: A major component of the EV batteries, is found just below the topsoil in the Rainforests of Indonesia and the Philippines. As a result, the nickel is extracted using horizontal surface mining that results in extensive environmental degradation: deforestation and removal of the top layer of soil.
- Lithium: Over half of the world’s Lithium reserves are found in three South American countries that border the Andes Mountains: Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. These countries are collectively known as the “Lithium Triangle”.
- Cobalt: The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) produces 70% of the world’s Cobalt. While there is no shortage of environmental issues with its Cobalt mining, the overriding problem here is human rights: dangerous working conditions and the use of child labor. Cobalt is a toxic metal. Prolonged exposure and inhalation of Cobalt dust can lead to health issues of the eyes, skin, and lungs.
- Copper: Chile is the leading producer of the world’s Copper. Most of the Chile’s Copper comes from open pit/strip mines. This type of mining negatively affects vegetation, topsoil, wildlife habitats, and groundwater. The next three largest producers of copper are Peru, China, and the infamous Democratic Republic of the Congo.
For the last few decades, policy has been dominated by ideological pipe dreamers that the world can survive and prosper with intermittent and unreliable electricity generated from breezes and sunshine, and to-date they have succeeded in wrecking livelihoods inflicting shortages, inflation, and undermining national security. It’s time to look again at fracking, at nuclear, and focus on conservations, improving efficiencies, and adaptation. It’s time to get serious about climate and electricity.
The non-existing transparency of human rights abuses and environmental degradation occurring in developing countries with yellow, brown, and black skinned people are obscured from most of the world’s population. Both human rights abuses and environmental degradation are directly connected to the mining for the exotic minerals and metals that are required to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels, and EV batteries.
An electric vehicle battery does not “make” electricity – it only stores electricity produced elsewhere, primarily by coal, uranium, natural gas-powered plants, and occasionally by intermittent breezes and sunshine. So, to say an EV is a zero-emission vehicle is not at all valid as 80 percent of the electricity generated to charge the batteries is from coal, natural gas, and nuclear.
- Since twenty percent of the electricity generated in the U.S is from coal-fired plants, it follows that twenty percent of the EVs on the road are coal-powered.
- Since forty percent of the electricity generated in the U.S is from natural gas, it follows that forty percent of the EVs on the road are natural gas-powered.
- Since twenty percent of the electricity generated in the U.S is from nuclear, it follows that twenty percent of the EVs on the road are nuclear-powered.
For a pleasant and educational Fireside Chat on Energy Literacy between Ronald Stein and avid Environmentalist Nancy Pearlman, check out Nancy’s Environmental Directions 30-minute YouTube interview “ED 2298 Ronald Stein Clean Energy Exploitations” for discussions are about the messages in the Pulitzer Prize nominated book “Clean Energy Exploitations – Helping Citizens Understand the Environmental and Humanity Abuses That Support Clean Energy“.
To make the embedded costs of going “green” transparent to the world, the book highlights how Asians and Africans, many of them children from the poorer and less healthy countries, are being enslaved and are dying in mines and factories to obtain the exotic minerals and metals required for the green energy technologies for the construction of EV batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, and utility-scale storage batteries.
America could promote sustainable mining in those developing countries to restoring the land to a healthy ecosystem after the mine closes and by leaving surrounding communities with more wealth, education, health care, and infrastructure that they had before the mine went into production. Like the mining in America, the mining in developing countries must be the objective of corporate social responsibilities and the outcome of the successful ecological restoration of landscapes.
America’s obsession for green electricity to reduce emissions must be ethical and should not thrive off human rights and environmental abuses in the foreign countries providing the exotic minerals and metals to support America’s green passion. And before we get rid of crude oil, the greenies need to identify the replacement or clone for crude oil, to keep today’s societies and economies running with the more than 6,000 products now made with manufactured derivatives from crude oil, along with the fuels to move the heavy-weight and long-range needs of more than 50,000 jets and more than 50,000 merchant ships, and the military and space programs.
Ron Stein is an engineer who, drawing upon 25 years of project management and business development experience, launched PTS Advance in 1995. He is an author, engineer, and energy expert who writes frequently on issues of energy and economics.