In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published last week, S&P Global Vice Chairman and noted author Daniel Yergin lays out the reasons why hard rock mining will become the ultimate roadblock to all the net-zero dreams of the global elites.
Yergin’s piece begins with this paragraph:
“California made a stunning decision last year — that by 2035 all new cars sold in the state must have at least 2½ times as much copper as conventional cars today. That’s not literally what the mandate said, of course, but it’s the practical effect of ordering all cars to be electric in the next 12 years. ‘Big Shovel’ will compete with ‘Big Oil’ as mining ramps up to supply the vast increase in a wide range of minerals that energy transition requires. But getting everything that will be needed will be tough.”
That’s right: the typical EV requires 2.5 times the copper in the typical gas-powered car. Multiplied by the estimated 1.446 billion autos on the road in 2022, and that comes to an enormous volume of copper. And that mined metal requirement doesn’t begin to tell the tale: EVs also require copious amounts of lithium, cobalt, antimony and an array of other critical and rare earth minerals to become a reality.
But it’s not just EVs. Yergin notes in his very next paragraph that “An offshore wind project uses nine times the minerals of a natural-gas-fired power plant of the same generating capacity.”
The same principle applies to solar arrays, too. The presence of all those critical and rare earth minerals, some of which are highly toxic, is why, like EV lithium-ion batteries, they can’t just be tossed into the local landfill when their useful life expires.
Another big looming problem Yergin notes is the reality that these minerals aren’t evenly distributed across the globe. Two South American countries with highly unstable governments, Peru and Chile, currently produce 40% of the world’s copper. Even worse, fully 70% of the world’s cobalt is produced in the Republic of the Congo, where it is often produced in small, hand-dug mines that feature extremely dangerous conditions and use of child labor.
Supply chains for these minerals are also a key issue. Yergin writes that 60% of the world’s lithium is currently processed in China, and that 47% of the world’s copper is smelted there. China and Mongolia are also home to large deposits of a variety of rare earth minerals, where their mining operations use slave labor and have been widely documented to cause enormous environmental damage.
The governments in the U.S. and the rest of the western world have implemented plans to establish supply chains outside of China for their renewable energy mineral needs but have yet to show any substantial progress in that regard. One area the Biden administration is known to covet is the rich Lithium Triangle region in South America, by far the largest known lithium deposit on earth.
But in late January, Bolivia awarded contracts to produce and process its share of that lithium wealth to two companies based in — you guessed it — China.
The central issue that neither the Biden administration nor any other western government seems inclined to address is the one of timing as it relates to the permitting and building of new mining operations. Yergin points to the reality that it currently takes 15 to 20 years for a typical hard rock mining operation to progress from concept to first production in the western world.
The Biden government has actually gone backwards on domestic mining in recent months, revoking existing permits for the Twin Metals mine in Minnesota and refusing to issue permits for various proposed new mining operations for the very metals that are crucial to the energy transition.
But last week, President Joe Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency issued new CAFE standards that would essentially render the production of two-thirds of gas vehicles currently produced in the U.S. illegal by 2032, thus mandating the placement of tens of millions of additional EVs on the roads in just the next 9 years.
Where will all the metals come from? Biden officials aren’t saying.
Perhaps that’s because the energy policies being adopted in the U.S., Canada and Europe are placing the western world on a collision course with inevitable disaster.
Voters had better wake up soonest, or they will be the ones paying the price for all this energy policy insanity.
David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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