The Real Cost of So-Called Green Energy

Consider the world's biggest battery factory, the one Tesla built in Nevada. It would take 500 years for that factory to make enough batteries to store just one day's worth of America's electricity needs. This helps explain why wind and solar currently still supply less than 3% of the world's energy, after 20 years and billions of dollars in subsidies. 

Putting aside the economics, if your motive is to protect the environment, you might want to rethink wind, solar, and batteries because, like all machines, they're built from nonrenewable materials. 

Consider some sobering numbers: 

A single electric-car battery weighs about half a ton. Fabricating one requires digging up, moving, and processing more than 250 tons of earth somewhere on the planet. 

Building a single 100 Megawatt wind farm, which can power 75,000 homes requires some 30,000 tons of iron ore and 50,000 tons of concrete, as well as 900 tons of non-recyclable plastics for the huge blades. To get the same power from solar, the amount of cement, steel, and glass needed is 150% greater. 

Then there are the other minerals needed, including elements known as rare earth metals. With current plans, the world will need an incredible 200 to 2,000 percent increase in mining for elements such as cobalt, lithium, and dysprosium, to name just a few. 

Where's all this stuff going to come from? Massive new mining operations. Almost none of it in America, some imported from places hostile to America, and some in places we all want to protect. 

Australia's Institute for a Sustainable Future cautions that a global "gold" rush for energy materials will take miners into "…remote wilderness areas [that] have maintained high biodiversity because they haven't yet been disturbed."

And who is doing the mining? Let's just say that they're not all going to be union workers with union protections.  

Amnesty International paints a disturbing picture: "The… marketing of state-of-the-art technologies are a stark contrast to the children carrying bags of rocks."

And then the mining itself requires massive amounts of conventional energy, as do the energy-intensive industrial processes needed to refine the materials and then build the wind, solar, and battery hardware.

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