Influential elites are either in denial about the horrifying costs and consequences of Net Zero – witness last Wednesday’s substantial vote against fracking British gas in the House of Commons – or busy scooping up the almost unlimited amounts of money currently on offer for promoting pseudoscience climate scares and investing in impracticable green technologies. Until the lights start to go out and heating fails, they are unlikely to pay much attention to a recent 1,000 page alternative energy investigation undertaken for a Finnish Government agency by Associate Professor Simon Michaux. Referring to the U.K.’s 2050 Net Zero target, Michaux states there is “simply not enough time, nor resources to do this by the current target”.
To cite just one example of how un-costed Net Zero is, Michaux notes that “in theory” there are enough global reserves of nickel and lithium if they are exclusively used to produce batteries for electric vehicles. But there is not enough cobalt, and more will need to be discovered. It gets much worse. All the new batteries have a useful working life of only 8-10 years, so replacements will need to be regularly produced. “This is unlikely to be practical, which suggests the whole EV battery solution may need to be re-thought and a new solution is developed that is not so mineral intensive,” he says.
All of these problems occur in finding a mass of lithium for ion batteries weighting 286.6 million tonnes. But a “power buffer” of another 2.5 billion tonnes of batteries is also required to provide a four-week back-up for intermittent wind and solar electricity power. Of course, this is simply not available from global mineral reserves, but, states Michaux, it is not clear how the buffer could be delivered with an alternative system.
Michaux sounds a clear warning message. Current expectations are that global industrial businesses will replace a complex industrial energy ecosystem that took more than a century to build. It was built with the support of the highest calorifically dense source of energy the world has ever known (oil), in cheap abundant quantities, with easily available credit and seemingly unlimited mineral resources. The replacement, he notes, needs to be done when there is comparatively very expensive energy, a fragile finance system saturated in debt and not enough minerals. Most challenging of all, it has to be done within a few decades. Based on his copious calculations, the author is of the opinion that it will not go fully “as planned”.
Last Sunday, Sir David Attenborough concluded six episodes of pseudoscientific green agitprop Frozen Planet II by demanding that the world embrace Net Zero, “no matter how challenging it may be”. Net Zero is a political command-and-control project, the full horror of which is yet to be inflicted on the general population. Michaux is quite clear what it entails: “What may be required, therefore, is a significant reduction of societal demand for all resources, of all kinds. This implies a very different social contract and a radically different system of governance to what is in place today.”
Of course, a radically different system of government is available in the People’s Republic of China, but here the position on Net Zero is a tad more nuanced. Having lifted about a billion people out of starving poverty in the last 40 years and become the workshop for an increasingly complacent western world – all powered by fossil fuel – the cause does not seem so pressing. Speaking to the Communist Party Congress earlier this week, President Xi Jinping sounded a note of caution and said “prudence” would govern China’s efforts to peak and eventually zero-out carbon emissions. All of this would be in line with the principle of “getting the new before discarding the old”.
Meanwhile, China’s coal production is reported to have reached record levels, while the Congress was told that oil and gas exploration will be expanded as part of measures to ensure “energy security”.
Michaux points out that nearly 85% of world energy comes from fossil fuel. By his calculations, the annual global capacity of non-fossil electrical power will need to quadruple to 37,670.6 TWh. In a recent report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), Professor Michael Kelly estimates that the U.K. electricity grid would have to expand by 2.7 times. This will involve adding capacity at eight times the rate it has been added over the last 30 years. If calculations are made for the need to rewire homes, streets, local substations and powerlines to carry the new capacity, the extra cost will be nearly £1 trillion.
In another recent GWPF paper, the energy writer John Constable warned that the European Green Deal seems all but certain to break Europe’s economic and socio-political power, “rendering it a trivial and incapable backwater, reliant on – and subservient to – superior powers”.
History provides us with many examples of weak, or weakened, tribes being overrun by stronger tribes. In the animal kingdom it is known as natural evolution. A 96-year old ‘national treasure’ preaches we have to pay any price to satisfy the new cult of the green god. Better costed and more rational views are available.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.