Net Zero strategy is far from ‘clean and green’

Andrew Nikiforuk article shows that dream of a renewable energy future is not only fantasy, but ‘vastly destructive’

By Terence Corcoran, National Post, May 3, 2023

Exactly how clean and green is the net-zero economic strategy? It’s a question raised in a revealing commentary by veteran Canadian environmental journalist Andrew Nikiforuk. Writing in The Tyee, a Vancouver-based online publication, Nikiforuk reviews the work of academics and a “rising chorus of renewable energy skeptics” who believe that the great transition to a renewable energy future is a green techno-dream that is “vastly destructive.”

Nikiforuk is not writing for Net Zero Watch, the insightful climate and renewable energy skeptic website operated by the Global Warming Policy Forum in London. Nor is he in the same camp as anti-renewable author Alex Epstein, whose book, Fossil Future, rips the renewable alternatives and champions oil and gas. At The Tyee, Nikiforuk continues his work as an anti-fossil-fuel environmental writer whose books include Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, and The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude.

In his new commentary, which has received far too little attention in the media and among policy-makers, Nikiforuk spares no one and pulls no punches. “For largely ideological reasons,” he writes, “many greens and ‘transitionists’ have presented the transition to renewables as a smooth road with no potholes.” Drawing on the work of an array of analysts and scientists, Nikiforuk describes the destructive forces that will be unleashed by the global push to replace fossil fuels.

‘Renewables’ require vast quantities of non-renewable minerals

Much of the impact of the renewable crusade should be obvious. Solar panels, wind mills or electric cars cannot be built without mining more copper, lithium, iron and aluminum. “That means vastly more destructive scraping and digging of ocean floors, rainforests and tundras on a scale inconceivable to most environmentalists.”

Nikiforuk then lists some of the inconceivable, citing various sources, including Simon Michaux at Finland’s Geological Society. Michaux calculates that to replace 46,423 power stations run by oil, coal, gas and nuclear energy would require the construction of 586,000 power stations run by wind, solar and hydrogen.

For largely ideological reasons, many greens and ‘transitionists’ have presented the transition to renewables as a smooth road with no potholes.

Another example: “Every electric vehicle contains about 75 kilograms of copper, or three times more than a conventional vehicle. A single wind turbine generally contains 500 kilograms of nickel. That nickel requires 100 tonnes of steel-making coal to be refined. And every crystalline silicon solar panel contains 20 grams of silver paste. It takes 80 metric tons of silver to generate approximately a gigawatt of solar power.”

On copper, Michaux states that current copper reserves at 880 million tonnes are equal to approximately 30 years of production. “But industry will need 4.5 billion tonnes of copper to manufacture just one generation of renewable technologies,” he estimates. “That’s six times the volume of copper mined throughout history.”

Nikiforuk’s summary of the work of renewable skeptics outlines the reasons green enthusiasts and activist politicians should put a yellow light over their critical mineral campaigns, as should the bands of corporate activists eager to capitalize on being green.

The ideas of renewable skeptics lead logically to an even more troubling implication. If fossil fuels are destructive, and renewable alternatives are maybe even more destructive, then what? The only option left is some anti-development strategy. Growth is bad, no matter how it’s pursued, which means we need de-growth and depopulation.

That conclusion would be the logical outcome that arises out of the underlying green environmental premise, which is that humans are enemies of nature. For those of us with a different perspective on human existence, the real alternative is to scrap both the anti-fossil and the anti-renewable movement and get on with the business of improving the lives of humans.

This is an edited version of the original article. To read the full Nikiforuk article, click here.

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