The Art of the Steal: Net Zero Is Unattainable

By: James Simpson | Capital Research Center

The massive turbines being planned are as high as 853 feet, with turbine blades longer than a football field. Credit: New York State. License: https://on.ny.gov/3XjqDSX.

The Greatest Heist in World History

Net Zero Is Unattainable

One of the Biden administration’s stated goals is to “deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030 and achieve a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.” As already pointed out, this will only increase offshore wind’s contribution to 4.5 percent, and then only with massive government spending, loan guarantees, and mandates because green energy, especially offshore wind, is not profitable.

Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act has turbocharged the agenda, already well under way. But that is a drop in the bucket compared to a full implementation of the Green New Deal, estimated to cost between $51 and $93 trillion.

But could “net zero” be achieved, even with the spending envisioned by the Green New Deal? Non-carbon energy comes from four main sources: solar, wind, nuclear and hydroelectric. (There is also a modest amount of geothermal and hydrogen.) Existing hydroelectric dams in the U.S. are already being dismantled at an unprecedented rate, so constructing new ones will be unlikely. We are left with solar, wind and nuclear.

Ignoring the fact that the Left will almost certainly oppose new nuclear plants, it is literally not possible to construct enough “clean” energy plants, including nuclear, to achieve net zero by 2050 or even much further out.

First, one must construct enough wind, solar and nuclear plants to replace all fossil fuel plants. Then one must construct enough to generate electricity for the switch to electric vehicles, ships, and aircraft. Finally, if carbon-based fuels like coal and oil cannot be used in industry, steel mills, for example, will need to rely entirely on electric power to replace blast furnaces, which usually use coal. It’s been compared to “using a toaster’s electric wires to melt steel . . . instead of using a coal furnace.” Entirely new equipment will need to be invented to make this possible. Sweden has a pilot program using hydrogen in place of coal it hopes to bring to market by 2026, but it faces many hurdles, not least of which is cost.

To manage this change, total energy output will have to approximately double. According to analysis by Donn Dear, author of Net Zero Carbon: the Climate Policy Destroying America, to achieve net zero by 2050, the U.S. would need 995,141 new 2.5-megawatt (MW) wind turbines (35,551 units annually), 881 new nuclear plants (31 annually), and 3,918,996 MW of new solar production (139,954 MW annually). For comparison, since 2000, the maximum annual construction of each kind of power plant is one nuclear plant, 5,680 2.5 MW wind turbines, and 21,500 MW of solar. This does not include production of storage batteries, essential for wind and solar.

Another analysis conducted for Australia found that achieving net zero by 2050 in that nation alone would require:

  • 354 new wind turbines installed every month, or 8 every day, until 2050, at a cost of $476 billion.
  • 18,000 solar rooftop systems together with 67 solar farms installed every month at a total cost of $326 billion.
  • Carbon offsets for irreplaceable fossil fuel burning equipment: 17 billion trees/year, ultimately covering 50 percent of Australia’s arable land.
  • A total cost of $1.13 trillion.

This is insanity. So much so, that it is almost impossible to believe any policymaker would support it. But green speaks louder than reality for politicians, so-called “environmentalists,” and businesspeople.

The Geological Survey of Finland conducted an exhaustively detailed 1,000-page study of requirements to transition the U.S., European Union, and People’s Republic of China to net zero.

Included was an analysis of the number and weight of lithium batteries needed to replace diesel freight locomotives with electric motors. The analysis found that each locomotive would require a battery weighing 281.9 metric tons, and that battery could drive a standard freight load for 14.4 hours. It estimated a total of 104,894 locomotives, with battery needs totaling 29.6 million metric tons (104,894 X 281.9 metric tons = 29.6 million metric tons) (32.6 million tons). Total global production of lithium in 2021 was 100,000 tons, and estimated global reserves are 22 million tons.

Lithium demand from electric vehicle (EV) cars, ships, or planes would dwarf requirements for locomotives. Examine Table 2, reproduced from the Finnish study estimates that cars, trucks, busses, and motorcycles would need 282.6 million metric tons (311.5 million tons) of lithium-ion batteries (See Table 2).

Using data from the Finland Geological study, reproduced below as Table 3, let’s look at the U.S. requirement alone for alternative energy production to meet net zero goals between 2023 and 2050. The world requirement is off the charts and doesn’t even account for essential growth in emerging economies. Besides, we cannot control what the rest of the world does. China, for example, is pointedly ignoring the move to alternative fuels, although they are only too happy to be our primary source for lithium.

Thus, based on current average output and size of energy plants, to transition entirely away from fossil fuels, the U.S. would need to build 47 solar farms, 54 wind farms, one nuclear power plants, three hydroelectric dams, and 20 geothermal, tidal, or biowaste plants per month until 2050.

And this assumes the greens will allow nuclear and hydroelectric, which they will not. The absurdity of this agenda is beyond dispute. In the real world, as the Finnish study relates, “the incubation time for the construction of a new power plant can range between two to five years (or 20 years for a nuclear plant).”

Yet they are moving forward at breakneck speed. For example there are currently over 3,400 large ocean wind turbines being planned for the Atlantic coast. By imposing green energy, the global warming activists are forcing energy firms to invest in losing technologies, while abandoning existing successful, inexpensive, readily available, and clean sources. (Remember, CO2 is not a pollutant.) The multiple billions of dollars already invested in cleaning up coal will be wasted as more and more coal plants go offline—unable to meet ever more restrictive greenhouse gas regulations.

Our vast conventional energy infrastructure will be slowly abandoned as companies driven by subsidies and mandates build more solar, wind, and other non-economical alternative energy facilities. Energy costs will skyrocket, crippling the economy, and when government subsidies run out, as they surely must, the entire green energy infrastructure will collapse, just as it did under President Obama’s Green Energy program. But there will be nothing to fall back upon because we have left our carbon-based energy infrastructure fallow. Without reliable energy, our nation will be crippled. Our nation, indeed the world, requires abundant, cheap, reliable energy.

By imposing this new, expensive, inefficient energy regime, the Left is forcing consumers to pay much higher utility bills while opening the spigots of government spending once again to finance an unsustainable activity. Furthermore, to compete, companies are forced to invest in the political market rather than their own markets and products. The Left is incentivizing corruption, luring private companies away from free market capitalism to crony socialism, and literally threatening the continued viability of our market economy, our standard of living, and perhaps even our survival. The global warming activists will destroy it all if we let them.

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