Should We Let China Control Our Energy Supply?

“Green” energy is a terrible idea for many reasons. One of the most fundamental is that it relies on low-intensity, intermittent energy sources like wind and solar, which in practical terms are vastly inferior to fossil fuels or nuclear power, and tries to make these unreliable sources work through the magical medium of batteries.

Are there enough batteries in the world to fulfill the dreams of environmentalists? Of course not. My colleague Isaac Orr created this simple bar chart that compares the projected total battery capacity of the world as of 2030 with the 2019 electricity consumption of just one state, Minnesota:

The idea that batteries charged by inefficient “green” sources will somehow satisfy the world’s energy needs at any point in the future is obviously a fantasy. Yet, because vast amounts of money are involved, the question of how enormous quantities of batteries can be produced is being seriously considered. It turns out that the Chinese have commandeered the bulk of the resources that would be required.

The battery question arises most immediately in the context of electric vehicles. From the Telegraph:

Ministers are exploring the creation of a national stockpile of so-called rare earth metals amid rising fears that Britain’s efforts to adopt electric cars are at risk from a Chinese stranglehold on supplies.

It is understood that officials at the Department for Business are discussing options to protect the UK’s access to vital materials including lithium and cobalt, which are essential for batteries and part of a global commodity prices boom as expectations rise for massive demand.
The moves are at an early stage and come as fears grow that China is ruthlessly cornering the market in the metals needed for the global green revolution.

There will not be any “global green revolution.” This is just one of the reasons why.

The agency said that three countries dominate supplies of lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements and are jointly responsible for 75pc of global output. In some cases, a single country is responsible for around half of worldwide production.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo and China were behind 70pc and 60pc of world production of cobalt and other rare earth elements respectively in 2019, the IEA said. Chile is also a major producer.

Concentration is even higher for processing operations. China refines about 35pc of all global nickel, between 50pc and 70pc of lithium and cobalt, and nearly 90pc of other rare earth elements.

Has anyone figured out whether there is enough lithium in the world (not to mention the more obscure “rare earth” elements) to manufacture the vast quantities of batteries needed to make the “green revolution” even remotely possible, albeit unbelievably inefficient and expensive? I have not seen any such analysis.

As for cobalt, Congo is the main source. We have cobalt in the U.S., most of it located in Minnesota. But Minnesota environmentalists–the same people who insist that “batteries” are the key to our future–refuse to allow it to be mined.

Western governments are mandating the use of electric vehicles, but such vehicles can’t operate without battery capacity that vastly exceeds what actually exists. “Green” ideology is on a collision course with reality. And, among other problems, reality runs through China.

Two months ago Benchmark Mineral Intelligence predicted that demand for power packs for cars will increase at 40pc a year until at least 2025 in Europe alone, creating an arms race among manufacturers to secure lithium.

In the autumn, analysis by the European Union warned that lithium supplies will need to increase almost 20-fold and there must be a fivefold rise in cobalt production by 2030 if the block is to hit its targets.

So environmentalists contemplate the greatest explosion of mining in world history, while at the same time blocking any mines from being developed in the U.S. or Europe.

We are on a collision course with a multi-faceted disaster:

1) Governments mandate electric vehicles and other “green” energy measures even though the mandates cannot possibly be met.

2) Trillions of dollars are spent in a futile effort to satisfy those mandates, enriching a handful of politically connected developers, lobbyists and utilities but impoverishing the rest of us.

3) The materials necessary for the “green revolution” may or may not exist on the planet Earth, but to the extent they do exist, they are largely controlled by the Communist Chinese.

4) The CCP therefore will be vastly enriched by the rising prices for metals and rare earths that they control, while at the same time we are giving them a veto over our ability to function which they no doubt will use to enhance their geopolitical power. Maybe Joe Biden is so stupid that he doesn’t understand this. Maybe not.

5) Finally, the whole “green” edifice will come crashing down in disaster as energy becomes prohibitively expensive, putting our industry at a decisive disadvantage vis-a-vis China and other countries, the longed-for batteries are not available at any price, and it becomes obvious to even the dumbest environmentalist that the whole “green revolution” was a pathetic fantasy.

That is the path we are on, and America’s entire establishment, from public elementary schools on, is committed to this road to disaster. The endgame is not in doubt. “Green energy” will collapse in ignominious failure. But the damage done along the way will be incalculable, and may well lead the the U.S. forfeiting its position as the world’s #1 economic power.