Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Net Zero Watch: Energy crunch drives Europe to burn more coal


In this newsletter:

1) Energy crunch drives Europe to burn more coal
Bloomberg, 22 November 2021

2) Big winners of Europe's shale gas ban: Coal power plants
The Wall Street Journal, 18 November 2021

3) China to invest $30 billion for 'clean and efficient' coal use
South China Morning Post, 21 November 2021
4) Philip Patrick: Why COP26 flopped
The Spectator, 16 November 2021
5) Welcome to Net Zero: Britons face £15,000 bill for heat pump upgrade- report exposes 'significant' hidden cost
Sunday Express, 21 November 2021
6) Britons face more energy bill hikes as price cap could be adjusted more often
The Sun, 21 November 2021
7) Kathy Gyngell: Professor Koonin’s climate fresh air
The Conservative Woman, 20 November 2021
8) Cost inflation slows China's solar plan
Bloomberg, 22 November 2021
9) Ruth Sunderland: Politicians and central bankers should be truthful about the costs - and about the risks - of greenflation
Daily Mail, 22 November 2021
10) Conrad Black: The ghastly charade in Glasgow and the West's self-flagellation over the climate
National Post, 21 November 2021

11) And finally: The dirty truth about clean technologies
Spiegel Online, November 2021

Full details:

1) Energy crunch drives Europe to burn more coal
Bloomberg, 22 November 2021
Europe is growing increasingly reliant on coal to keep the lights on as the weather turns cold, sending the cost of polluting to a record.
Carbon prices exceeded 70 euros for the first time ever as utilities turn to the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Power plants in the U.K. are burning the most coal since the beginning of the month to keep the lights on as the cooler-than-normal weather and sub-zero temperatures are forecast for major cities this week.

Europe is facing an energy crisis as economies emerge from the pandemic and people return to the office. That’s boosting demand at a time supplies remain limited. Years of reduced investments in fossil fuels has combined with low wind speeds this year to send gas, power and carbon prices to record highs and bringing down some energy retailers.
With shortages of natural gas sending prices quadrupling this year, traders are preparing to burn more coal this winter, and that will require more pollution permits. At the same time, the European Union has increased its climate ambitions, vowing to cut emissions faster this decade. That means the carbon price will have to increase more quickly. 

“Our current gas to coal switching curve points to the fact that Europe will be burning coal at least until March 2023, thus increasing CO2 emission,” analysts at ClearBlue Markets wrote in an emailed note.

Benchmark carbon futures for December gained as much as 1.5% to a record-high 70.43 euros per metric ton on ICE Endex before easing to 70 euros by 1:51 p.m. in Amsterdam. Prices have more than doubled this year. BloombergNEF expect carbon to cost more than 100 euros per ton by 2030.
Full story
2) Big winners of Europe's shale gas ban: Coal power plants
The Wall Street Journal, 18 November 2021

Coal power plants are running at full tilt in parts of Europe and enjoying a rare bout of massive profitability, a setback to efforts to cut carbon emissions.
Under Europe’s climate policies, this shouldn’t be happening. The European Union and U.K. pushed world leaders, unsuccessfully, to back an end to coal consumption at the Glasgow summit on climate change. Both have markets for emission permits that are designed to pinch profit at polluters such as coal-fired power stations and funnel capital toward greener energy.

For years, Europe’s carbon market did just that, culminating in a succession of coal-plant closures in 2020 and predictions of coal’s demise. But a natural-gas shortfall has left Europe in danger of running low on the power-generation and heating fuel by next spring. Coal and its dirtier cousin lignite, known as brown coal, are back generating electricity to fill the gap.
Bumper profits are on offer for utilities able to fire up power plants that run on the highest-emitting fossil fuels. The reason is that gas prices are close to record highs, and jumped again this week after German regulators kiboshed traders’ hopes of speedy approval for Nord Stream 2. The pipeline, opposed by the U.S., would double Russia’s capacity to export gas directly to Germany and the Kremlin has tied extra exports to its getting the go-ahead.

“We’re using coal and oil and all the polluting fuels simply because gas is so expensive,” said Bernadett Papp, head of market analysis at Vertis Environmental Finance Ltd., a Hungarian carbon trader. Ms. Papp said several utility clients in central and Eastern Europe have switched to coal because gas prices have risen much more this year.

Gas prices dictate power markets in Europe, so electricity is also trading at historically high levels in the U.K., Germany and elsewhere. Coal prices, in contrast, have tanked since October, when China started shoveling the fuel in an attempt to avoid winter blackouts.

The divergence means coal power plants are getting paid sky-high prices for electricity produced with a fuel whose price has halved over the past month. So far in November, German coal stations have been able to lock in 57.10 euros, equivalent to $64.65, per megawatt-hour of power they will generate in December.
Full story
3) China to invest $30 billion for 'clean and efficient' coal use
South China Morning Post, 21 November 2021
China’s latest financing initiative for clean coal technology will help the country meet its energy needs while at the same time reduce the carbon intensity of its heavy industries and meet its goal of capping coal consumption by 2025, analysts said. But some argued that it could instead prolong the use of the fossil fuel and keep the industry alive in the mainland.

China’s cabinet, the State Council, announced on Wednesday that it will establish a special relending facility worth 200 billion yuan (US$31.4 billion) to support the clean and efficient use of coal, including advanced pre-treatment of coal, and developing a coalbed-methane value chain.

This announcement came close on the heels of COP26, the United Nations-backed climate summit in Glasgow where China did not sign up to the international pact to stop building coal-fired power plants and start phasing out coal use this decade. Beijing also rejected a clause in another pact that called for “phasing out” coal-fired plants and changed the wording to “phase down”.

“The background is clear that China cannot abandon coal, but at the same time has to reduce carbon emissions to achieve its decarbonisation goals,” said Lin Boqiang, dean of Xiamen University’s China Institute for Studies in Energy Policy. “So supporting clean coal projects to mitigate coal-related carbon emissions is one way to go.”

Lorenzo Sani, associate power analyst at Carbon Tracker Initiative, said that the State Council has yet to clarify whether funding applies to carbon capture and sequestration projects or to further subsidise unabated coal generation.

Full story
4) Philip Patrick: Why COP26 flopped
The Spectator, 16 November 2021

COP26 combined a Versailles level of decadence, with a Soviet Union level of self-serving hypocrisy

King coal is dead, long live king coal! That might be a fitting epitaph for COP26, which mercifully ended last Friday. It culminated with an agreement, which had not so much been watered down as to have virtually evaporated. Fossil fuels, it seems, are here for the foreseeable.
What went wrong? That’s a question the ‘deeply frustrated’ COP26 president Alok Sharma might well be asking himself. He appeared to be close to tears at the denouement of the negotiations, pushed to emotional extremis by the last-minute wrangling over a single word: should we commit ourselves to phase out our use of coal, or phase- down our use of coal.

To the distress of ‘no drama’ Sharma, it was phase down that won the day, thanks to hardball negotiating from India, China, South Africa and Iran. All anyone will now have to do, it seems, in order to fulfil the commitment they signed up to in Glasgow, is to promise to use slightly less coal in the future. 

We shouldn’t perhaps be surprised by this outcome. It is hard not to be cynical about a conference that claimed to be saving the earth but ended up just costing the earth. So inconsequential is the final deal that the whole event is more likely to be remembered for its comic elements: of which there were many.

We had Joe Biden falling asleep, Prince Charles’ stumbling, and Greta Thunberg, oddly, joining a chorus of climate sceptics for a rousing singalong. We had Barack Obama believing he was somewhere called the ’Emerald Isles’ and CNN believing the conference was taking place in Edinburgh. Then, to cap it all there was an alleged minor emissions leak (Biden again) in the Kelvingrove museum in the presence of a royal personage.
COP26 combined a Versailles level of decadence, with a Soviet Union level of self-serving hypocrisy. The global elite jetted in, kept well clear of the hoi polio, delivered speeches indistinguishable in content, only in fervour; then flew out again, leaving vapour trails of noxious gases in their wake. The expense, both financially and in terms of emissions was extraordinary. According to the Daily Record, the private jets alone spewed out more Co2 than 1,600 Scots produce in a year.

Where can the intergovernmental environmental movement go from here? The simple answer is to Sharm El-Sheik for COP27; but in the light of the failings of the Glasgow event, which will likely become only more apparent in the months ahead, what form will the event in Egypt take, and in what spirit will it be held?

Perhaps COP27 will be different, with COP26 marking a tipping point in our response to the issue of anthropogenic climate change. Perhaps the Glasgow event will be seen in the future in much the same light as the Shah of Iran’s celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the state of Persia – an insanely decadent self-indulgence of an out of touch global elite – and the end of an era.

Maybe we will move away from (or ‘phase down’) the extravagant big name power politics stagecraft, the overheated apocalyptic rhetoric, the ‘do as we say or else tone’, all of which now seems decidedly passe. None of it worked to cajole or intimidate the world’s worst emitters, who had justifiable cause – the need to bring their own people out of poverty – to resist the threats and the scare tactics. That approach seems all played out now. After all, where do you go after threatening people with ‘one minute to midnight’, and failing? As Great Thunberg rightly said, it really was all: ‘blah, blah, blah’.

Future gatherings, if they are in fact needed, should be smaller, leaner, and both more exclusive and more inclusive.

Exclusive in the sense that only people with a genuine contribution to make, or the power to effect change, should be included. That means no royalty, of the real, celebrity, or pseudo variety. Those with no specific role, and no specialist knowledge – such as Scotland's first Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who behaved at COP26 like a star struck groupie who’d bagged a backstage pass at Glastonbury – should stay away.

Inclusive in terms of the scientific community: what kind of conference is it that invites only people with one viewpoint? It may be a lost cause to expect invites for distinguished sceptics, such as Ivar Giaever, or William Happer, or Patrick Moore, but surely those with more alternate views, and more positive ideas about the way forward, such as Bjorn Lomberg, or Michael Shellenberger are worth a platform?

COP26 had lofty aims. It wanted to make history, in order to avoid tragedy, but what it ended up producing was more like low comedy. Or even farce. If there are to be more such conferences a radical change of perspective is needed. More honesty, humility, and an openness to different viewpoints and global realities needs to be put firmly on the agenda.
5) Welcome to Net Zero: Britons face £15,000 bill for heat pump upgrade- report exposes 'significant' hidden cost
Sunday Express, 21 November 2021
BRITONS have been warned they face forking out up to £15,000 for the installation of heat pumps, despite cheaper alternatives offering the same comfort and benefits, Mike Foster, CEO of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA), has told

A new report published by the non-profit Energy and Utilities Alliance has highlighted the exorbitant costs households face in the push for cleaner, greener homes. As part of the Government's commitment to a net zero economy by 2050, Britons are being encouraged to do away with their polluting gas boilers in favour of carbon-free alternatives. One such alternative are heat pumps take energy from the outside and transfer it into heat that can be circulated around the home.

Although a relatively new introduction in the UK, heat pumps have garnered a lot of sympathy from environmentalists because of their efficiency and reduced emissions.

And yet, according to the EUA, households that opt to replace their gas boilers with heat pumps potentially face a five-fold cost increase, when compared to hydrogen-ready boilers.

In its report, the trade association claimed households can presently expect to pay up to £15,000 for the transition, depending on their household.

The eco-friendly boilers can range in price anywhere from £6,000 to £27,000 and more, and that does not include a number of other upgrades and hidden costs involved.

The cost of installing hydrogen-ready boilers, on the other hand, would likely go up to £3,000 per household.
According to Mike Foster, Chief Executive Officer, the choice between the two options is obvious: hydrogen-ready boilers are the way forward.

He told "The problem that the vast majority of homes face, is that if we go down the route of installing heat pumps, to get the effectiveness of heat pumps most homes will have to undergo significant upfront costs in terms of meeting energy efficiency requirements and new heat distribution systems.

"So, new radiators, possibly new pipework, and almost certainly a hot water cylinder where homes don't have one at the moment.

"And those are significant upfront, one-off costs that add up to a sum of money that, frankly, most households can only dream of having at their disposal."
The disparity between the two options comes down to the additional energy efficiency measures and hidden costs associated with heat pumps.

These can include the need to install hot water cylinders and new radiators, and in a worst-case scenario, new internal pipework.

By some estimates, the average UK household emits about 2.7 tonnes of planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) every year just from heating their homes.

And the nation's 29 million homes contribute about 14 percent of the UK's total emissions.

It is clear, therefore, why the Government is keen for people to upgrade their homes with new, carbon-free equipment.
6) Britons face more energy bill hikes as price cap could be adjusted more often
The Sun, 21 November 2021

HOUSEHOLDS could face even steeper energy costs as the price cap, that limits what suppliers can charge bill payers, may be adjusted more often.


The changes could affect as many as 15 million people according to the Financial Times.
Plans that Ofgem has recently published reveal that the regulator would be able to raise (or lower) the cap more often than the current interval of six months.
Households already face a blow of £2,000 in hiked bills by the end of next year, but the news means it could only be going up.
It's also lead Brits to reach for any number of ways to slash costs, as they ready themselves especially for a cold and expensive winter.
For now, Ofgem has confirmed that we won't see the cap rise again before the next set deadline of April next year.

But in order to keep control of the energy crisis, there's nothing to stop a more frequent review of the maximum providers can be charging, beyond that.

Ofgem isn't planning on making any final decisions on whether changes will happen more often until February next year though, and even then, changes would only be made under “exceptional or unprecedented" circumstances.

Earlier in the year, energy firms were slammed for ramping up household bills by as much as 80% amid rising gas prices and the onslaught of the energy price crisis.
It's lead to at least 22 companies facing collapse in recent months as they struggled to cope with the rocketing wholesale costs and restrictions placed on them such as the price cap.
Full story
7) Kathy Gyngell: Professor Koonin’s climate fresh air
The Conservative Woman, 20 November 2021
IT WAS my privilege to attend the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s 2021 Annual Lecture on Tuesday. It was delivered by Professor Steven E Koonin, scientist, former US policy adviser and author of the best-seller Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters, published earlier this year and widely disparaged by the usual suspects

No wonder, it must have rattled them rather badly. 

For what this engaging New Yorker has done is express confidence in the original source data analysis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, accepting these as a reasonable scientific benchmark for climate change.
Explaining this to his largely ‘sceptic’ audience at the start of his lecture raised an almost audible gasp. But before we had time to reach for our coats, he let us in on the secret. What alarmist media reports, climate activists and apocalyptic Prime Ministers believe to be based in ‘the science’ found in the IPCC reports is most often at some considerable distance from the base data and indeed analysis.
Re-interpreted and selectively packaged by interested parties and agencies, it goes through a process of Chinese whispers, rendering it near unrecognisable, and is turned into media headlines for the benefit of the politicians and the public that everyone is scaring everyone else witless with.

Koonin has gone back to the reports to see what its bank of graphs and possible projections actually say. And it’s a lot less definite than Joe Public has been led to believe. Much boils down to which periods of time are selected to determine forward projections and the degree of confidence that can be attached to them. There are many specific examples in the lecture.

Unlike many of his panicking peers, Professor Koonin has full confidence in man’s ability to adapt to global temperature rises. He is a lot less sanguine about governments’ target-driven policy attempts to manage it.
He also warns of the damage of what he calls misleading (I would call it ideological) science can do:

‘It usurps the right of the public to make fully informed decisions; it detracts from more urgent needs; it tarnishes science itself and depresses young people.’
At risk of a spoiler his conclusion is clear. It is that precipitous climate action is a far greater threat than ‘climate change’.
Koonin is an accomplished communicator. We need more like him. Sit back and enjoy him here:


8) Cost inflation slows China's solar plan

Bloomberg, 22 November 2021
The world’s biggest solar market will need a year-end installation rush to meet growth targets as cost inflation slows development.

China added about 29.3 gigawatts of solar in the first 10 months of the year, the National Energy Administration said last week. That’s well short of the annual forecast of 55 to 65 gigawatts set by the China Photovoltaic Industry Association earlier in 2021.

The slower-than-expected growth comes after cost inflation hit the solar supply chain, with the the price of solar panels rising for the first time in eight years. That’s caused project delays even after China’s state-owned power giants announced ambitious renewable goals in the first year following President Xi Jinping’s landmark 2060 net-zero announcement. 

“Some projects didn’t start construction on time, and could be postponed to next year, due to high equipment costs and low profitability rates,” said Lin Wang, a Beijing-based analyst at BloombergNEF. “There’s a low operation rate in both manufacturers and developers.” 
Full story
9) Ruth Sunderland: Politicians and central bankers should be truthful about the costs - and about the risks - of greenflation
Daily Mail, 22 November 2021
Portmanteau words are one of the irritations of modern life. But 'greenflation' – a Wall Street coinage for the rising costs of climate change action – is about to enter the vocabulary.

Inflation is making a comeback in the UK, where we have the highest rate for a decade at 4.2 per cent. The US is seeing the biggest surge in more than 30 years, with consumer prices up by 6.2 per cent compared with a year ago.

Central bankers, who are understandably reluctant to raise interest rates, argue this is a transitory, Covid-related phenomenon.

But some economists and financiers fret that going green will drive inflation up, and that this phenomenon could persist long after the pandemic fades into memory.

Ethan Harris, the chief economist at Bank of America, is among those warning that the rush to renewable energy could add more than three percentage points to inflation in the US; similar arguments apply on this side of the Atlantic. The rationale is that there is a shortage of the skilled employees needed for a green transformation, which will push wages upwards.

Coupled with the wage spiral is a spike in demand for commodities such as copper, which has hit record prices this year and is so important in green technologies some see it as the new oil.

The BoA analysis suggests the transition to net zero will cost around $150trillion (£110trillion) worldwide over the next 30 years, a colossal sum. No less a figure than Larry Fink, chief executive of the world's biggest investment manager, Blackrock, is also fretting about greenflation.

Fink warns that combatting climate change will bring 'much higher inflation' and that investors will face a 'significant shock'. It's interesting, when such influential figures are expressing concern, that worries about greenflation do not receive more airtime.

One reason is reluctance to dissent from the green orthodoxy because you risk denunciation as a climate change denier. fervour will run ahead of itself, and investment in traditional energy will stall before renewables are able to fill the gap. As a consequence, bills will soar even higher, with this year's increases a mere foretaste.

We are already seeing a flight from projects deemed not green enough, such as plans by West Cumbria Mining to open a mine to supply coking coal for the steel industry.

The local authority approved it a year ago but it has been on ice ahead of Cop26. The mining group claims it will be the world's first net zero coal mine and if it is not approved, dirtier coal will be imported.

UK regulators also recently turned down plans by Shell to develop the Jackdaw gas field in the North Sea, even though it would make Britain less dependent on imports.

None of this means we should scale back on our efforts to protect our planet. And of course, there are huge risks to the economy including extreme weather, agricultural blight, mass migrations and other horrible potential consequences of climate change.

But politicians and central bankers should be truthful about the costs – and about the risks of greenflation.
10) Conrad Black: The ghastly charade in Glasgow and the West's self-flagellation over the climate
National Post, 21 November 2021
Glasgow was as inconsequential as the Paris, Copenhagen and Kyoto conferences that preceded it

Last week in this space, as the Glasgow climate change conference (COP26) was wrapping up, I pointed out once again what a colossal scam most of the climate fear campaign is. A 1 C increase in very approximately estimated world temperature in 120 years does not remotely justify the widespread hysteria on this subject in Western Europe and North America. Countless predictions of imminent climate disaster over the last 50 years have proved to be utter piffle. Yet the frenzy does not abate. Organized groups of schoolchildren march about accusing the world’s adults of inflicting ecological strangulation upon them. (We should bring back corporal punishment before we shut down the oil industry.) The Glasgow conference ended in a more ghastly charade than even I had imagined.

The eminent American historian Walter Russell Mead, writing for the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 17, referred to the 19th-century British historian Thomas Carlyle’s reference to an “Age of Shams” in France before the revolution of 1789, when the noble and clerical elites had a perception of current realities in France that were soon exposed as having absolutely no basis in fact. Mead wrote : “If there is one thing the world should take away from the Glasgow COP26 summit, it’s that the most dangerous greenhouse-gas emissions come from the front ends of politicians, not the back ends of cows. Pandering is much more dangerous to human civilization than methane, strategic incompetence a graver threat than CO2; and dysfunctional establishment groupthink will likely kill more polar bears than all the hydrofluorocarbons in the world.”

As the Glasgow conference was ending, the delegates of China and India, the two most populous countries in the world and two of the greatest carbon emitters and polluters of the atmosphere, who are intermittently exchanging fire at each other across their Himalayan border, closeted together briefly, in full view of the conference, and emerged with a substantial dilution of what the other 196 national delegations had thought to be the conference agreement. They agreed to a “phase-down” of the use of coal, from their present 14 million tons a day. Both countries will continue to increase coal use and production, but China promises to end its increases in 2025 and aims at achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. Of course, these are not serious undertakings and they don’t mean anything. China produces and consumes 357 million tons of coal every month and emerged from Glasgow effectively promising to increase that number for another nine years, starting with an increase next year of 220 million tons, or about five per cent. Russia, another major polluter that has treated the whole climate change issue with mirth and scorn, applauded the Chinese and the Indians.

The conference president, the United Kingdom’s Alok Sharma, almost broke down as he announced that what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as a ”game-changing” agreement had been substantially gutted. Glasgow was as inconsequential as the Paris, Copenhagen and Kyoto conferences that preceded it. It is always the same script: all of the underdeveloped countries led by China, which hardly still qualifies as underdeveloped, demand their $100 billion a year from the economically advanced countries that have supposedly poisoned the air and water of the Earth and threatened the very survival of life by their egregious spoliation, even though the aggrieved group are among the world’s chief polluters.
The advanced countries passively acknowledge their collective historic guilt, but prance about the conference out-doing each other in pledges to do better, as if it were a conference of unusually self-righteous reformed alcoholics. And while it is implied that some payment is morally owed to the underdeveloped countries, the circle is never completed by an absolute pledge to disgorge any real money for the world’s completely unrepentant principal polluters.

Simultaneously with the conference, the governments of China and the United States agreed to co-operate on climate change. Since the Chinese government once again demonstrated in Glasgow how complete its contempt for the whole subject is, this promise of co-operation may safely be assumed to mean that the United States will continue, at least through the present benighted administration, to make hideously expensive gestures toward carbon emission reductions, as China continues its “phase-down” by increasing its carbon emissions for another nine years. Historians of the future will wonder how the more economically advanced countries of the world ever allowed themselves to be seduced by the ambition to impoverish themselves to combat a threat that has almost certainly been overblown. Even the great Dutch tulip panic of the 17th century, where people would pay huge sums of money for a potted tulip, was only an orgy of public speculation, like the rise of the stock markets on borrowed money in the 1920s; it was not the imposition of official policy. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared on election night, 2019, and often subsequently that climate change was Canada’s greatest challenge. This is nonsense. Canada does not significantly add to the world’s carbon emissions.

The chief impetus for climate change hysteria is the international Marxist left responding nimbly to their defeat in the Cold War and loudly cheered on, in this case, by the thoroughly self-interested, economically under-performing nations of the world, who sanctimoniously demand reparations for their own comparative penury, as if the West were responsible for the vagaries of geography and societal progress. Instead of dissenting from this foolishness, Canada proudly proclaims itself (falsely) to be a leader of it. It is of a piece with our continuing official self-castigation for outlandishly exaggerated past mistreatment of our Indigenous people and a ludicrous and jejune preoccupation with gender issues.

We are, as usual, following the Americans, who are wallowing and floundering in wokeness, national self-dislike and official incompetence and venality. But these trends are already despised by the majority of Americans and the United States is already beginning its return to world leadership after a unique and peculiar crisis of self-consciousness. At least that country deeply resents being a laughing-stock and making an ass of itself before the whole world. Canada, insofar as can be seen, has no such regrets. It bumbles on losing ground by most competitive economic indicators, complacent in its narcissistic and false morality, slowly disintegrating in its regionalism, with an incompetent federal government and ineffectual opposition. Never in Canada’s history has it so under-performed its potential and been so indifferently served by its elites. This will surely change, but the agent of change is not now visible.

11) And finally: The dirty truth about clean technologies
Spiegel Online, November 2021
The poor South is being exploited so that the rich North can transition to environmental sustainability. Entire swaths of land are being destroyed to secure the resources needed to produce wind turbines and solar cells. Are there alternatives?

There’s a dirty secret hidden in every wind turbine. They may convert moving air cleanly and efficiently into electricity, but few know much about what they are made of. Much of the material inside wind turbines are the product of brutal encroachments on our natural world.

Each unit requires cement, sand, steel, zinc and aluminum. And tons of copper: for the generator, for the gearbox, for the transformer station and for the endless strands of cable. Around 67 tons of copper can be found in a medium-sized offshore turbine. To extract this amount of copper, miners have to move almost 50,000 tons of earth and rock, around five times the weight of the Eiffel Tower. The ore is shredded, ground, watered and leached. The bottom line: a lot of nature destroyed for a little bit of green power.

A visit to the Los Pelambres mine in northern Chile provides a clear grasp of the dimensions involved. It is home to one of the world’s largest copper deposits, a giant gray crater at an altitude of 3,600 meters (11,800 feet). The earth here is full of metalliferous ore. Just under 2 percent of the world’s copper production comes from this single pit.

Dump trucks, 3,500-horsepower strong, transport multi-ton loads down the terrace roads that line the mine. The boulders are transported by conveyor belt almost 13 kilometers (8 miles) into the valley, where the copper is extracted from the rock. This processing requires huge amounts of electricity and water, a particularly precious commodity in this arid region.

The project is operated by Antofagasta, a London-based Chilean mining corporation that owns 60 percent of the mine. The company built a hydroelectric plant in 2013, almost exclusively to supply electricity to Los Pelambres. Farmers protested against it, and have blamed the project for water shortages in the region.

Now, though, the mine is slated to grow even larger. The company is pumping additional volumes of desalinated seawater from the Pacific coast across the country. Company executives hope this will enable them to continue operating the mine for a few more years. Global demand for copper, after all, is expected to grow immensely, for power cables and electric motors. And for wind turbines.

There are great hopes that the green technology can be used to help save the climate, but that rescue also entails stripping the planet of precious resources. And this is the paradox behind what is currently the most important project of the industrialized world: the global energy transition.
The dilemma, which is becoming increasingly apparent, is also on the minds of the 25,000 or so delegates at the World Climate Conference currently taking place in Glasgow. Deposits in the poor South are being exploited so that the rich North can transition to environmental sustainability. At least to a lifestyle that appears sustainable. Mathis Wackernagel, a resource researcher who lives in California, describes it as a disastrous development. "We haven’t quite thought the future through,” he says.

The London-based Net Zero Watch is a campaign group set up to highlight and discuss the serious implications of expensive and poorly considered climate change policies. The Net Zero Watch newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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