Clean Energy Facts

Clean Energy Facts

Of all the mineral resources we use, e.g., lithium, silver, iron-ore, etc., producing and transporting oil and natural gas is done very efficiently while producing a minimum of environmental damage.

While there is an occasional oil spill, even a 4,000-gallon spill garners headlines. A 4,000 gallon spill actually resulted in the removal of a female commanding naval officer.

Similarly, an occasional gas leak results in an explosion, but these are rare when the thousands of miles of pipelines are considered.

But what happens if we do away with oil and natural gas, and replace them with “clean” renewables?

A recent report by the Manhattan Institute provides the very unattractive answer.

Abandoning oil and natural gas and replacing them with renewables will create an environmental debacle.

Quoting from the Manhattan Institute’s report:

“No energy system, in short, is actually ‘renewable’, since all machines require the continual mining and processing of millions of tons of primary materials and the disposal of hardware that inevitably wears out. Compared with hydrocarbons, green machines entail, on average, a 10-fold increase in the quantities of materials extracted and processed to produce the same amount of energy. 

“(Emphasis added.)

The report highlights three effects:

  1. The added environmental damage of mining the resource, whether it be niobium or copper.
  2. The added environmental damage, including the emission of CO2, from transporting these minerals by ship, truck and rail.
  3. The added environmental damage of disposing of the waste when these renewables, such as wind, solar, and batteries wear out.

See an example, from an earlier article,  Wind Turbines and Landfills 

The accompanying figure compares the amount of materials used by different types of power plants. It’s obvious that natural gas combined cycle power plants use the least amount of materials.

Not shown in the figure is the amount of materials required to store electricity if wind and solar replaced NGCC power plants.

The materials required for Li-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, is the example used in their report. The same batteries are also being used for storage of electricity. Specifically, the Manhattan Institute report focuses on lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, and copper.

The report establishes that each battery requires the digging up of more than 500,000 ponds of earth, with the corresponding environment damage.

That is, 500,000 pounds of dirt and rock per battery.

Then there are the costs and damages incurred for transporting those many tons of materials from Africa, Asia or South America, since most of the materials originate from outside the United States.

There is also the embedded energy used to mine and transport these huge amounts of materials. They conclude:

““Green machines mean mining more materials per unit of energy delivered to society.”


The new book, The Looming Energy Crisis, Are Blackouts Inevitable?, establishes that wind and solar are harmful to the electric grid, while increasing costs and reducing reliability. 

The report, Mines, Minerals, and “Green” Energy: A Reality Check, provides an alternative analysis of why renewables are not clean and not sustainable.

See the video produced by Prager University. 

Together they provide a powerful reason for abandoning the rush to build wind turbines and solar installations.

. . .

You can read the introduction and look at the Table of Contents here:

Looming Energy Crisis, Are Blackouts Inevitable?


 Buy Now



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7 Replies to “Clean Energy Facts”

  1. Great article. If this analysis were applied to electric vehicles, would they be more efficient than gas-powered vehicles?

    • Excellent question.
      The EV battery uses 500,00 pounds of dirt/ore. The car’s drive train would be replaced by the battery and electric motors which aren’t included in the EV poundage noted above. The drive train is primarily steel.
      The EV is about twice as efficient in converting energy to force or power.
      The environmental damage of using a battery rather than gas/diesel/oil would have to be sorted out.
      Without doing all the calculations, I suspect that the ICE would be less environmentally damaging.
      As noted in earlier articles, the cost of the battery has to get down to around $80 per kWh from the current $190 per kWh before the EV will be competitive with an ICE vehicle.

  2. Just to mention again we have become independent of foreign sources for our energy. How quickly some have forgot the numerous problems we experience when we were dependent on the Arab oil, now we are the largest producer due to fracking and unleashing other technologies.
    Who in their right mind would want to repeat that disaster.
    Thanks for the data on the mineral resources and energy needed for the folly of renewables.

    • Thanks for your comments.
      It’s true that Americans have forgotten when we were dependent on others for our oil.
      That’s especially true for those under 20 who were too young to remember the effects of having to import two-thirds of our oil. (Import 13.7 mb/d, produce 7.8 mb/d in 2005)

  3. Pingback: WSJ CO2 Battery Agenda