HOW many people, I wonder, have thought about the sheer quantity of raw material required to deliver Net Zero by the end of this century, let alone by 2050? How many are aware that Tesla alone may consume most of the associated raw materials in the world to make a few million electric vehicles (EVs)? Tesla are making around a million a year but more than 1,500million internal combustion engine (ICE) cars will need to be replaced in the great renewables utopia. Will there will be enough minerals and other raw materials to go round to allow ICE cars to be phased out by 2035 and for Net Nero to be delivered by 2050?
The key materials range from copper to rarer metals such as lithium, the refinement of which involves the release of CO2.
One specialist study reports that by 2050 Europe’s plans for producing clean energy technologies will require annually 4.5million tonnes of aluminium (an increase of 33 per cent on today’s use), 1.5million tonnes of copper (35 per cent), 800,000 tonnes of lithium (3,500 per cent), 400,000 tonnes of nickel (100 per cent), 300,000 tonnes of zinc (10 to 15 per cent), 200,000 tonnes of silicon (45 per cent), 60,000 tonnes of cobalt (330 per cent) and 3,000 tonnes of the rare earths metals neodymium, dysprosium and praseodymium (700-2,600 per cent). And currently the primary sources are in Russia and China.
Global copper production alone (unsurprisingly given the huge government subsidies behind renewable technology) has risen from around 16million tonnes in 2010 to more than 22million tonnes in 2022. Renewable energy plant requires on average eight to 12 times more copper than fossil-based power generation, and EVs three to four times more copper than ICE vehicles.
Perhaps the most challenging demand is for lithium, used to make batteries, including those in electric vehicles (EVs) which each take 63kg. So around 95million tonnes of lithium will be needed to make batteries for 1,500 million EVs globally. But only 130,000 tonnes came from mines in 2022, at which rate it would take more than 700 years to make enough batteries. If those EV batteries have to be replaced on average every ten years (assuming no increase in the number of EVs) the continuing demand will average around 9.5million tonnes pa, which is around 70 times the current rate of mining.
On that basis alone, the plan to replace ICE cars by 2035, 12 years hence, is pie in the sky.
The possible use of sodium-ion batteries is being explored but it is inconceivable that development will be complete or that sodium mines will be producing at the capacity needed by 2035.
Another alternative would be the use of hydrogen engines, which Toyota and others are pursuing, assuming that there will be enough H2 available. But the government plans to bring only 10,000MW of H2 production onstream during the 2030s, when the grid system alone will need several times that to keep the lights on when there is little sun or wind. A doubled maximum demand capacity will also be needed to carry the load of 300,000 new EV chargers in service stations on the strategic road network, plus 10million heat pumps.
If there are 30 petrol pumps per service station and it takes around ten times longer to charge an EV battery than to fill an ICE car, then 300 chargers (probably at 100kW each) would be needed per station. That would require a local grid substation capacity of 30MW, enough to supply a town of 30,000.
So the UK’s 2035 target for phasing out ICE cars looks unachievable because we will have neither the materials, the money nor the skilled resources needed to deliver Net Zero this century. Legislating to phase out ICE cars before affordable alternatives were available is not the way to run a country. Destruction of our ICE-making capacity will take us back to a pre-industrial era.
What prize might we miss out on by failing to eliminate the UK’s 0.00048 ppm contribution to current CO2 levels at a cost of over £5trillion, or over £200,000 per household? It would take 3,000 years for the UK to add 1.6ppm (the average annual rise over 60 years) to current CO2 levels. Bear in mind that the greenhouse gas impact of each ppm rise declines rapidly, and that the sun is the main driver of the 97 per cent of natural CO2 emissions.
Without a referendum, we are being subjected to taxation without representation. The government won’t risk giving us a choice and causing them to have to stand up against the UN, IEA and WEF. Sadly, none of the mainstream parties has the backbone to confront these issues.
All are happy, too, to accept the horrific exploitation and abuse of children in Congolese cobalt mines (and no doubt in other countries too), sacrificed to the ‘clean’ energy revolution.