By Ronald Stein
The reality is that all the mineral products and metals needed to make wind turbines, solar panels, and EV batteries are mined and processed in places like Baotou, Inner Mongolia, Bolivia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, mostly under Chinese control. Decommissioning and restoration of those mining landscapes back to their original pristine condition is not in the cards in developing countries. Recycling of worn-out turbine blades, solar panels, and EV batteries, in wealthy countries is also not in the cards.
The sites for the mining of materials required to build wind, solar, and EV batteries are under minimal to nonexistent labor, wage, environmental, reclamation, and worker health and safety regulations. The mere extraction of those exotic minerals presents social challenges, human rights abuses, and environmental degradations worldwide, but are of no significance to the wealthy countries benefitting from those “green” materials.
The climate cult COULD seek decommissioning and restoration standards in those developing countries down to the last dandelion, just like we have for decommissioned mines, oil, and nuclear sites in America, but the climate cult avoids the same in developing countries.
The life cycle for renewable electricity like wind and solar runs from design, procurement, and construction, through operations and maintenance, and repair, as well as the life ending decommissioning and disposal, but again, recycling and restoration of the landscaping back to its original pristine condition, is also not in the cards in the wealthy countries that are going green.
Since the blades and panels and EV batteries are very difficult to recycle, the waste stream created by them is a mounting problem. According to a 2017 study published in the scientific journal Waste Management, the world’s wind industry alone will be producing 43 million tons of blade waste annually by 2050.
Those worn out wind turbines will be the equivalent weight of 215,000 locomotives. The demand of the wealthy economies for more wind turbines are projected to cause 43 million tons of blade waste worldwide by 2050 with China possessing 40 percent of the waste, Europe 25 percent, the United States 16 percent, and the rest of the world 19 percent.
The size and weight of the blades vary, but the average length is around 120 feet, and they weigh around five tons. Some of the largest can be as long as a football field and weigh 20 tons. Currently, there are no scalable, cost-effective technologies to recycle the blades, and most of them are going to landfills.
Those 1,000-pound EV batteries present similar challenges. With more than 40 percent of all EV’s in América being located in California, there are no EV-battery recycling plants in California, and only five up and running nationwide, according to CalEPA. That’s even though used lithium-ion batteries contain valuable minerals that otherwise must be mined from the earth, mostly from overseas operations in developing countries. The” throw away” society is alive and well in America.
With wealthy countries obsessed with a “green” society, it looks like decommissioning, recycling, and restoration of the mining landscapes in developing countries and renewable generating sites in developed countries back to their original pristine conditions is not in the cards for the foreseeable future.
The vast majority of these critical minerals and elements are mined abroad, and almost all the refining of them is done by China alone.
What’s more, China is the largest single provider of most of the critical minerals and rare earths used around the globe, and is almost the only refiner of such products. This means minerals and rare earth elements mined elsewhere, often with Chinese funding, are shipped to China for processing into usable materials. Much of the mining and refining of materials in China is produced by forced or slave labor, often of persecuted religious minorities, like Falun Gong followers and Uighurs.
The Biden administration declared October 4, 2022 that batteries from China may be tainted by child labor, yet the American government continues to enforce mandates, subsidies, and tax breaks to go green, that provides financial incentives for developing countries to continue their current practices of inflicting environmental degradation to their local landscapes, force labor atrocities upon their workforce.
Concerning China, the Biden administration acknowledged the problem of slave labor, having signed the Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act in 2021.
Now, the Biden administration is leaning more on Africa to counter China’s control over U.S. energy.
Still, the reality of today’s globalized supply chain and America’s financial incentives that continuously encourage further exploitations of humanity and the environment makes it almost a certainty the massive green energy transition being pushed by the Biden administration will be built with minerals and parts produced using Chinese and/or African slave labor.
With insufficient intelligence on the ground in China or Africa to track forced-labor manufacturing, and less still the raw materials, wealthy countries will continue to exploit the folks with yellow, brown, and black skin in developing countries.
In economic terms, the wealthier countries climate hysteria is imposing severe negative externalities on developing countries. Ethically, the West’s climate obsession is immorally condemning present generations of impoverished peoples and nations to continued perjury and early deaths in the years ahead. Make no mistake, this ruse exists to further enrich people in developed countries while they simultaneously exploit those in developing countries.
- Ronald Stein
- Ronald Stein is an engineer, senior policy advisor on energy literacy for CFACT, and co-author of the Pulitzer Prize nominated book “Clean Energy Exploitations.”
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