by WorldTribune Staff, April 17, 2020
Instituting the Democratic Party’s Green New Deal would have its own environmental impact, namely an “unprecedented increase in mining for raw materials,” according to a new policy brief.
“The solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries needed to replace fossil fuels and nuclear energy over a 10-year period to produce the 8.2 billion megawatt hours of power for America’s annual electricity-equivalent needs under the GND would require an unprecedented increase in mining for raw materials,” said the policy brief by the free-market Heartland Institute, titled “How the Green New Deal’s Renewable Energy Mining Would Harm Humans and the Environment”.
The minerals needed include lithium, cobalt, copper, iron and aluminum.
“The mining operations required to build wind and solar facilities would involve removing and crushing hundreds of billions of tons of rock and ore, causing major habitat losses and widespread pollution,” said the report. “It would also create serious human health impacts, especially in countries that do not have modern equipment and health and safety protections.”
Valerie Richardson noted in an April 16 report for The Washington Times that “more than 70 percent of rare-earth elements are now mined by Chinese-controlled companies or in China, which has dismal records on environmental protection and working conditions.”
The Green New Deal, introduced in February 2019 by socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calls for achieving 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030 and zero carbon emissions by 2050. Supporters such as Sen. Bernard Sanders have described it as necessary to “avert climate catastrophe.”
The Heartland study by senior policy adviser Paul Driessen argued that the Green New Deal would actually be worse for the environment given the scale of the solar and wind farms that would be necessary to replace coal, oil and natural gas in power generation.
“Environmentalists have long sought to block U.S. mining operations while decrying the damage overseas,” Richardson noted. “In Inner Mongolia, rare earth mining and iron ore processing have contaminated the soil and driven away farmers.”
Greenpeace China’s Jamie Choi said in a 2011 report that “there’s not one step of the rare earth mining process that is not disastrous for the environment. Ores are being extracted by pumping acid into the ground, and then they are processed using more acids and chemicals.”
The cobalt used for batteries in laptops, smartphones and electric cars is mined primarily in Congo, where an estimated 40,000 children “work alongside their parents and suffer under inhumane working conditions while digging for this cobalt,” the Heartland report said.
While there are U.S. reserves of strategic minerals, anti-mining activists have fought to block mining exploration in Alaska and Western states, forcing U.S. dependence on China and other countries with weaker environmental protections, the study said.
The Heartland Institute is no fan of the Green New Deal. Driessen issued a report in December arguing that the Green New Deal’s call for massive solar and wind facilities would kill threatened species and disrupt wildlife.
The American Bird Conservancy estimated that the annual loss of birds from wind turbines in 2012 was 573,000. That number could soar as the number of windmills increases.
“More than 1.4 million bird deaths are projected by 2030 or earlier if the U.S. meets its goal of producing 20 percent of electrical energy with wind. If that figure reaches 35 percent, as new Department of Energy projections suggest, up to 5 million birds could be killed annually,” the conservancy said.
Birds, bats and insects can also land in the crosshairs of the “solar towers” used by utility-scale projects to track the sun, Richardson’s report noted.
“When the insects, birds and bats fly through these beams, they are ignited in midair, creating a plume of smoke, or streamer,” said a 2017 analysis by Black & Veatch. “The animals may be killed by the heat, by the force of falling to the ground, or by a waiting predator.”
The Green New Deal is unlikely to become law anytime soon. A month after the resolution was introduced, the Senate voted 0-57 against considering it. All Republicans voted against it, and most Democrats voted “present.”
“Even so, the idea of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy has been widely advocated by Democrats, including presidential candidate Joe Biden, who has called for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” Richardson noted.
The Heartland report concluded: “The terrible toll the Green New Deal would wreak on the environment is a reality its advocates must address.”