A long overdue legislative enactment and signing provides occasion for two equally long overdue observations on an I&I editorial regarding “pesky climate models.”
Citing a study on pre-carbon dioxide concentration Arctic Ocean warming, your friendly neighborhood editorialists concluded, “(W)e’re confident that eventually the (climate alarmists’) story will collapse.”
Observation No. 1 is that the case for renewables, climate alarmists’ chosen solution, is also folding like a house of cards in a Richter 9.5 earthquake.
It’s not just that renewables are so intermittent and unreliable that they must be legislated and subsidized; eat up land; will require more storage than physically possible; have nearly bankrupted and blacked out Germany with little emissions improvement; and are doing the same to California and other jurisdictions adopting mandates.
Despite these indisputable truths, the White House’s policy remains “a carbon pollution-free electricity sector” by 2035 and “net-zero emissions economy-wide” by 2050.
Yet three additional existential threats must and will lay the renewables narrative bare. The first was reflected in Joe Biden’s recent signing of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.
Forty-five percent of the worldwide supply of solar-grade polysilicon stems from China’s Xinjiang region, where it is reportedly largely produced by enslaved Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslims. (China overall produces three-quarters of polysilicon and 95% of solar wafers.)
According to the administration and former detainees, abuse of these “workers” has included “extrajudicial imprisonment, forced sterilization, high-tech surveillance, forced family separations and cultural and religious repression” as well as “systematic physical harm such as starvation, sexual abuse, rape and torture.”
In other words, a conflict of values – climate absolutism vs. criminal justice and #metoo – even the wokest Green New Dealer can’t sweep under the rug. Hence, the legislation bans imports from Xinjiang unless businesses can prove items were made without forced labor.
The legislation, and sanctions previously slapped on Xinjiang-based solar companies, have likely only launched a giant global game of whack-a-mole.
China has responded ferociously to the bill and all charges of brutality, vowing to “resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese institutions and enterprises.” Sourcing experts suggest the Chinese might conceal Xijiang production, transfer forced labor to other regions, and “launder” items through other countries for further production and export.
Thus the Chinese all but taunted the administration through their Global Times mouthpiece: “(I)t is … an impossible mission for the U.S. and its partners to establish new industrial chains outside of China.”
But wait! There’s more. Besides slave labor, as a Wall Street Journal headline puts it, “Behind the Rise of U.S. Solar Power (is) a Mountain of Chinese Coal,” as “the solar industry’s reliance on Chinese coal” makes it “one of the world’s most prolific polluters.”
China has pledged to go greener, both overall and in solar, but as one energy analyst recently told Foreign Policy, “The curve between 2030 (China’s promised carbon emissions peak) and 2060 (pledged ‘carbon neutrality’) is too steep – to the point where some people feel it’s science fiction.” Not like the Communists are paragons of virtue in the first place.
Then there’s Factor 3 dropping the bottom out of the renewables narrative: an equally unmanageable mountain of domestic waste. Three Harvard Business School professors have forecast that “the sheer volume of discarded (solar) panels will soon pose a risk of existentially damaging proportions” as waste volumes exceed new installations by 2.56 times in 2035, “catapulting” the life-cycle cost of solar energy to four times current projections. “The economics of solar … would darken quickly as the industry sinks under the weight of its own trash.”
The same problem lies ahead for other technologies, as “more than 720,000 tons worth of wind turbine blades will end up in U.S. landfills over the next 20 years” and only 5% of electric-vehicle batteries are currently recycled.
They note, without a hint of irony, “To be sure, this is not the story one gets from official industry and government sources.” No kidding.
Given these “existential” challenges and renewables’ physical limitations, enviro-journalist turned nuke-power crusader Michael Shellenberger now compares them to an erstwhile environmental miracle cure: “(E)verybody today outside of the corn lobby knows that the ethanol subsidy is pure pork spending, and environmentally degrading … It is inevitable that the same will occur with solar panels and industrial wind turbines, it’s now just a matter of time.”
Which brings us to Observation No. 2, relating to I&I editorialists own conclusion about collapsing narratives: “Reality will ultimately catch up to the climate hyperbole … The media and the politicians and activists whipping up and perpetuating fear are in line for a reckoning.”
Unfortunately, this correspondent begs to differ. Cratering rationales won’t produce the end of climate hysteria nor renewables, much less a reckoning.
Again, ethanol is instructive. Despite its environmental and economic destruction, ethanol subsidies, tax breaks and mandates are still with us and in the news as they drive up gasoline prices.
It’s quoted often here, but Ronald Reagan’s aphorism – “a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth” – couldn’t be more apt.
Discredited climate hysteria and renewables are here to stay. Reckonings, not so much.
Bob Maistros, a messaging and communications strategist and crisis specialist, is of counsel with Strategic Action Public Affairs, and was chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, three U.S. senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.