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Green transition will unleash monster price rises and do nothing to save the planet

The mining capacity needed for the world to achieve net zero simply doesn't exist

It has become something of a cliche, but it also happens to be true. If you want to do your bit for the planet, forget Tesla and other super expensive electric vehicles; just carry on driving the same old gas-guzzling banger you’ve always had.

As much if not more carbon tends to be expended producing a new car as actually driving it. You are going to have to do an awful lot of miles in the old one before you match the carbon costs of buying a newer version.

It was a slightly different, but similar point that Carlos Tavares, chief executive of the world’s fifth-biggest car maker, Stellantis, was making this week when he said that “green inflation” could soon make owning a vehicle the preserve of the rich.

The prevailing narrative – both in the motor industry and among political leaders sold on the idea that the transition to an emission-free world can be accomplished without significant damage to lifestyles – is that as demand grows, the price of EVs will steadily come down until they are eventually accessible to all.

Not so, argues Tavares; the coming energy transition is... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The mining capacity needed for the world to achieve net zero simply doesn't exist

It has become something of a cliche, but it also happens to be true. If you want to do your bit for the planet, forget Tesla and other super expensive electric vehicles; just carry on driving the same old gas-guzzling banger you’ve always had.

As much if not more carbon tends to be expended producing a new car as actually driving it. You are going to have to do an awful lot of miles in the old one before you match the carbon costs of buying a newer version.

It was a slightly different, but similar point that Carlos Tavares, chief executive of the world’s fifth-biggest car maker, Stellantis, was making this week when he said that “green inflation” could soon make owning a vehicle the preserve of the rich.

The prevailing narrative – both in the motor industry and among political leaders sold on the idea that the transition to an emission-free world can be accomplished without significant damage to lifestyles – is that as demand grows, the price of EVs will steadily come down until they are eventually accessible to all.

Not so, argues Tavares; the coming energy transition is going to be hugely resource intensive, driving up costs across the board.  He didn’t quite spell it out, though he hinted at it, so let me do so instead; it is entirely plausible that the monumental carbon costs of establishing the new infrastructure needed for a net zero world, nevermind its physical cost, could itself trigger the very same environmental catastrophe it is supposed to forestall.

Green lobbyists vehemently dispute such claims, pointing out that though the transition will burn a lot of carbon initially, this will progressively decrease, eventually disappearing entirely.

Yet whatever the modelling used, it is pretty much unarguable that going green will, to begin with, create a huge surge in global emissions. The transition will also result in myriad other forms of environmental and biodiversity destruction.

Reducing our emissions here in Britain isn’t going to be of much use if all we are in fact doing is exporting them. A large part of that reduction stems from the decline in old, energy intensive smokestack industries, priced out of the market in part by rising energy costs. 

The solar panels that litter the landscape allow our own coal powered stations to be switched off, but are likely to have been manufactured in China using the very same as the main energy source. By reducing our own emissions, we are paradoxically only increasing them at a global level.

Ministers worry about how to save the sad remnants of Britain’s once mighty steel industry, but for PR purposes refuse to sanction a new mine in Cumbria that would provide the relatively low cost coking coal that might help, preferring instead a long winded public inquiry and in the meantime the much higher carbon footprint of importing the stuff from Russia and beyond.

Already the coming energy transition is driving a quite considerable jump in inflation. One of the big stories of the week has been a surge in US consumer price inflation to more than 4 per cent, the highest level in more than 10 years. The US Federal Reserve insists that the increase is only  temporary. Believe it if you will; not many people at the coal face of rising prices do.

Nor does Ivan Glasenberg, boss of one of the world’s largest mining finance houses, Glencore, who this week pointed out that the Chinese were progressively “tying up” great swathes of the world supply of cobalt, the metal needed for the lithium ion batteries used in longer range EVs.

In a report published last week, the International Energy Agency found that an energy transition such as the one planned by President Biden in the US, if applied globally, would cause demand for key minerals such as lithium, graphite, nickel and rare-earth metals to explode, rising by 4,200 per cent, 2,500 per cent, 1,900 per cent and 700 per cent respectively by 2040. 

As things stand, the capacity needed to bring about such a transformation simply doesn’t exist. Massive, emission inducing investment in new sources of supply is required to meet the likely demand.

“The mineral requirements of an energy system powered by clean energy technologies differ profoundly from one that runs on fossil fuels”, explains Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA. “A typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car, and an onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a similarly sized gas-fired power plant. The energy sector’s overall needs for critical minerals could increase by as much as six times by 2040 [on current plans for reducing emissions]”.

Another commodities super-cycle, similar to ones driven, first, by industrial renewal after the second world war and later by Chinese industrialisation beckons, powering a seminal shift into a new inflationary age. None of this to argue that we shouldn’t even be trying. It’s just that the politicians need to be a bit more honest about the consequences, as well as less starry eyed about the prospects of success.

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Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk...

MAY 14 2021
https://www.windaction.org/posts/52400-green-transition-will-unleash-monster-price-rises-and-do-nothing-to-save-the-planet
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