I have been concerned about the environment for as long as I can remember (to the extent that I once almost voted for the Green Party, before they became obsessed with climate change). I have been perplexed for some time by the state of environmentalism, where concern about “carbon” (as they insist on calling CO2) seems to trump any real concern for the environment. Any environmental degradation is acceptable, even welcome, it seems, if it’s “renewable”. The end justifies the means.  

In August 2017 Paul Kingsnorth published “Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist”, and there are aspects of Paul’s book that resonate with me. This passage says it all for me, and sums up the current state of environmentalism nicely:

This reductive approach to the human-environmental challenge leads to an obvious conclusion: if carbon is the problem, then ‘zero carbon’ is the solution…

To do this will require the large-scale harvesting of the planet’s ambient energy: sunlight, wind, water power. This means that vast new conglomerations of human industry are going to appear in places where the energy is most abundant. Unfortunately, these places coincide with some of the world’s wildest, most beautiful and most untouched landscapes. The sort of places that environmentalism came into being to protect.

And so the deserts, perhaps the landscape always most resistant to permanent human conquest, are to be colonised by vast ‘solar arrays’, glass and steel and aluminium, the size of small countries. The mountains and moors, the wild uplands, are to be staked out like vampires in the sun, their chests pierced with rows of 500′ wind turbines and associated access roads, masts, pylons and wires.”

He continues with a catalogue of environments, each doomed to destruction through the introduction of large scale industrialisation, all in the pursuit of ‘net zero’: open oceans, coastlines, estuaries, rivers, croplands, and even the rainforest. All are to be sacrificed for a ‘greater good’. He finishes with:

“So here I was again: a Luddite, a nimby, a reactionary, a romantic; standing in the way of progress. I realised that I was dealing with environmentalists with no attachment to any actual environment. Their talk was of parts per million of carbon, peer-reviewed papers, sustainable technologies, renewable supergrids, green growth and the fifteenth conference of the parties. There were campaigns about ‘ the planet’ and ‘the Earth’, but there was no specificity: no sign of any real, felt attachment to any small part of that Earth.”

It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one scratching my head over the willingness, even apparent desire, to destroy the environment, on the part of people who call themselves environmentalists.

One tenth of the contiguous US states to be blanketed in turbines and solar panels

Paul Kingsnorth’s words turned out to be remarkably prescient. On 15th March 2021, the Guardian published an article headed “The race to zero: can America reach net-zero emissions by 2050?” and sub-headed “Joe Biden wants zero emissions by 2050, but time is ticking. So how will the country have to change over the next 30 years?

It commences:

“If America finally weans itself off planet-heating emissions, the country will look and feel very different.

Landscapes from coast to coast would be transformed, carpeted in wind turbines and solar panels, with enough new transmission lines to wrap around Earth 19 times. The populace would whiz past in their electric cars, to and from homes equipped with induction stoves and heat pumps. Hundreds of thousands of people who would have prematurely died from the toxic fossil-fuel age would still be alive.

It’s an appealing vision, according to Eric Larson, senior research engineer at Princeton University…”

An appealing vision? Well, an absence of premature deaths would be good news, but there must be other ways to achieve that. As for the rest of it…really?  

Further on, the article tells us that as the use of coal, oil and gas is scaled back,

“A gargantuan effort [will be required] to erect solar panels and wind turbines – first an extra 300GW of wind and 300GW of solar by 2030, before supply soars further to five times today’s transmission capacity by 2050.

This endeavor [sic] will require around 590,000 sq km (or 227,800 sq miles) of America to be blanketed in turbines and panels, around a tenth of all the land in the contiguous US. If you took a stroll along an Atlantic-facing beach there would be a good chance you’d see renewable energy in all directions, with an expanse of ocean the size of Belgium dotted with towering offshore wind turbines.

… As solar and wind are intermittent, moving clean energy to all corners of the country will require the current electricity transmission system to triple in size, an extraordinary roll-out of new poles, wires and substations.”

To my mind, this is a Dantean vision of hell, a sign of the world going mad. Yet to some people, this is “an appealing vision“. It ought to be an environmentalist’s worst nightmare.

“A very significant pollution event”

The environmental damage caused by the new breed of environmentalists is increasing all over the world. And it’s all too evident in the British Isles. An incident that has received little publicity, but which was reported on the BBC website in November 2020 was described as “peat slide devastation” at Meenbog Wind Farm, under construction in Donegal. It caused damage on both sides of the Donegal/Tyrone border, as thousands of tonnes of peat were washed into an internationally protected salmon spawning river, the Derg. An Ulster Angling Federation spokesman said:

 “…this is a very significant pollution event, one of the largest in the history of Northern Ireland and Ireland and involving large acreages of bogland. It is one that will be difficult to reinstate.”

Interestingly, the report also suggests that there had been opposition to the wind farm development with anglers and others claiming it could lead to instability in the bog where the 19 turbines are going in, but planners had decided it was not a risk.

Ironically, a 2014 report for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency noted that siting wind turbines on peatland could release considerable carbon dioxide from the peat, and also damage the peatland contributions to flood control and water quality:

The potential knock-on effects of using the peatland resource for wind turbines are considerable and it is arguable that the impacts on this facet of biodiversity will have the most noticeable and greatest financial implications for Northern Ireland.”

This wind farm, though, was built just over the border.

Even more ironically, Northern Irish politicians are currently falling over themselves to introduce a Climate Change Act, to the extent that two bills to this end are currently before the Stormont Assembly. Given that Northern Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions are utterly insignificant in the global scheme of things, perhaps they would do better to concentrate on looking after the environment?

120,000 square metre artificial island

On 4th February 2021 the Guardian reported on plans by Denmark to build a “clean energy hub” by building a new artificial island 50 miles offshore in the North Sea. The island is to be the size of 18 football pitches. Despite that, we are warned that:

“…the North Sea island might be difficult to complete before 2033, meaning it might not help Denmark reach its ambitious 2030 target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 70% from 1990 levels.

The tone of the whole article is rather breathless and very enthusiastic, and we are told:

“’This is truly a great moment for Denmark and for the global green transition,’ Denmark’s climate minister, Dan Jørgensen, said in a statement. ‘The energy hub in the North Sea will be the largest construction project in Danish history’.

Apparently this sort of thing is “green”. Nowhere does the article discuss the possible environmental problems that might be associated with this plan. The article contains only the briefest reference, near the end, to the need to carry out environmental impact assessments on the sea bed.

Double standards

It seems that we are back in Paul Kingsnorth’s world, where he wryly observes, “Container port wiping out estuary mudflats: bad. Renewable hydro-power barrage wiping out estuary mudflats: good.” 

For example, in 2009, the greenprophet website complained that Dubai’s artificial islands project was causing environmental damage. As recently as March 2019, the Guardian reported in critical terms on the Hong Kong government’s plans to build one of the world’s largest artificial islands, discussing claims that the island could damage the environment and marine life. In 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, as well as rejecting China’s sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, ruled that China’s building of artificial islands there had caused environmental damage.

But you’ll look in vain for environmental criticism of any artificial islands constructed for the purposes of supplying “renewable” energy. The BBC’s article on the subject of Denmark’s “energy island”, published on its website on 4th February 2021 made no mention of possible environmental issues, and (like the Guardian) is gushing in its general tone. The Euronews online article (which invited me to sign up for its green newsletter) was similar in tone and content. The same is true of Forbes, DW (Deutsche Welle), the Independent, and pretty much any news website that has reported on the story.

Minimising, but not avoiding, bird deaths is a victory

On 1st March 2021 a report appeared in the Guardian with this heading:

Wind power company vows to help save critically endangered California condor

and this sub-heading:

The condor, a vulture threatened by giant wind turbines, may be helped by energy company’s breeding project

The report advises that:

The threat to wildlife from renewable energy turbines has been a growing concern for environmentalists. In 2013, a study by the Wildlife Society into bird and bat fatalities at California’s Altamont Pass wind resource area projected 573,000 bird deaths a year nationally, including 83,000 raptors, and 888,000 bat fatalities.

With no apparent sense of irony, the turbine company’s operations wildlife compliance manager said:

Our goal is to minimize the risk of mortalities. We see this as a win for condors”.

In fairness, the company in question is trying to do something positive, but it’s a strange world when minimising condor deaths (i.e. killing condors, just not so many of them) is regarded as “a win” – especially for the condors in question.

Solar power – more bird deaths

What of solar power? On 1st January 2017, an article appeared on the Black & Veatch website with the heading:

Impact of Solar Energy on Wildlife Is an Emerging Environmental Issue”

It reported on how large concentrating solar plants use “power towers” that consist of hundreds of thousands of computer-controlled mirrors to track the sun throughout the day, reflecting the sunlight to boilers at the tops of towers several hundred feet high. The concentrated sunlight heats the water in the boiler pipes to create superheated steam, which is then piped to a turbine to generate power.

Birds, insects, and bats that fly through the highly concentrated, high-temperature solar beams they are ignited in mid-air. The report says that they may be killed by the heat, by the force of falling to the ground, or by a waiting predator…

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) law enforcement personnel at a large concentrated solar project in California observed this happening every couple of minutes.

The article claims that it’s also possible that the brightness and intensity of the light from large solar fields could be attracting insects even during the daytime, which in turn attracts their predators, birds and bats. Night lighting of these facilities consists of security lighting, which also attracts insects and their predators from the surrounding darker desert. The USFWS Office of Law Enforcement in a report released in April 2014 refers to the types of large-scale solar projects that cause these impacts as “mega-traps.”

Pollution at end of useful life

On 14th December 2020, Conor Prendergast wrote an article for the website of Discover Magazine, which summarised the problems that we face when solar panels reach the end of their useful life (after maybe 20-30 years). He pointed out that to improve the efficiency of solar panels, cadmium and lead are often added. These are difficult to extract when it’s time to dispose of defunct solar panels, to the extent that if done properly, it can cost more to recycle a solar panel than to manufacture it in the first place. It’s not uncommon for solar recycling plants to extract valuable silver and copper, and then simply burn what’s left, dumping the residue in landfill, whence there is a danger of leaching into groundwater. Cadmium is a carcinogen. China and the USA are the largest users of solar power, and neither country has required solar companies to collect and recycle properly. Maybe the USA will follow the EU’s lead here, but what of China and poor developing countries? It’s not a small problem – the International Renewable Energy Agency has suggested that by 2050 up to 78 million metric tons of solar panels will have reached the end of their life, and that the world will be generating about 6 million metric tons of new solar e-waste annually.

And the problem isn’t just with solar panels. On 7th February 2020, the BBC website published an article under the heading “What happens to all the old wind turbines?”. The opening paragraphs make for stark reading:

Welcome to the wind turbine graveyard. It stretches a hundred metres from a bend in the North Platte River in Casper, Wyoming.

Between last September and this March, it will become the final resting place for 1,000 fibreglass turbine blades.

These blades, which have reached the end of their 25-year working lives, come from three wind farms in the north-western US state. Each will be cut into three, then the pieces will be stacked and buried.

It pointed out that the first wave of wind turbines from the 1990s are now reaching the end of their useful lives, and that disposing of them in an environmentally-friendly way is not easy. The materials that they are made from – glass fibre in the case of older blades, carbon fibre in the newer ones – are very difficult to recycle. Pyrolysis is – in theory – one option, involving breaking up the composite fibres in ovens at temperatures of up to 700C. This can recover the materials for alternative uses, but vast amounts of energy are required. 

Turbines, of course, are popping up everywhere, and are only getting bigger. And so is the size of the headache of what to do with them at the end of their useful lives. Liu and Barlow’s paper, “Wind turbine blade waste in 2050” estimates that there will be 43 million tonnes of blade waste worldwide by 2050, with China possessing 40% of the waste, Europe 25%, the United States 16% and the rest of the world 19%. Not so renewable after all, then.

Rare earth minerals

Rare earth minerals are vital for many aspects of modern life, including smartphones and flat screen TVs. They are also essential for magnets in wind turbines, and are used in the batteries required for electric cars. They are therefore, as technology currently stands, vital to the “net zero” agenda. However, there is a problem, a problem that the BBC brought to our notice in April 2015 when Tim Maughan wrote an article for the BBC website headed “The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust“. China has a substantial proportion of the planet’s rare earth minerals and so, apart from the danger to the developed world’s plans, if China decided not to co-operate in this area, there is a serious environmental problem associated with this issue too.  

The industry associated with China’s extraction and use of rare earth minerals is centred on Baotou in Inner Mongolia, about which the article tells us:

“Even before getting to the toxic lake, the environmental impact the rare earth industry has had on the city is painfully clear. At times it’s impossible to tell where the vast structure of the Baogang refineries complex ends and the city begins. Massive pipes erupt from the ground and run along roadways and sidewalks, arching into the air to cross roads like bridges. The streets here are wide, built to accommodate the constant stream of huge diesel-belching coal trucks that dwarf all other traffic.”

“Diesel-belching coal trucks”, eh? There’s an irony.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that the western world is exporting its CO2 emissions (and jobs) to countries with poorer environmental standards, such as China. It seems that it’s more than just CO2 that we’re exporting to China – we’re exporting environmental degradation too, thanks to the apparent lack of concern of China’s authorities with regard to such matters:

“For example, cerium is extracted by crushing mineral mixtures and dissolving them in sulphuric and nitric acid, and this has to be done on a huge industrial scale, resulting in a vast amount of poisonous waste as a by-product. It could be argued that China’s dominance of the rare earth market is less about geology and far more about the country’s willingness to take an environmental hit that other nations shy away from.

And there’s no better place to understand China’s true sacrifice than the shores of Baotou toxic lake. Apparently created by damming a river and flooding what was once farm land, the lake is a “tailings pond”: a dumping ground for waste by products.”

And here’s the final irony:

“It’s a truly alien environment, dystopian and horrifying. The thought that it is man-made depressed and terrified me, as did the realisation that this was the by-product not just of the consumer electronics in my pocket, but also green technologies like wind turbines and electric cars that we get so smugly excited about in the West.”

Quite.  

13 Comments

  1. Hot on the heels of my thoughts in this piece comes this:

    “Deep sea mining to help make electric vehicles”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/science-environment-56678976

    “As the world begins to move away from petrol and diesel-power cars, there are questions over how the metals needed for batteries in electric vehicles will be sourced.

    One possibility is to mine the deep ocean floor. A number of companies are lining up to exploit the minerals found there, but campaigners warn it could have a disastrous impact on the marine environment.”

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  2. And on the same subject, there’s this too:

    “New deep-sea mining operation of rare earth minerals will be catastrophic for our oceans”

    https://www.climate.news/2020-02-01-deep-sea-mining-operation-of-rare-earth-minerals-catastrophic-oceans.html

    Maybe the powers-that-be at COP 26 should worry a little less about climate and a lot more about this sort of thing:

    “The next great frontier in resource extraction is located deep beneath the waters of our world’s great oceans. But experts warn that the reckless dredging of our delicate, underwater ecosystems could be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back, environmentally speaking.

    In an in-depth piece he wrote for The Atlantic, Wil S. Hylton warns about the impending launch of “history’s largest mining operation,” which threatens to deliver what could potentially amount to a type of final death blow for the health of our saltwater terrain.

    While it’s been known since at least 1868 that our underwater sea beds are loaded with many of the same precious metals, gems, and minerals as what exists here on land, the technology to dig it all up is only just now making its debut.

    According to Hylton’s research, oceanographers have identified copper, nickel, silver, platinum, gold and even gemstones hiding within the vast networks of rock and dirt that comprise the varied ocean floor terrain. And very soon, massive mining enterprises will begin to hoover it up all without prejudice, and with minimal government oversight.

    That’s because most of these mining operations will take place in international waters where there are few restrictions on methods of extraction”

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  3. I love the Guardian quote: “Joe Biden wants zero emissions by 2050, but time is ticking.” Mistaking a clock for “time” is like mistaking a thermometer for heat.

    Good to see Paul Kingsnorth is on our side. Do you have his book in a copy-and-pastable form? In which case perhaps we could serialise it for him.

    Back in 2009 Paul and George Monbiot had a memorable conversation at the Guardian reproduced here:
    https://www.monbiot.com/2009/08/18/should-we-seek-to-save-industrial-civilisation/
    in which each tried to out-doom the other.

    Dear Paul,
    Like you I have become ever gloomier about our chances of avoiding the crash you
    predict…

    Dear George,
    You say that you detect in my writing a yearning for apocalypse. I detect in
    yours a paralysing fear…

    The odd thing is that they are the ones worrying, when they have every government and the whole of the capitalist world they hate on their side, while we continue to always look on the bright side.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Untamed cultures are blind to the consequences of their expansion, whether in iconic infra-structure, the victims of missionary zeal or merely the burden in millions of minds. They make those millions of minds blind to the consequences too. The deployment of renewables (solar + wind turbines) across 35 nations with major amounts of both, correlates to a cultural attitude (r=0.73). And because of the interaction of old and new culture, anti-correlates with national religiosities (any Faith) too (r=0.65). So deployment cannot be a matter of the the climate or climate exposure of nations, nor climate-science nor any rational policy (religion is a purely cultural phenomenon). But this suggests limits to penetration. The vast majority of all publics are not believers, they are merely accommodating the culture because a) their elites typically are, and b) outside of some nimbyism they’re not aware of the massive downsides. In principle, should they become familiar with said downsides, their permission, ‘stolen’ in their name as it is, would nevertheless still be withdrawn. That’s why Planet of the Humans faced so much heavy censorship. It’s unfortunate that carpeting countries with renewables is so much more damaging than carpeting them with cathedrals and churches (or mosques, whatever). It’s a pity they didn’t stick with tree-hugging. I could cope with vast stands of giant redwoods outside of every town where the populace goes to be in awe of tree-ness and share in the spirit of their slow but mighty growth. We’d still have to sacrifice something of course, on principle. But as long as it isn’t maiden’s blood to fertilize the roots and just a 5% redwood maintenance tax, it’d still be a good deal.

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  5. Geoff

    Don’t assume that Paul Kingsnorth is “on our side” – he is very concerned about climate change, for instance. However, he is IMO a deeper thinker than the average climate-concerned person. He at least recognises the damage caused to the planet by those who would “save it”, and he objects to that. Wikipedia summarises the book here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessions_of_a_Recovering_Environmentalist

    Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the Guardian wasn’t much impressed!

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/12/confessions-of-a-recovering-environmentalist-by-paul-kingsnorth-review

    “Hope finds very little room in this enjoyable, sometimes annoying and mystical collection of essays. Kingsnorth despises the word’s false promise; it comforts us with a lie, when the truth is that we have created an “all-consuming global industrial system” which is “effectively unstoppable; it will run on until it runs out”. To imagine otherwise – to believe that our actions can make the future less dire, even ever so slightly – means that we probably belong to the group of “highly politicised people, whose values and self-image are predicated on being activists”.

    According to Kingsnorth, such people find it hard to be honest with themselves. He was once one of them.”

    The book is worth a read, IMO, for a different perspective. Regrettably, I have never seen it for sale, and when I read it I did so by borrowing it from my local library.

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  6. With due apologies for the epic comment…

    The UK’s next great offshore windfarm, Hornsea 3, was mentioned a while back on Cliscep re: the killing of kittiwakes. This rather cute gull is red-listed in Birds of Conservation Concern 4 because of an estimated breeding population decline of 74% over 25 years. Sounds pretty serious. And individuals have a habit of flying into wind turbines (well, you can’t really call it a habit, since they only do it once each). It does not take a great toll on the long-lived adults, where breeding success is hit or miss, to easily erode the population.

    So bearing in mind it is acknowledged that Hornsea 3 is going to take an annual toll on kittiwakes, and quoting my earlier survey of the Environmental Statement, “about 60 different numbers for potentially slain kittiwakes are given, from 13 to 395 per year,” saying no to it might be what we walking dead call a “no brainer.”

    But the Secretary of State said Yes to the windfarm and No to the hapless kittiwakes. I quote his “reasoning” below.

    KEY to acronyms:
    AEoI = Adverse Effect on Integrity
    IROPI = Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest
    SPA = Special Protection Area (formerly European level site designation for birds)
    SAC = Special Area for Conservation (formerly European level site designation for things other than birds)

    A development, having an AEoI on a Natura 2000 site may proceed (subject to a positive conclusion on alternatives and provision of any necessary compensation) if the project must be carried out for IROPI. The Secretary of State has therefore considered whether the Development is required for IROPI.

    The Secretary of State is satisfied that there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest for the Development to proceed subject to adequate compensatory measures being implemented.

    In arriving at his conclusion, the Secretary of State has reviewed how the Development provides a public benefit which is essential and urgent despite the harm to the integrity of the kittiwake feature of the Flamborough and Filey Coast SPA and the feature ‘sandbanks slightly covered by sea water all the time, of the North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef SAC and the Wash and North Norfolk Coast SAC that will result from the Development in combination with other operational, consented and planned developments.

    The conclusion is predicated by the principal and essential benefit of the Development as a significant contribution to limiting the extent of climate change in accordance with the objectives of the Climate Change Act 2008. The consequences of not achieving those objectives would be severely deleterious to societies across the globe, including the UK, to human health, to social and economic interests and to the environment.

    No doubt the following paragraphs provide data to support the conclusion that there is an acceptable trade-off here between the climate change damages abated by the windfarm and the acknowledged ongoing killing of a red-listed bird? Nope. Reducing everything in conservation onto a single axis (carbon dioxide) means that as long as we’re rowing in what seems to be the right direction in carbon dioxide emissions (I’m not convinced of that for wind farms), we can just kind of shrug about the collateral damage.

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  7. JIT, the final paragraph in the “justification” you quote demonstrated just how crazy these people are. Perhaps a future article might look at the CO2 emissions associated with producing, installing and finally scrapping wind turbines, including the associated ongoing maintenance (NB lots of concrete in those foundations, and we know that concrete manufacture is a process that produces lots of CO2).

    It is also rather ludicrous to suggest that a single wind farm (however big) makes “a significant contribution to limiting the extent of climate change”. We are here dealing with religious fervour, where logic has no part to play.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. And now we have this:

    “Cumulative effects of offshore wind farms: loss of habitat for seabirds”

    https://research.wur.nl/en/publications/cumulatieve-effecten-van-offshore-wind-parken-habitatverlies-zeev

    “This report updates ‘A first approach to deal with cumulative effects on birds and bats of offshore wind farms and other human activities in the Southern North Sea’ (Leopold et al. 2014) in response to the ‘2030 Roadmap for Offshore Wind Energy’1. In addition to assessing the wind farms that will be built in the period leading up to 2023, it also describes the construction schedule and locations for the offshore wind farms due for construction in the period leading up to 2030.

    The assignment includes the updating of seabird density maps for a total of ten seabird species (Table 2) using the approach from the Leopold et al. (2014) report, supplemented with survey data that have become available for the years 2013-2017. There are concerns for the selected species about the risks of collision (with offshore wind turbines) or habitat loss, which can affect the population (possibly significantly). Five of the ten selected seabird species are considered to be at particular risk of habitat loss; these five species are discussed in this report against the background of the planned roll-out of offshore wind until 2030.

    The knowledge question to be addressed relates to the habitat loss that may occur for five seabird species (divers, i.e. Red-throated and Black-throated Divers (studied in conjunction), Northern Gannet, Sandwich Tern, Common Guillemot and Razorbill) as a result of the ongoing development of offshore wind farms in the southern and central North Sea, both in a national context (the Dutch EEZ or DCS: national scenario) and an international context (international scenario). Using the Relative Displacement Score from the extended Bradbury method as elaborated in Leopold et al. (2014), the step is made from affected seabirds to expected additional mortality as a result of habitat loss. These modelled mortalities are compared with the reference measure Potential Biological Removal (PBR).”

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  9. And now this:

    “Portugal to scrap lithium mining project
    Locals spent years fighting to halt the project, a cornerstone of Lisbon’s raw materials policy.”

    https://www.politico.eu/article/portugal-lithium-mining-project-scrap/

    “Lisbon is set to cancel a contentious lithium mining project in the northern Montalegre region, Portugal’s environment minister told POLITICO.

    “At this moment I see the possibility of having a lithium mine in Montalegre as very unlikely,” João Pedro Matos Fernandes said Tuesday.

    The EU is trying to set up an independent stream of crucial raw materials to ensure it’s not dependent on third countries. It imports almost all of its lithium — a key ingredient in the batteries used to power electric vehicles. The European Commission estimates that demand for lithium will grow 18 times by 2030 and 60 times by 2050. That’s set off a race to open mines in Europe, with projects being eyed in Finland, Spain, Serbia, the Czech Republic and Austria, as well as Portugal.

    The Montalegre project’s concession license will be “rejected due to a lack of professionalism” on the part of LusoRecursos, the company awarded a government exploration contract in 2019, Matos Fernandes said. He said the company submitted a “clearly insufficient” environmental impact study, and added that it won’t be long before “that license is completely canceled.”

    Informed about the scheme’s impending cancellation, an incredulous LusoRecursos CEO Ricardo Pinheiro said his company would bring a “nice lawsuit in the courts.”

    The minister’s comments signal the end of one of Lisbon’s signature raw material schemes, just one week before the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU hosts a conference on green mining.

    The €500 million project aimed to build a massive mining and industrial processing complex in a bucolic corner of northern Portugal bordering the Gerês-Xurés biosphere reserve. It had been strongly opposed by locals for environmental concerns.

    The scheme involved leveling a mountainous, 825-hectare site, with parts of the new project located just meters from residents’ properties.

    LusoRecursos claimed that up to 30 million tons of lithium petalite could be extracted from the site and potentially used to make everything from e-vehicle batteries to storage infrastructure for renewable energy. The company’s bid to survey the area was greenlit over a decade ago, but the idea only started to move in 2019, when the government signed a contract giving LusoRecursos exploration rights.

    “The mining project would have destroyed the landscape and made farming here impossible,” said Armando Pinto, coordinator of Montalegre com Vida, the community group that spearheaded opposition to the project.

    The region’s traditional farming economy has earned it recognition as a United Nations Globally Important Agricultural Heritage site. Locals like farmer Justino Dias credit this mode of farming — along with a burgeoning rural tourism sector — with stemming the exodus of young people from the area, a serious problem in much of Portugal’s interior.

    The mining complex “would threaten all of that,” said Dias. The project’s impact on the agricultural sector would also jeopardize local access to the EU farming subsidies that are key to the area’s survival, he added.”

    Liked by 2 people

  10. A final takeaway quote from that Politico article:

    “Green mining doesn’t exist,” he said. “Politicians need to stop trying to get rid of pollution in cities by polluting our villages instead.”

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  11. Tomo, a commenter at Bishop Hill, has drawn attention to a website that looks like some sort of parody/spoof, but it does usefully contain this:

    “DIRTY SECRETS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY REVEALED AS ‘BRIGHT GREEN LIES’”

    https://www.euronews.com/living/2021/04/22/dirty-secrets-of-renewable-energy-revealed-as-bright-green-lies

    “A shocking expose on the truth behind green technology is being released this Earth Day.
    Bright Green Lies will “peek behind the green curtain” to show the true cost of many environmental solutions such as electric cars, solar panels and wind turbines.

    Julia Barnes’ film sets out to dispel the myth that climate change and environmental destruction can be offset by buying green.

    Hoping to redirect the contemporary eco movement from sustaining run away consumption to protecting the natural world, the film intends to lift the lid on the real extent of greenwashing….

    …Bright Green Lies shows that over the last three decades the environmental movement has been co-opted by lobbyists for the renewable industry, which it is claimed will be the number one cause of habitat destruction by the middle of the century.

    Award winning director, Julia Barnes says words like “clean”, “free”, “safe”, and “sustainable” are often thrown around by “bright green” environmentalists.

    “They act as if solar panels and wind turbines grow on trees,” she says. “There are a lot of us who are there for the right reasons and I think we can turn it back to the good side again.”

    …Barnes claims there is fear among eco warriors over lifting the lid on renewables when they have been promoting them for so long.

    “To me it seemed like the most important thing I could make another film about.”

    The mass production of materials for renewables requires increased mining, industrial manufacturing, habitat destruction, greenhouse gas emissions, and the creation of toxic waste, according to research in the film.

    “I was amazed and there’s this whole side of these technologies that we don’t hear about in the mainstream environmental movement and it’s so important.

    “We have this huge movement but no matter how impassioned a movement it is, if it’s pushing for the wrong solutions it’s not going to work,” she adds….”

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Mark, about the lithium project, was there any accounting for the opportunity costs? Would the potential value of the lithium project be greater or lesser than the value of traditional farming? Could some of the value of the “move” be held for the local community by taxes! Would it create more jobs for the community? Would there be a scheme to clean up the damage afterwards? Just shutting down the scheme is a recipe for disaster, especially if, in a few years, the government is going to insist on battery powered vehicles. In Spain, the former Río Tinto copper mines eventually got reopened about 10 years ago, after a colossal amount of bargaining around environmental controls and clean up. At current prices, production is profitable but the reopening costs were enormous and….. Largely funded by Chinese interests

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  13. MiaB, I honestly don’t know the answer to your question. My point really is that “green” initiatives are often, in reality, the exact opposite of “green”.

    There’s loads on the internet about Portuguese lithium. Just type “Portugal” and “lithium” into a search engine, and you’ll be spoilt for choice. My quick search just now produced this as a top story:

    “Matos Fernandes says Portugal will not exploit lithium “at all costs””

    https://www.theportugalnews.com/news/matos-fernandes-says-portugal-will-not-exploit-lithium-at-all-costs/56026

    “Environment Minister Matos Fernandes has said that Portugal would not exploit lithium “at all costs,” but that it was “absolutely fundamental” for decarbonisation, which is why the government will proceed with a strategic assessment.
    “Lithium is absolutely fundamental for decarbonisation. Europe has so few resources of its own, and the [Covid-19] pandemic has shown that. With Portugal having lithium, we must exploit it,” said João Pedro Matos Fernandes, who was speaking to journalists in Porto on the sidelines of a conference on strategic challenges in climate action.

    The environment minister said that “there are people who are committed not to exploit lithium in Portugal at all costs,” guaranteeing that Portugal will not make unbridled exploitation without rules.

    “We do not have the prospect of exploiting lithium in Portugal at all costs, but we want to do it. Once lithium gained such a strategic dimension, the state stopped granting licenses and we wanted to design a competition for a number of sites where there is great potential for lithium exploration,” he said.

    That study, he said, is being prepared by the National Laboratory of Civil Engineering (LNEC).

    “There are several sites, we feel that we should make a strategic assessment. We are in a hurry to explore the lithium, but everything will be done according to the characteristics of the territories and always taking into account the environmental values”, he stressed.

    Jornal de Notícias reports that the government will proceed with a strategic environmental assessment before opening a tender for mining and lithium exploration in Portugal.”

    That article is 6 months old, but still fairly topical.

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