If fossil fuel companies should disclose climate-related financial risks, so should renewables
Joe Biden has drifted far to the left and made it clear that, if elected president, he would restrict or ban fracking, pipelines, federal onshore and offshore drilling, and use of oil, coal, natural gas, and thus our economy. He’s selected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as his climate and energy advisor and is expected to choose an equally “progressive” woman of color as his running mate (and president-in-reality).
He may also employ federal financial regulations to slow or strangle fossil fuel companies’ access to low-cost capital, further preventing them from producing oil, gas and coal. His official climate plan promises to require “public companies to disclose climate risks and the greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains.” By compelling them to present a litany of climate and weather risks supposedly caused or worsened by fossil fuel emissions, the rules could sharply reduce lender and investor interest in those fuels and hasten the transition to wind, solar, battery and biofuel technologies.
Those risks exist primarily in highly unlikely worst-case scenarios generated by computer models that reflect claims that manmade carbon dioxide has replaced the sun and other powerful natural forces that have always driven Earth’s climate (including multiple ice ages) and extreme weather. Actual data are often “homogenized” or otherwise manipulated to make the models appear more accurate than they are.
Models consistently predict average global temperatures 0.5 degrees C (0.9 F) higher than measured. The 12-year absence of Category 3-5 US-landfalling hurricanes is consistently ignored, as are the absence of any increase in tropical cyclones, the unprecedented absence of any violent tornadoes in 2018 – and the fact that violent twisters were far fewer during the last 35 years than during the 35 years before that.
However, pressure group mob politics and the refusal of climate alarmists to discuss model failures and contradictory scientific evidence would likely make these realities irrelevant in a Biden administration. That would have devastating consequences for a US economy struggling to recover from Covid-19 and compete in a world where Asian, African and other countries are not going to stop using fossil fuels to improve living standards, while they mine the raw materials and manufacture the wind turbines, solar panels, batteries and other equipment the USA would have to import under a Green New Deal (since no mining and virtually no manufacturing would be permitted or possible under Biden era regulations).
Replacing coal, gas and nuclear electricity, internal combustion vehicles, gas for home heating, and coal and gas for factories – and using batteries as backup power for seven windless, sunless days – would require some 8.5 billion megawatts. Generating that much electricity would require some 75 billion solar panels … or 4 million 1.8-MW onshore wind turbines … or 300,000 12-MW offshore wind turbines … or a combination of those technologies – plus some 3.5 billion 100-kWh batteries … hundreds of new transmission lines … and mining and manufacturing on scales far beyond anything the world has ever seen.
That is not clean, green, renewable energy. It is ecologically destructive and completely unsustainable – financially, ecologically and politically. That means any company, community, bank, investor or pension fund venturing into “renewable energy” technologies would be taking enormous risks.
Once citizens, voters and investors begin to grasp (a) the quicksand foundations under alarmist climate models and forecasts; (b) the fact that African, Asian and even some European countries will only increase their fossil fuel use for decades to come; (c) the hundreds of millions of acres of US scenic and wildlife habitat lands that would be covered by turbines, panels, batteries, biofuel crops, power lines, and forests clear cut to supply biofuel power plants; and (d) the bird, bat and other animal species that would disappear under this onslaught – they will rebel. Renewable energy markets will be pummeled repeatedly.
Public backlash will intensify from growing outrage over child labor, near-slave labor, and minimal to nonexistent worker health and safety, pollution control and environmental reclamation regulations in foreign countries where materials are mined and “renewable” energy technologies manufactured. As the shift to GND energy systems brings increasing reliance on Chinese mining and manufacturing, sends electricity rates skyrocketing, kills millions of American jobs and causes US living standards to plummet, any remaining support for wind, solar and other “renewable” technologies will plummet or evaporate.
Pension funds and publicly owned companies should therefore be compelled to disclose the risks to their operations, supply chains, “renewable energy portfolio” mandates, subsidies, feed-in tariffs, profits, employees, valuation and very existence from embarking on or investing in renewable energy technologies or facilities. They should be compelled to fully analyze and report on every aspect of these risks.
The White House, Treasury Department, Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Reserve, Committee on Financial Stability, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and other relevant agencies should immediately require that publicly owned companies, corporate retirement plans and public pension funds evaluate and disclose at least the following fundamental aspects of “renewable” operations:
* How many wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, biofuel plants and miles of transmission lines will be required under various GND plans? Where will they go? Whose scenic and wildlife areas will be impacted? How will rural and coastal communities react to being made energy colonies for major cities?
* Will the same laws and court decisions apply to wind, solar, battery, biofuel and “renewable energy” transmission projects as have been applied to the Keystone, Atlantic Coast and Dakota Access pipelines?
* To what extent will policies, laws, regulations, court decisions, and citizen opposition, protests, legal actions and sabotage delay or block wind, solar, biofuel, battery, mining and transmission projects?
* How much concrete, steel, aluminum, copper, cobalt, lithium, rare earth elements and other materials will be needed for every project – and cumulatively? Where exactly will they come from? How many tons of overburden and ore will be removed and processed for every ton of metals and minerals?
* What per-project and cumulative fossil fuel use, CO2 and pollution emissions, land use impacts, water demands, family and community dislocations, and other impacts will result? Where will they occur?
* What wages will be paid? How much child labor will be involved? What labor, workplace safety, pollution control and other laws, regulations, standards and practices will apply in each country? How many illnesses, injuries and deaths will occur in the mines, processing plants and factories?
* What “responsible sourcing” laws apply for these materials, to ensure that all materials are obtained in compliance with US wage, child labor and environmental laws – and how much will they raise costs?
* For ethanol and biodiesel, how much acreage, water, fertilizer, pesticides and fossil fuels will be required? For power plant biofuel, how many forests will be cut down, and how long they will take to regrow? How many birds, bats and other wildlife will be displaced, killed or driven to extinction?
* What costs and materials will be required to convert existing home and commercial heating systems to all-electricity, upgrade electrical grids and systems for rapid electric vehicle charging, and address the intermittent, unpredictable, weather-dependent realities of Green New Deal energy sources?
* What price increases per kWh per annum will families, businesses, offices, farms, factories, hospitals, schools and other consumers face, as state and national electrical systems are converted to GND sources?
* How often and severely will wind and solar installations (and household solar panels linked to the grid) cause uncontrolled surges and power interruptions? How will they be protected against Trojan horse viruses and hackers installed or enabled by overseas manufacturers, perhaps especially in China?
* What economic, productivity and public health impacts will repeated power interruptions cause?
* How many solar panels, wind turbine blades, batteries and other components (numbers, tons and cubic feet) will have to be disposed of every year? How much landfill space and incineration will be required?
These issues illustrate the high risks associated with Green New Deal energy programs. They underscore why it is essential for lenders, investment companies, pension funds, manufacturers, utility companies and other industries to analyze, disclose and report renewable energy risks – and why significant penalties should be assessed for failing to do so or falsifying any pertinent information.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy, environment, climate and human rights issues.