Solar Panel Production. Coking Coal (Metallurgical Coal) is combined with Sand to produce Silicon. The end product is Silicon, Carbon Monoxide and CO2. Note for simplicity I left out a few steps.

SMH: Aussie Government Economic Forecasts Ignoring Net Zero Impacts

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

It is almost as if the Aussie Government thinks commitments to shut down coal plants and eliminate the use of steel and alumina in industry will not happen.

Failure to model costs of climate change to coal, gas ‘beggars belief’
By Mike Foley and Nick Toscano

June 29, 2021 — 5.00am

Australia’s 40-year economic outlook is forecasting dwindling demand for some of the nation’s most valuable exports including coal and natural gas after China, Japan and South Korea unveiled targets to achieve net-zero emissions.

But prominent think tank the Grattan Institute on Monday said it “beggars belief” that the Morrison government’s modelling failed to make projections about the scale of loss of export earnings or the impacts from global warming such as drought and natural disasters.

Australia’s mining and energy exports are expected to have hit a record-high of $310 billion this financial year. The nation’s top export, iron ore, accounted for an all-time-high $149 billion, while fossil fuel exports of coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) together accounted for $71 billion, helping to underpin the economy amid a worsening trade spat with China and a global pandemic.

However, the Treasury’s 2021 Intergenerational Report on Monday warned the emissions-intensive commodities’ export earnings would fall as global efforts to combat climate change accelerated. It noted that countries had committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 including key trading partners Japan and South Korea, while China has committed to carbon neutrality by 2060.

“These commitments by other countries, if fully implemented, are likely to reduce demand for unabated fossil fuels over some decades,” it said.

Read more:

One question – if Aussie coal, iron ore and other exports are eliminated, exactly what will governments use to manufacture all those wind turbines and solar arrays they plan to deploy?

Solar panels are especially coal intensive. Turning quartz or high grade sand into silicon metal used to manufacture solar cells requires vast quantities of coal, a very similar process to using a blast furnace to reduce iron ore to steel. And of course the solar panels need glass, plastic, alumina, stainless steel and concrete mounts.

Wind turbines likely require even more coal. An Ohio wind farm built in 2013 required 30,000 tons of cement, + whatever steel reinforcing was required for all that cement. All this cement was used to produce just 304Mw of electricity. Enough to supply a small town, at least when the wind blows just right.

A Chinese study in 2017 suggested wind farms struggle to supply 15% of nameplate capacity, but lets be generous and call it 15%. So 15% x 304Mw x 365 x 24 = 399,456MWh / year.

Total US energy use is around 25,155 TWh / year. Multiply by a million to convert to MWh, the USA needs to generate 25,155,000,000MWh / year to replace current energy supplies.

How much cement do you need? Scaling up the Ohio wind farm, to have a hope of supplying the USA’s energy needs using wind power you need 25,155,000,000 / 399,456 = 62,973 wind farms the same capacity as that 2013 Ohio wind farm. Multiply by 30,000 tons of cement per Ohio scale installation, and you need 1,889,190,000 tons of cement, to create enough wind farms to have a hope of supplying the USA’s energy needs.

The USA currently produces around 100,000,000 tons of cement every year. If the USA wants to hit net zero, we need 1,889,190,000 / 100,000,000 = 18 years worth of cement production. Spread this out over 30 years, to hit Biden’s net zero by 2050 target, without reducing supplies to other end users (you don’t want people to go homeless or bridges and buildings to collapse for lack of civilian cement), and this means for the next 30 years, US cement production would have to increase by 60%.

And of course, we haven’t even considered all the cement needed for new pumped hydro storage, and other infrastructure like gravity storage or even cement walls for new battery buildings, to try to deal with the hour by hour intermittency of renewable energy sources.

With a few exceptions, other countries which want to hit net zero are in a similar position.

Cement production is a very energy intensive process. Vast amounts of coal or natural gas are required, to superheat and shatter the raw limestone (calcium carbonate) matrix and other raw ingredients into oxides and silicates which are constituents of refined cement. The shattering of the raw ingredients releases vast quantities of chemically bound CO2, even without all the CO2 released by burning whatever fossil fuel you choose to supply the heat.

Assuming Australia maintains its proportion of raw materials exports, just to supply the global net zero push, Australia is looking at a 60% rise in minerals exports, over the next 30 years.

So I suggest the Aussie government has nothing to worry about over a 30 year timeframe. Either the world will continue business as usual, in which case mineral exports will continue to grow at more or less their current pace, or the world will genuinely attempt to hit net zero, in which case demand for mineral exports will rise by 60% for 30 years, then whatever additional supply is required to maintain all that new concrete and steel infrastructure. Either way, Australia’s coal and iron ore export industries win.

What happens after 30 years? Frankly that is someone elses problem. Anyone who thinks it is meaningful to make economic predictions more than 30 years into the future needs to read about the great horse manure crisis of 1894.

Why are economists making absurd predictions which ignore this obvious net zero driven surge in industrial demand?

As far as I can tell, the reason economists are ignoring the industrial effort required to achieve net zero, is they are starting from the assumption that unrealistic government carbon emission targets are absolute, and will be met no matter what the human cost. If you start by assuming government decrees are set in stone, you have to assume any industrial activity which would cause government targets to be missed will be eliminated. If there is no industry to consume Australian exports, there will be no exports.

5 12 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
June 29, 2021 10:18 am

Details, details. Let’s not do it, but say we did.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Scissor
June 29, 2021 12:39 pm

Fortunately, that us what the Aussie government seems to be doing. They are continually kowtowing to the Climate Worriers, and yet doing little or nothing to reduce CO2. Australia is a ‘Carbon’ sink anyway, there are trillions of trees here.

And they keep getting elected, despite causing massive bungles in so many areas. People keep voting for them.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
June 29, 2021 10:02 pm

You must have a fanbase. Your comment was negative 2 for some reason.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
June 30, 2021 4:12 am

yeah cos apart from dandrOOze in vic n the pratt in SA most of the premiers are smart enough NOT to enrage the electorates with green spin

P Wells
June 29, 2021 10:28 am

And just where do they think all those windmills are going to be installed? Given their obvious unreliability and inefficiency at solving the supposed problem, why would anyone want to install them? Solar panels are no better. There is no place on earth where solar will be effective even 50% of the time.

Go nuclear!

Reply to  P Wells
June 29, 2021 11:43 am

Nuclear is what reality & rationality will ultimately dictate has to happen, but the current crop of politicians / activists / bureaucrats can’t let it happen on their watch.

Because if they did now accept the obvious necessity for nuclear, the enviro stasi would regale them with “if this the solution, why didn’t you get started on this 20 years ago?”

So now we all have to wait until someone else comes along to get the nuclear progress happening, so that public reputations of the incumbent enviro guardians can be assuaged.

When the progress does commence in earnest though, look for the pronouncements from the Trudeaus of the world stage to say – “we have always been in favor of nuclear power”

Just as was described by Orwell in 1984.

(And mods, please grant me a small digression – why do the luddites who campaign against nuclear power call themselves “progressives” ?)

Reply to  Mr.
June 29, 2021 12:29 pm

The same reason why others call themselves “liberals” (i.e. divergent), and others conservative (i.e. moderating). Progress is an unqualified monotonic process. Principles and motives can and do vary with generations, parties, sects, tribes, etc.

Willem Post
Reply to  Mr.
June 29, 2021 1:11 pm

Russia, China and South Korea are the only countries in the world with active and growing nuclear infrastructures, i.e., up-to-date nuclear technologies, trained nuclear engineers, ongoing nuclear-plant-building experience.

The West has nothing, in comparison

It would take at least 10 years to build the nuclear infrastructures, after a multi-trillion commitment has been made to do so.

Reply to  P Wells
June 29, 2021 11:59 am

And yet there are multiple nations who have already installed the wind turbines and solar and are deriving substantial amounts of electricity from them… no significant power failures from renewables… (yes, really).

There are many places where peak or near peak demand is highest when solar is strongest.

Reply to  griff
June 29, 2021 12:12 pm

griff continues to push the claim that as long as something doesn’t happen, that’s proof that it never will.

There is no place in the world where peak demand coincides with peak solar. You’ve been corrected on this lie repeatedly.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  MarkW
June 29, 2021 12:48 pm

There is no place in the world where peak demand coincides with peak solar.

To be fair, we do have a significant need for a/c when the sun is highest in the sky in summer in Australia. It’s definitely a benefit then, except perhaps in the tropics when it tends to be cloudy in the summer, but in the hot season lead-up to summer it’s very valuable.

I’ve investigated rhe cost/benefits, and the only major benefit is a/c in hot periods. Unfortunately, I don’t tend to use a/c much (I prefer a pool), so it’s not great for myself. Most households would here.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
June 29, 2021 7:21 pm

There’s still the problem of intermittency, backup, grid expansions, all amounting to oversized and expensive grids.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
June 30, 2021 11:36 pm

While it certainly is often hot before noon, everywhere I’ve lived peak temperatures occur when the sun is already pretty low in the west. Solar power is rapidly declining at that time of day.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  griff
June 29, 2021 12:43 pm

And yet there are multiple nations who have already installed the wind turbines

I know, right? It’s so refreshing not seeing those blights on the landscape here in Australia! We seem to be the only sensible developed country.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
June 29, 2021 3:06 pm

The Vics who live around Wonthaggi on the Bass Coast might not agree with you Zig Zag.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Mr.
June 29, 2021 3:31 pm

Ah well. I guess that’s what you get living in Danistan.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
June 29, 2021 4:13 pm

Alinta Gas/Western Power have just built a new landscape blight 175 Km north of Perth. They advertise it on TV. “Enough to power 2000 house”. They miss out on the 30% of the time. The Aussie government seems to be doing their best to slow down this madness but are copping a lot of flack from Biden

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Mariner
June 29, 2021 9:18 pm

Note the use of ‘houses’ as a unit of measure.

Anyone ever seen a conversion table for the UOM?

How many Houses to the Corner Shop? How many Houses to the Supermarket? What is the ratio of Houses to Small Engineering Company?

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
June 30, 2021 4:15 am

you must be damned lucky cos theyre all over vic and a true blight on the landscape. more coming as they put high trans lines across the state to feed the cities the power.
Dan OUT!!!! asap

Reply to  griff
June 29, 2021 12:54 pm

Really griff?? Put your money where your mouth is and tell us exactly by name which ‘many places’ you are referring to.

Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  griff
June 29, 2021 1:24 pm

Including winter nights!

Pillage Idiot
Reply to  griff
June 29, 2021 1:34 pm

griff, you need to update your talking points.

We just witnessed the February “big freeze” debacle in Texas. That was a significant power failure!

I think at the worst point, nat gas generation was at 40% of nameplate rating, wind was at 4%, and solar was at 0%.

That is a renewables failure by my estimation.

If they had never installed ANY wind or solar, then they would have had more electricity generated at the worst point of the crisis!

Reply to  griff
June 29, 2021 3:54 pm

“(yes, really).”

poor griff sounds like he is desperate to persuade himself !!

While everyone else just laughs at his inane comments.

Reply to  griff
June 29, 2021 3:57 pm

Griff, Did you know that even the “renewable” state of South Australia was running on 99% gas the other evening.

comment image

Reply to  griff
June 30, 2021 8:36 am

I want to live where peak demand, from 5- 10 pm, is met by solar. I also want to live where the steel is smelted by 100% renewables. 24/7…365 (except when down for maintenance, of course).

Reply to  Wharfplank
July 1, 2021 12:18 am

No problem about solar from 5 pm until 10 pm. Just shift your clock hands so that meridian passage of the sun happens at 7 pm on your clock. Don’t think you’ll manage with the steel though.

Reply to  P Wells
June 30, 2021 8:33 am

Agree. But unfortunately if you own sizeable chunks of land, for which you are heavily taxed btw,then the steady, reliable income a turbine lease brings can save you from selling. Irony is the taxes you owe to the government are paid from taxes other people paid to pay you.

June 29, 2021 10:39 am

More wishful thinking from the Bandar-log, except Aus doesn’t have any monkeys or apes.

Oh, …. wait ……. .

Reply to  Oldseadog
June 29, 2021 11:47 am

Those terms are verboten now in Aus, especially by football game audience members. Aus readers here will understand what I’m referring to.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Mr.
June 29, 2021 12:50 pm

Quite right too. I look forward to the time when Australians recover their sportsmanship qualities again.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
June 29, 2021 3:16 pm

To be a bit balanced about it though Zig Zag, the hullaballoo was over what one gormless 13-year old girl called out while she was over-excited.

Not right at all by any standards, but a bit of direct straight-talk counseling from her responsible adults there & then would have set her right.
(Back in the day, Nanna would have given her ear a bit of a twist to start with as well.)

The media and the perpetually-outraged social justice warriors milked this for all it was worth. And then some.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Mr.
June 29, 2021 3:30 pm

But there have been some pretty unpleasant things said in the past

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
June 30, 2021 4:17 am

and you might be surprised what whitey gets called too…but no one reports that cos? rayciss

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Mr.
June 29, 2021 9:25 pm

She wasn’t a 13 year old girl, she was the FACE OF EVIL.

St Adam of Thinskinned Gutless Worm said so.

Let’s face it, it takes a poor choice of words in a moment of excitement to be a 13 year old, but a huge amount of courage to hide behind the collected forces of the Australian Media and corporate sport while you call her out on it.

One person here was the subject of an organised hate campaign, and the other was a professional footballer.

June 29, 2021 11:48 am

“SMH: Aussie Government Economic Forecasts Ignoring Net Zero Impacts”

They didn’t say that. The quoted SMH excerpt starts out:

“Australia’s 40-year economic outlook is forecasting dwindling demand for some of the nation’s most valuable exports including coal and natural gas after China, Japan and South Korea unveiled targets to achieve net-zero emissions.”

They quoted the Grattan Institute saying it might be worse.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 29, 2021 12:37 pm

Isn’t everything to do with climate “worse than we thought”?

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 29, 2021 12:52 pm

Nit pickers will pick nits

Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 29, 2021 4:15 pm

Well, Eric, just focussing on wht the SMH actually said:
The Treasurer thinks that there will be action:
“Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said “some sectors will need to adjust to falling demand for some exports” as the economy shifted to lower carbon emissions, while new opportunities will open up in other sectors.

“The effects will depend on domestic and global actions, as well as the pace and extent of climate change,” Mr Frydneberg said in his speech launching the report.”

His report thinks so:
“However, the Treasury’s 2021 Intergenerational Report on Monday warned the emissions-intensive commodities’ export earnings would fall as global efforts to combat climate change accelerated. It noted that countries had committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 including key trading partners Japan and South Korea, while China has committed to carbon neutrality by 2060.”

Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 29, 2021 5:36 pm

Eric, show bit of pity for poor ol’ Nick.
We all understand he likes to fight on even with more than just a flesh-wound.
His commitment to “The Cause” (as described by M. Mann in Climategate) is his impenetrable armor against infidels such as you

Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 29, 2021 8:26 pm

I’m not an expert in materials required for renewables manufacture, and neither are you. I’ve quoted what various people in authority think (from your sources), and they are saying that demand for fossil fuels will reduce.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 29, 2021 9:18 pm

Price of petrol is up, demand must be low (sarc)

Reply to  Lrp
June 30, 2021 4:20 am

yeah waaay above the cost when a barrel is 100 to 120 as in the past
nowhere near that but were paying savage price per litre 1.61 and higher in some places
thats cities NOT remote rural!

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 30, 2021 7:10 am


” 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 gas fired plant. Since 2010 the average amount of minerals needed for a new unit of power generation capacity has increased by 50% as the share of renewables has risen.”

“a concerted effort to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement would mean a quadrupling of mineral requirements for clean energy technologies by 2040. An even faster transition, to net zero by 2050, would require six times more mineral inputs in 2040 than today.”

Quotes from the International Energy Authority (IEA) report ‘The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions’
May 2021.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 29, 2021 8:51 pm

Au Gratin institute’s dreaming as usual. Nobody’s going to live long enough to see any of their predictions realised.

June 29, 2021 12:49 pm

Some prefer not to be confused by facts.

Willem Post
June 29, 2021 1:01 pm

When the US southwest, including California, had its historic heat waves, with rolling rolling blackouts, i.e., no AC with 115F heat, there was MINIMAL wind power, because heat domes are stationary, i.e., no winds.

“No winds” has been known for hundreds of years.

There was plenty of sun and solar power, but that was just a midday affair, whereas the heat dome was a multi-day, 24/7 affair.

If battery storage had existed, several TWh of battery storage capacity would be required to fill in the power voids. That is very easily calculated.

Each TWh of storage would cost at least $500 BILLION, at $500/kWh, delivered as AC, and they would last at most 15 years. That is a lot of capital to amortize in a short time. Let us hope interest rates stay low, despite multi-TRILLION “add-to-deficit” spending.

Remember, grid-scale battery systems have at least 20% losses, from high voltage AC to high voltage AC. A recent study identified and quantified 23 losses adding up to at least 20%.

Remember, that study was for a new battery system with no degradation.

Remember, if another heat wave were to occur shortly thereafter, those batteries better be fully charged. All hell would break lose, if they were not.

Remember, battery charge must be between 20% full and 80% full, to have any chance to achieve still-acceptable degradation in 15 years

Remember, Li-ion batteries cannot be charged, if their temperature is at 32F or less. Battery capacity would be significantly and permanently degraded, if such charging took place. This applies the electric vehicles, including school buses.

A brave new world would be apron us, if technology-challenged RE fanatics have their way.
That must be resisted with everything.
They must not even get to first base.
For them, RE and “remaking the world to achieve a Socialist Nirvana” are existential issues.
They will do anything and everything to grab and keep absolute power

John Hultquist
Reply to  Willem Post
June 29, 2021 7:44 pm

Li-ion batteries cannot be charged, if their temperature is at 32 F or less “

I cannot find this limit. Maybe newer technology has changed the limits.

“Battery capacity would be significantly and permanently degraded, if such charging took place. “

I’ll guess these limitations have changed, and will continue to change, as millions (billions?)
of money are thrown at the problem.

Willem Post
Reply to  John Hultquist
July 2, 2021 12:55 pm

I am not at my desk, to cut and paste from my articles, but just google, as I did.
BATTERY UNIVERSITY is a good site for starters.

Battery freeze-up, at below freezing temperatures is a major problem in New England, etc., if an EV, or an electric school bus, etc., are parked outdoors, or in an un-heated garage indoors

No, it has not been solved

Plating the cathode with Li-ions, due to charging at cold temperatures, causes irreversible loss of range.

The obvious remedy is to stay plugged in, when at home, in a garage or outdoors, at an airport, which would continuously draw kWh via the wall outlet.

In case of an extended power failure, say 2 days, with cold weather, things would become interesting

willem post
Reply to  Willem Post
July 2, 2021 2:21 pm


Here is an excerpt from my electric bus article

Charging EVs and Electric Buses During Freezing Conditions
Normal Operation at 32F and below: On cold/freezing days, an electric bus battery would use on-board systems to heat the battery, as needed, during parking and driving.

When at home, it is best to keep EVs plugged in during periods with 32F and below, whether parked indoors or outdoors.
When parking at a motel, or an airport, it is best to fully charge EVs prior to parking, to enable the EV on-board systems to heat the battery, as needed, during parking.

Charging at 32F and below: Li-ion batteries must not be charged when the batterytemperature is below 32F, whether parked indoors or outdoors. 
Although the pack appears to be charging normally, plating of metallic lithium would occur on the anode. This is permanent and cannot be removed with cycling. 
Plating results in: 1) permanent loss of range, 2) sharp dendrites on the anode could create shorts inside battery cells, causing failures/fires, especially when exposed to rough road driving (potholes, etc.), or other stressful conditions. 

Power Failure, while parked at 32F and below
Partially full EV batteries, connected to dead chargers, could use much of their remaining charge to prevent freezing of batteries, while parked, indoors or outdoors. 
EVs and electric school buses would need to be driven to an operating charger.
See URLs.
– Batteries have miscellaneous losses to provide electricity to on-board systems, similar to Tesla and other EVs  
– On cold/freezing days, an electric bus should be ready for service as soon as the driver enters the bus
– On cold/freezing days, the driver would need at least 70% charge, because travel would require more energy per mile

If the battery temperature is less than 40F or more than 115F, it will use more kWh/mile
The higher efficiency range, charging and discharging, is 60F to 80F. 
Batteries have greater internal resistance at lower temperatures. 
Pro-bus folks often point to California regarding electric buses, but in New England, using electric buses to transport children would be a whole new ballgame, especially on colder days. See URLs
NOTE: Where would the electricity come from to charge and protect from cold, expensive batteries during extended electricity outages, due to multi-day, hot and cold weather events, with minimal wind and sun, as occur in California, Texas and New England?
Emergency standby diesel-generators? Emergency standby batteries?

Solar Mutant Ninjaneer
June 29, 2021 1:51 pm

Seems to me that the phrase “climate alarmist” doesn’t quite capture the desperation and fear. I’d like to suggest that these people suffer from climacondria – an excessive fear or preoccupation with climate change. These people are climacondriacs and should probably seek psychiatric help somewhere.
As bad as all of the dooms day predictions are, none of the consequences are nearly as bad as the proposed solutions.

Reply to  Solar Mutant Ninjaneer
June 29, 2021 2:11 pm

I tried to define this once as kairophobia:

phobia – an unreasoned or irrational fear.
kairós – greek for weather.

…since we are constantly bombarded with hysterical threats of “more frequent and severe weather events” as being significant sign of Climate change. I think that I like your climacondria more.

Solar Mutant Ninjaneer
Reply to  dk_
June 29, 2021 2:44 pm

I have a rule. Never be the only reasonable person in an argument.

The left uses labels to demean their opposition or define the problem. (Not a reasonable way to conduct a scientific discussion.) “Climate denier” and “climate crisis” are two notable examples. Climachondria (an analog of hypochondria) is an attempt to apply the same tactic. Might be too sophisticated. How about “climate idiot” instead?

June 29, 2021 1:59 pm

If Australia needs long term 40 year economic forecasts relating to the change ( not loss) of exports to countries going to net zero, shouldn’t those countries have equivalent long term 40 year economic forecasts relating to their change in imports.

USA, EU, China, SK or Japan surely have details plans where all the raw materials will come from.

IF a country was serious about net zero, a rational long term economic strategy would be to buy mining rights to Australian uranium and thorium.

Reply to  Waza
June 29, 2021 3:21 pm

Sssshhh. You’ll spoil the spec prices of cement, iron ore, silica sand, and coal for me.

June 29, 2021 2:10 pm

“What happens after 30 years?” Life of solar panels and windmills is a lot shorter than 30 years. Double or triple those yearly estimates.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 29, 2021 9:13 pm

renewables other than hydro never pay back their initial energy outlay

Yes is my biggest problem with renewables. If this can be properly and irrefutably demonstrated, then it will be clear that renewables are an actual resource sink. Not a more expensive method of generating electricity, but an actual LOSS of electricity, or energy.

Then we can fold up the tables and chairs, and go back to coal, oil and gas, or nuclear if you still believe CO2 is a problem.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
June 30, 2021 11:48 pm

Do you remember “too big to fail”?

June 29, 2021 2:15 pm

An example of a proper long term energy strategy is the conversion of the Royal Navy from steam to oil.
1. Need bigger artillery.
2. Need bigger and faster ships to carry bigger artillery.
3. Steam won’t do the job. Need oil.
4. UK doesn’t have oil.
5. Uk government buys oil company in Iran.
6. World forever changed. Not the only by the victory of WW1, but the overnight ( relatively) change to a new energy source.

While the development of new nuclear technologies could take decades, the decision to vigorously pursue them could be debated n less than one election cycle.
The fact the governments have not commenced aggressive nuclear research programs show they are not serious about net zero.

Reply to  Waza
June 29, 2021 9:22 pm

They’re not, indeed. They’re still sinking 17 billions per year in solar and wind.

Reply to  Waza
June 30, 2021 2:27 am

I assume, Waza, that in point 3 you meant “Coal won’t do the job, need oil.” The oil just replaced the coal to make steam.

June 29, 2021 2:15 pm

Well, slave labor in western China does not cost much and I guess they expect it to continue.

June 29, 2021 2:24 pm

Good work toward exposing the lie of carbon neutrality. I used estimates in USGS ( to try to figure the carbon footprint for wind some time ago, but am sure their numbers are low, and the technology already obsolete. Modern turbines use much more resources, including fossil fuels, than they were able to predict just a short time ago.

June 29, 2021 2:46 pm

Hmmm… I think you are overblowing it somewhat, good sir. I am a chemist, and as it turns out the ‘vast amounts’ really must be turned into something more quantitative in order to be confirmed as ‘egregious’.  

2 SiO₂ ⊕ 3 C → 2 Si ⊕ 2 CO + CO₂
2(28 ⊕ 2 × 16) ⊕ 3(12) → 2(28) ⊕ 2(12 + 16) ⊕ 1(12 ⊕ 2 × 16)
120 + 36 → 56 + 56 + 44
156 = 156

Thing is, these numbers are all proportionate too; let’s say we’re interested in tons-of-silicon product:

¹²⁰⁄₁₅₆ sand + ³⁶⁄₁₅₆ coke = ⁵⁶⁄₁₅₆ silicon + ⁵⁶⁄₁₅₆ CO + ⁴⁴⁄₁₅₆ CO₂
77% sand + 23% coke → 36% silicon + 36% monoxide + 28% dioxide;

Trick is to divide the % of everything by the % of the “what we’re interested in”:

77%/36% = 2.14× sand ⊕ 0.64× coke → 1.0× silicon ⊕ 1.0× CO ⊕ 0.78× CO₂

So, 1 ton of silicon requires no less than 0.6 tons of coke.  

Give that the solar cells are sliced out to be basically 1 mm thick (including kerf, polishing tailings, etc.) and silicon having a bulk density of 2.33 kg/L, for wafers roughly 6 inches (150 mm) diameter (0.0176 m² ea), each wafer is about 0.0412 kg.  A little more math gets us to 150 kWh per kilogram, per year, of as-refined silicon. 18% efficiency, 28% of 24 hours useful collection, 280 of 365 useful days, all that.  

That would be about 150,000 kWh/year per ton of silicon, which takes ⅔ of a ton of carbon-as-coke input, yielding about 1.8 tons of CO₂ (converting the CO to CO₂ by ‘burning it’).

THIS IGNORES THE ENERGY INPUTS. How much coal or natural gas burned to produce the electricity for heating the kilns to recrystalize the silicon; to scrub flue gasses; to super-heat the reaction tubs themselves. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes upwards of 20 tons o CO₂ emissions to make the power, from the reaction and all the rest, per ton of silicon-turned-into-solar-cells. 

Still, that doesn’t seem terribly bad! A really BIG solar farm, 500 hectares, 50% ground covered in wafers, produces some 3,000,000,000 kWh a day using same equations, or 830 GWh per year, all in.  It uses up some 5,800,000 kilograms of wafers, the production of which spits out (at 20 kg/kg) 116,000,000 kg or 116,000 metric tons of CO₂.  

Again, doesn’t ‘feel’ egregious.

⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

Reply to  GoatGuy
June 29, 2021 3:14 pm

Good figures, I think, for raw silicon, but have you considered complete production engineering costs? It is much more complicated (and resource intensive) to turn silicon into a fit-for-use, working solar cell (or IC) than you may have considered in your calculations. At a plant I was once associated with, acceptable production waste rate for just doped silicon was as high as 70% by mass. Although I’ve not got recent figures, waste rates tended to get worse, not better, as production moved to places with cheaper labor costs and fewer regulations.

There were also wasted materials to consider in the chip-to-panel production flow, as well as usually somewhat smaller waste produced between manufacture and installation. These rates are all significant at high rates of production and deployment outside of the development lab.

We must also remember that integrated PV power system output degrades at >1%/year, meaning that efficiency losses, sooner or later, wipe out the power production/cost margin. Great for job security if one is in the supply business, but not all that great when there is no recycling capability and a plant has to be demolished and replaced.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 29, 2021 6:25 pm


Solar will never be “dispatchable”..

You may transmit its output while it is generating, but you cannot make it generate electricity when whenever you want it too.

Just ribbing you re your choice of words. I really appreciate your posts here.

Reply to  GoatGuy
June 29, 2021 3:58 pm

One error… 3,000,000 kWh/day. I was using watt-hours in some of my calculations.

Reply to  GoatGuy
June 29, 2021 4:35 pm

Also, it should be noted, that the trend line of long-term-reliable battery storage is to push-and-receive back roughly 2,500× to 4,000× the kWh rating, over the whatever-the-life-is of the battery stack.  For instance, at $500/kWh, that comes in at anywhere from 20¢ to 12½¢ per kWh delivered in amortized cost-of-goods share.  

And the trend is getting longer.  Without too much trouble, since stationary batteries aren’t anywhere near as constrained for mass-to-kilowatt-hour density as are vehicular and especially aeronautical, the very, very inexpensive sodium-sulfur secondary battery (rechargeable) would do quite nicely, with the reactants being molten sodium and sulfur.  

Sounds dangerous, but with a pretty work of good engineering, could give us 35+ year batteries at less than $100 per kWh, and able to cycle over 10,000× the kWh rating overall.  Basically around a couple of ¢ per kilowatt hour, delivered. With absolutely NO possibility of putting a dent on the supply of raw materials.  An ocean full of sodium as table salt, and every last ‘sour crude’ well squirting up the black stuff. Which is about 2% to 4% sulfur by weight.  

There are literally mountains of waste sulfur on this planet.  Many cubic kilometers. Perhaps upward of 1,000 billion tons. Sitting there, with nothing to do.  Agriculture can only use so much!

So… I think criticism of the battery-storage-to-answer-renewable energy’s problems … is overbearing.  It just takes the will power of the public to demand that bûtt-simple tech be used, which is also ridiculously cheap. (Sodium-sulfur has been considered for locomotives of all ratings, as making the equivalent of battery-boxcars isn’t particularly impacted by their huge mass.  If anything, putting electric motors on the things at the very least makes them self-propelling, and perhaps even augmenting to the main engines. Win-win, sez me.  

⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

Reply to  GoatGuy
June 29, 2021 6:09 pm

Lead-acid is pretty cheap, ubiquitous, well-understood, and recyclable, as well as quicker-to-deployment.
As for rail, WABTEC and GM just tested an electric locomotive. The two press releases I’ve read fall short of revealing useful charge rates/times and loading, but when rigged in tandem with a regular diesel-electric as a hybrid in a limited-use test, they claimed 11% fuel savings. Given the purchase cost (back-of-envelope estimated at 20x a diesel loco) and maintenance/replacement and other lifecycle costs, they’d have been IMO better off with a cheaper technology than lithium.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  GoatGuy
June 29, 2021 4:46 pm

Modern Si solar cells are extremely thin, thinner than the width of the wafer saws, and tend to curl up like potato chips. There is a rate at which wafers/cells are broken in production.

Other fixed energy costs include tempered float-glass

Fossil fuels are needed to create the polymers for the encapsulation (EVA/Tedlar)

Reply to  GoatGuy
June 30, 2021 11:37 pm

I thought you might be interested in the following link GoatGuy. Hardwood timber is an ingredient I didn’t expect to see in a recipe for silicon ingots. And apparently around half of the ingot is lost when sawn into wafers and is typically discarded.

Christopher Hanley
June 29, 2021 2:57 pm

The Grattan Institute is a left-of-centre ‘think tank’.
“… commodities’ export earnings would fall as global efforts to combat climate change accelerated …” (Treasury).
Fossil fuel demand will be around for decades at least for reliable base-load power.
Oddly the article doesn’t mention nuclear:
comment image

Reply to  Christopher Hanley
June 29, 2021 4:12 pm

Eric. Nice post.
Here’s a new article on mineral requiremnts for RE:
As noted in acouple of posts above, the life expectancy of wind & solar is short.
Much shorter than coal, nat gas, nuclear or hydro — and they never include replacemnt
costs (or back-up!) in the cost estimates. And Vaclav Smil’s estimates of EROEI for
wind and solar are also poor.
Also, two more for your reading pleasure:

Reply to  Christopher Hanley
June 29, 2021 9:30 pm

The Grattan Institute are Greens, which means they’re socialists, of the champagne variety.

Gary Pearse
June 29, 2021 7:36 pm

Eric, the furnace is a Carbon arc one that consumes those metre+ diameter carbon “rods”. High power demand and giant carbon emissions. I’ve visited such a plant south of Montreal on a hot July day with inside temps breaking all the recent Pacific N W heat wave Ts. Worker rotated out and back on 20 min turns.

John MacDonald
June 29, 2021 8:51 pm

Eric, please clarify your article for the instances where you mention cement and concrete. I fear you have them interchanged in some spots.
Cement is the binder.
Concrete is the structural material created by mixing cement, aggregate and water.
Otherwise a good article. Thanks

Gerry, England
June 30, 2021 7:02 am

More of an issue is how to keep mining operations going when connected to an unreliable electricity grid.

June 30, 2021 8:28 am

The goal all along has been to (sorry, mods) “make fossil fuels the GND’s bitch” Take all their money, gaslight them 24/7, make them the Devil himself while elevating GND-style thought into the New Religion which CAN be taught in schools. That scary old catchphrase “Get ’em by 8 or it’s too late” wasn’t lost on Billy Mckibben, was it?

June 30, 2021 9:05 am

Regarding ” . . . turning quartz or high grade sand into silicon . . . ”

The high grade sand you refer to is quartz. Just eroded over eons into sand sized particles.

June 30, 2021 4:15 pm

Current Climate Logic: try to reduce emissions with the ‘energy transition’ and emissions will drastically increase!

Verified by MonsterInsights