Vital Energy Lessons for Virginia and America

Legislators shouldn’t Californicate Virginia or America on EVs and Green Energy

Paul Driessen       

When they open their 30-day session January 11, Virginia’s Senate and House of Delegates must correct some serious energy mistakes they made two years ago, when Democrats controlled nearly the entire state government and passed the “Virginia Clean Economy Act.”

One of its party-line provisions requires that Virginia adopt California’s requirement that only low emission vehicles (LEVs) be sold by model year 2025 and only zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) by MY 2035. That means in barely twelve years only new electric vehicles (EVs) could be sold in Virginia.

Again mimicking California, in addition to EVs, the VCEA also requires a massive shift from affordable, reliable coal and natural gas-generated electricity to expensive, weather-dependent, land-intensive wind and solar electricity, stabilized and backed up by huge batteries.

As I’ve explained previously (here, here, here and here), this is unworkable. Texas, Buffalo and the Midwest have demonstrated that heavy reliance on wind and solar can bring deadly blackouts during blizzards. California told residents not to charge their soon-to-be-mandatory EVs during last summer’s heat waves, to prevent blackouts. Switzerland might ban EV charging this winter for the same reason.  

The Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition PAC (SUVGOP) recognizes these realities, and understands that the wind turbines, solar panels and transmission lines will not be in Democrat strongholds like Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church and Richmond. They will be in beautiful rural Virginia, which will also be hardest hit by bans on gasoline and diesel vehicles. SUVGOP has therefore gotten the ball rolling on reversing these ill-advised laws, by launching a campaign to repeal LEV/ZEV mandates.

SUVGOP calls its campaign “Don’t CA my VA.” (When I lived in the Centennial State, bumper stickers proclaimed a crasser version of this message: “Don’t Californicate Colorado.”)

Arguments for avoiding or terminating LEV/ZEV mandates are compelling – for Virginia and America.

* While great for short hauls and some motorists, EVs don’t get you far along on your 800-mile vacation trip; recharging can take hours, depending on multiple factors; and charging stations are more limited off main highways.

* You don’t want to get caught in your EV during a hurricane evacuation or blizzard, especially since already limited battery life decreases in cold weather and with heater or AC use.

* EVs (and backup batteries) can burst into chemical-fueled infernos, especially if they get immersed in water. That can be catastrophic and deadly if the EV is in a home or underground garage (or on a cargo ship loaded with EVs). The fires cannot be extinguished with water.

* EVs require 3-4 times more metals than internal-combustion cars: copper, iron, nickel, aluminum, cobalt, lithium, rare earths and others. Those materials don’t just appear via Materials Acquisition for Global Industrial Change mechanisms (MAGIC). They must be dug out and processed, somewhere.

China’s BYD Auto company alone used 13,000 tons of copper to make EVs in 2016. Based on average porphyry ore deposits today, every 100,000 tons of copper requires processing 23,000,000 tons of copper ore, after removing 35,000,000 tons of overlying rock – using explosives and fossil fuels!

Start calculating how many billions of tons of copper and other metals and minerals would be required for all the EVs, wind turbines, solar panels, transmission lines, and grid-stabilizing and backup batteries Virginia, or your state, or the United States or entire world, are planning to mandate. Then calculate how many trillions of tons of ore that would require – and how much mining, blasting, processing and fuel.

Where will all that work take place? In whose backyards? With how much ecological destruction, air and water pollution, hazardous waste generation, slave and child labor, and human health risks?

“Clean” energy and vehicles? There may be zero emissions out of Virginia EV tailpipes – maybe even at the electricity source, if it comes from wind or solar power, when the wind is blowing and sun is shining.

But there is no “zero emissions” for mining, processing and manufacturing. It just happens somewhere else, often in Africa or Asia, often by Chinese companies – affecting someone else’s air and water quality, scenery, croplands, wildlife habitats, wildlife, health and wellbeing.

Meanwhile, millions of acres of Virginia and US lands would be covered with turbines, panels, transformers and transmission lines; millions of birds, bats and other animals would be killed annually.

Bottom line: There is no such thing as “clean, green, renewable, sustainable” energy or vehicles. It’s just a matter of where and how and how much the mining and materials processing, manufacturing and emissions take place. It’s just a matter of how good the “green” PR programs are; and whether US environmentalists, journalists and politicians recognize … or cancel and censor … these realities.

Earth’s atmospheric, oceanic and climate systems are global. The loss of habitats and species is a global problem. We should think globally, and act locally.

Regarding backup batteries, the VCEA mandates acquisition of 3,100 megawatts of storage. Assuming legislators meant 3,100 megawatt-hours, this would require some 36,000 Tesla half-ton 85-kWh modules; and it would still meet less than 1% of Virginia’s average daily electricity consumption (and less than 0.5% of its peak demand). This doesn’t include batteries to stabilize wind-solar grid fluctuations.

Virginia legislators therefore need to address these vitally important issues, as well – with some precision:

* How many wind turbines, solar panels, transformers, backup/grid-balancing battery modules, and miles of new transmission lines will The Old Dominion need to replace existing coal and gas generation?

* How many more will it require after half of all cars, trucks and buses are electric? After restaurants and new and remodeled homes are forced to have electric home and water heating, stoves and ovens, instead of gas – and upgrade home and neighborhood electrical systems to handle the added loads?

* Where and on whose property will all these “renewable” systems and power lines be installed? How many millions of acres of land and coastal areas (and their wildlife) will be impacted? Will residents or local governments be able to veto developments? How often will eminent domain be employed?

* How many millions (billions?) of tons of metals, minerals, carbon-fiber composites, plastics, concrete and other materials will be needed? How much ore, overburden and fuels? How many tons of pollution will be emitted, cumulatively, throughout the mining-processing-manufacturing-transportation process?

* How many of these materials (and turbines, panels, battery modules and transformers) will come from China or other adversarial nations, or their surrogates?  

* Under what pollution control, wildlife habitat and endangered species protection, workplace safety, slave and child labor, and other “responsible sourcing” laws will all this work be done?

* Where will worn out, broken and obsolete solar panels, enormous wind turbine blades and other non-recyclable equipment be landfilled?

* How many billions or trillions of dollars will all this cost Virginia and US ratepayers and taxpayers?

It takes more than declaring that actions taken under “clean economy” laws are “in the public interest” to make it so. It’s vital that legislators look beyond tailpipes, and beyond Virginia or US borders, to avoid destroying the planet with wind and solar, to save it from fossil fuels and “manmade climate change.”

The 2023 legislative session is a perfect opportunity to start reexamining “clean economy” assumptions, misconceptions and mandates – and implementing reality-based Environment-Social-Governance (ESG) principles. Are Virginia’s legislators up to the task?  

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow ( and author of books and articles on energy, environment, climate and human rights issues.

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Sweet Old Bob
January 9, 2023 6:09 pm
Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
January 9, 2023 8:05 pm
Reply to  rhs
January 10, 2023 6:29 am
Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
January 9, 2023 11:11 pm

The builder of our home went cheap – there isn’t even a 220 volt outlet in the kitchen, plus adding an electric stove would blow all the circuit breakers. We’ve examind upgrading the service to our house, and the last quote was US$10K. But at least then we’d have sufficient service to also replace the gas dryer, the gas hot water heater and the gas furnace. Maybe even enough to install an EV charger in the garage. Assuming that there is any electricity to be had.

Tom Halla
January 9, 2023 6:13 pm

Asking greens to do math is abusive wrongthink!

Reply to  Tom Halla
January 9, 2023 9:02 pm

England’s “intellectuals” are up in arms because Sunak is proposing that people have to take some form of math classes in high school up to 18. Typically, if you are innumerate, as many of the UK’s thinking classes are, you can effectively drop maths after 16. And be proud of it. I Imagine if you substitute “illiterate” for “innumerate”

It doesnot add up
Reply to  steveastrouk2017
January 10, 2023 4:22 am

The real problem is that children are no longer drilled in basic arithmetic and other simple maths when they get to school. Adding more classes at age 16-18 isn’t going to cure that.

abolition man
Reply to  Tom Halla
January 10, 2023 12:39 am

The maths are waaaascist!!

John Pickens
January 9, 2023 6:59 pm

At very minimum, ask the legislators to demand a single example of a wind, solar, and battery system which is successfully operating in the real world today. Trying to create a system without a working prototype is insane.

Reply to  John Pickens
January 10, 2023 7:59 am

I’d also like to see a prototype for net zero mining.
I suppose it would involve a lot of slave labor.

January 9, 2023 7:52 pm

Don’t worry Virginia, or USA in general.

All that mining will never happen, & it is not planned to happen. The whole renewable energy & battery electric car thing is being used to ween the general public off the current rate of energy use, & to get the publis back to walking, or cycling if they are lucky.

It was never intended that the peasantry should ever have so much cumfort or mobility.

John Aqua
January 9, 2023 8:18 pm

Maybe right-minded (correct) and thinking people should counter the term of “clean energy” immediately with intermittent and socially unacceptable energy. Every time it is spoken. That is how a movement is started.

Stuart Baeriswyl
Reply to  John Aqua
January 9, 2023 8:53 pm

The so-called “green energy” is, in reality, not so green at all! I really liked this article (as well as recent ones by Vijay J. and Javier V.) that take great 40,000ft views of the developing energy landscape showing the incredible danger of trying to abolish our truly green CO2 laden fossil fuel friends. I only wish that more of our citizenry could have access to good information like this.

January 9, 2023 9:35 pm

It is not easy to find a significant new mine.
You cannot simply make a government policy to find 10 times as miny mines as currently.
The scientific community has to be developed with people fluent in the correct technology to even have a chance to find one, let alone many.
Assuming adequate education of enough professionals, then the ability of exploreres to access land has been reduced in many countries over the last 25 years. That is a big restriction.
Even then, chance plays a part. Meny new finds have been just short of economic to mine and have been rejected. As price and demand increases, these near misses have to be available again. Many countries have made it hard to revisit.
The following image shows the scale of what is possible with the best of technology, medium-good land acces in the past and a corporate Board brave enough to fund exploration of aboiut 50 professionals over 20 years. I was fortunate to be part of the group that did this. At current dollar costs and commodity prices, sales from these illustrated mines to date is over $50 billion.
Good luck with your electric vehicles, Virginia. You have a low probability of success with the 2035 all-electric plan. Drop it.
Geoff S

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
January 10, 2023 6:21 am

I don’t think they define “success” the same way you or I do…

Reply to  stevekj
January 11, 2023 3:59 pm

They would know more about the value of intangibles like “definitions” if they had to face a life without the benefits of mineral discoveries.
The trendy presently threat each other about too much CO2.
A far bigger, more real threat is lowering the rate of new mineral discoveries.
But it is also trendy to vilify mining.
There is just too much damage from trendy.
Geoff S

January 9, 2023 9:41 pm

100,000 tons of copper requires processing 23,000,000 tons of copper ore, after removing 35,000,000 tons of overlying rock 

Using these numbers, the stripping ratio is calculated to be 1.52. The grade of the ore is 0.43%.These are typical values for copper and the prime reason it currently sells for CNY60,000/t. Each tonne of copper embodies a huge amount of energy to get it from rock to shiny metal.

The motors, circuitry and electronic components in a BEV contain a high percentage of copper.

The engine of an ICE vehicle is mostly good ol’ iron.

To get 100,000 tonnes of iron requires mining 160,000 tonne of ore, grading 62% iron, and stripping ratios usually fractional requiring around 90,000 tonne of overburden remover to access the ore. Most of what comes out of the ground is just oxidised iron. That is the reason pig iron costs CNY3300/t. Again reflecting the energy that goes into its conversion from rock in the ground to a not so shiny metal.

The new price of any vehicle is a good indicator of the energy it embodies. Some cars have very expensive badges that can add a fortune but, that aside, the price is usually a good indicator of the energy embodied.

China is enabling these developed world fantasies for BEVs and “renewables” by keeping the internal price for their thermal coal to CNY700/t. If Chinese manufacturing was forced to use coal at international prices, every manufactured item would be multiples of the current price.

Lithium carbonate (a stable form of lithium with just 18.8% lithium metal) currently sells for CNY502,500/t. Lithium metal embodies a lot of energy as well as current scarcity impacting on price.

Last edited 21 days ago by RickWill
It doesnot add up
Reply to  RickWill
January 10, 2023 4:46 am

What are “international prices”? API2 CIF Rotterdam 6,000kcal/kg is $170/tonne. Northern Appalachia is $115/short ton for 13,000 Btu/lb or about 7,200kcal/kg, equal to about $87/tonne on a 6,000kcal basis. Chinese price is $100/tonne for 5,500 kcal/kg. Doesn’t look that far out of line to me. Coal is inevitably cheaper if you get to use it at minemouth. Look at Powder River Basin for example.

Reply to  It doesnot add up
January 10, 2023 5:04 pm

The Chinese price of CNY700/t persisted through 2022 and planned for all 2023.

The API2 CIF Rotterdam peaked at USD438/t in 2022. It held at over USD300/t from April through October.

Low Chinese coal price is subsidising their manufacturing. China is such a large consumer that their coal mining is doing OK at the fixed price and I doubt would have much access to any export market. On the other hand, the Australian government has just capped Australia coal price for internal use at AUD125/t, which is about half the current price in the export market. And Australian miners have ready access to export markets.

Australian industry will not benefit from the price capping because it will be offset by a new carbon tax. It is unlikely to benefit households because the generators set price to maximise profits and that is based entirely on supply and demand. And there is not an excess of coal capacity. In fact it will be in severe deficit if Liddell shuts down entirely in April.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  RickWill
January 10, 2023 7:28 am

A lot of today’s ICE engines, if not the vast majority, use aluminum blocks and heads, as opposed to cast iron. They may have cast iron (or steel) cylinder liners, but most are no longer a hunk of iron.

Reply to  AGW is Not Science
January 10, 2023 5:26 pm

The mining of aluminium ores is much more favourable than copper. Bauxite grading around 20% aluminium is mined with minimal stripping in Australia – just removal of scrub.

It is more energy intensive to convert bauxite to shiny metal on a tonnage basis than iron but not much more on a volume basis. Current price for aluminium is CNY16,500/t. That buys 370 litres of aluminium. It would cost CNY9600/t to buy the same volume off pig iron. So the aluminium is more expensive than iron but still a fraction of copper.

Using aluminium makes economic sense because there is less mass to lug about so the whole vehicle mass can be reduced. There is no economic sense in making BEVs. They are an extravagant indulgence for developed countries made possible by China using low cost coal.

Joel O’Bryan
January 9, 2023 11:12 pm

Just say “No!” to the Climate Scam.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
January 10, 2023 3:37 am

Yep: been doing that for 4 decades and counting.

Dodgy Geezer
January 10, 2023 12:18 am

These are all logical arguments.

Logical arguments are pointless and useless against a religion. If anything, they simply make the recipients of these complaints even less likely to change their minds.

What we have seen is that arguing against woke beliefs such as BLM, transgenderism, climate change and Covid vaccines simply result in the closure and banning of the media outlets and people doing the arguing.

Gunga Din
January 10, 2023 6:27 am

* While great for short hauls and some motorists, EVs don’t get you far along on your 800-mile vacation trip; recharging can take hours, depending on multiple factors; and charging stations are more limited off main highways.

Maybe passenger trains will streamline their routes and make a comeback?
When we got married back in the mid-80s, we compared taking a train from west-central Ohio to Tampa Florida to flying.
Flying would get us there early afternoon the next day if we caught an early morning flight out of Dayton. We’d have to drive to Dayton to catch it. (Who wants to get up at 4 or 5 AM the morning after their wedding night?)
We thought if we caught a train that evening maybe it would get us there late afternoon the next day. Well, one route took to first to Chicago for a 12 layover with more layovers along the way. It would cost us an extra one or two days. An alternative route required us to drive to DC and, with the driving would also cost us an extra day or so.
We flew.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Gunga Din
January 10, 2023 1:57 pm

PS My Dad took my my brothers and I on an overnight a train to DC. It was on the C&O in a sleeper. First overnight on a train. (Just before Amtrak). We then flew back on a 707. First time on plane.

January 10, 2023 8:17 am

Mr. Driessen:

I want to thank you for the succinct terminology – net zero mining. I plan to use this in the future.
People are fixated on the emissions from the tailpipe and not on how it got there.

January 10, 2023 11:02 am

It’s now a race to undo Trump in one Party and energy/climate stupidity in the Democrat Party.

January 10, 2023 11:03 am

Better fix it or another horde will head to North Carolina and Georgia.

Andy Pattullo
January 10, 2023 11:05 am

We live in a science fiction movie where policy is based on science fiction, the future we are promised is clearly science fiction and the competence of our leaders and policy writers is the biggest fiction of all. The people making these decisions are either complete fools or deliberate social saboteurs trying to depopulate our planet. It has nothing to do with protecting the environment. They can’t be so stupid as to not understand the devastation that will occur to our planet when 8 billion people try to survive without any of the critical systems our modern society normally provides based on cheap reliable energy. They predicted Armageddon and then immediately set about trying to make that prediction come true. Those of us with the power of the vote and the ability to fire our leaders will either die with our families amidst chaos or get our act together and fire the entire lot of clowns we call leaders.

Last edited 21 days ago by Andy Pattullo
Reply to  Andy Pattullo
January 10, 2023 11:17 am

And just to rub it in, they will ignore or criticize declines in global temps using NASA satellites because they don’t fit “debate has ended” policy theme that was itself declared by a politico Nobel “Laureate” (Gore) and the money grubbers at the UN.

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