Green Energy: Greatest Wealth Transfer to the Rich in History

From MasterResource

By Steve Goreham — February 21, 2023

“Since 2000, the world has spent more than $5 trillion on green energy. More than 300,000 wind turbines have been erected, millions of solar arrays were installed, more than 25 million electric vehicles (EVs) have been sold, hundreds of thousands of acres of forest were cut down to produce biomass fuel, and about three percent of agricultural land is now used to produce biofuel for vehicles.”

We are in the midst of history’s greatest wealth transfer. Government subsidized wind systems, solar arrays, and electric vehicles overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy members of society and rich nations. The poor and middle class pay for green energy programs with higher taxes and higher electricity and energy costs. Developing nations suffer environmental damage to deliver mined materials needed for renewables in rich nations.

Since 2000, the world has spent more than $5 trillion on green energy. More than 300,000 wind turbines have been erected, millions of solar arrays were installed, more than 25 million electric vehicles (EVs) have been sold, hundreds of thousands of acres of forest were cut down to produce biomass fuel, and about three percent of agricultural land is now used to produce biofuel for vehicles. The world spends about $1 trillion per year on green energy. Government subsidies run about $200 billion annually, with more than $1 trillion in subsidies spent over the last 20 years.

World leaders obsess over the need for a renewable energy transition to save the planet from human-caused global warming. Governments deliver an endless river of cash to promote adoption of green energy. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provided $370 billion in subsidies and loans for renewables and EVs. But renewable subsidies and mandates overwhelmingly favor the rich members of society at the expense of the poor.

Wind systems receive production tax credits, property tax exemptions, and sometimes receive payments even when not generating electricity. Landowners receive as much as $8,000 per turbine each year from leases for wind systems on their land. Lease income can be quite high for a landowner with many turbines. In England, ordinary taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of pounds per year in taxes that are funneled as subsidies to wind companies and wealthy land owners.

In the US, 39 states currently have net metering laws. Net metering provides a credit for electricity generated by rooftop solar systems that is fed back into the grid. Solar generators typically get credits at the retail electricity rate, about 14 cents per kilowatt-hour. This is a subsidized rate, which is more than double the roughly five cents per kilowatt-hour earned by power plants. Apartment residents and homeowners that cannot afford to install rooftop solar pay higher electricity bills to subsidize homes that receive net metering credits. Rooftop solar owners also receive federal and state tax incentives, another wealth transfer from ordinary citizens.

US federal subsidies of up to $7,500 for each electric car purchased, along with additional state subsidies, directly benefit EV buyers. The average price of an EV in the US last year was $66,000, which is out of reach for most drivers. A 2021 University of Chicago study found that California EV owners only drive 5,300 miles per year, less than half the mileage for a typical car. Most electric cars in the US are second cars for the rich.

A mid-size electric car needs a battery that weighs about a 1,000 pounds to provide acceptable driving range. Because of battery weight, EVs tend to be about 50 percent heavier than gasoline cars, which causes increased road damage. But EVs don’t pay the road tax included in the price of every gallon of gasoline. EVs should pay higher road taxes than traditional cars, but today this cost is borne by everyday gasoline car drivers.

Renewable systems require huge amounts of special metals. Electric car batteries need cobalt, nickel, and lithium to achieve high energy density and performance. Magnets in wind turbines require rare earth metals, such as neodymium and dysprosium. Large quantities of copper are essential for EV engines, batteries, wind and solar arrays, and electricity transmission systems to connect to remote wind and solar sites. According to the International Energy Agency, an EV requires about six times the special metals of a gasoline or diesel car. A wind array requires more than ten times the metals of a natural gas power plant on a delivered-electricity basis. The majority of these metals are mined in developing countries.

Almost 70 percent of cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Indonesia produces more than 30 percent of the world’s nickel. Chile produces 28 percent of the copper. China produces 60 percent of the rare earth metals. These nations struggle with serious air and water pollution from mining operations. Workers in mines also suffer from poor working conditions and the use of forced labor and child labor practices. But apparently no cost is too great so that rich people in developed nations can drive a Tesla.

To top it off, the European Union recently approved a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). The CBAM will tax goods coming from poor nations which aren’t manufactured using low-carbon processes. CBAM revenues will be a great source of funds for Europe’s green energy programs that benefit the wealthy.

In January, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Washington proposed a wealth tax on billionaires. It’s interesting to note that all seven of these states mandate and heavily subsidize wind and solar arrays and electric vehicles, which transfer wealth from poor and middle-class residents to those same billionaires.


Steve Goreham is a speaker on energy, the environment, and public policy and author of Outside the Green Box: Rethinking Sustainable Development, reviewed here. His previous posts at MasterResource are here.

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Philip Mulholland
February 22, 2023 12:14 am

This brings new context to the phrase “poor little Rich”

Gras Albert
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
February 23, 2023 3:38 am

The 2007 Climate Change Act, sponsored by the Labour party’s Ed Milliband, is the single most successful act of parliament to become law in the UK in the last 300 years at transferring wealth from the poor to the rich.


Because the rich own the land where wind & solar installations are located and therefore receive the bulk of the subsidies raised by energy price rises paid by the poor.

February 22, 2023 2:14 am

OK the rubbish idea of green power/renewables has won the intellectual war, but why/how? Were the world’s policy makers at once persuaded by the Peak Oil argument around the 1992 Rio Earth summit, and realised they had to make a virtue out of a necessity? Did Wall Street have a eureka moment and realise it was possible to convert all those petro dollars into electro dollars which would (mostly) be owned by them? Is greenery a cunning marxist plot to destroy capitalism? Or a United Nations-type wheeze to take money off the developed countries and give it to the third world? When nonsense is presented as sense, someone somewhere must know what the heck is going on.

William Howard
Reply to  explain
February 22, 2023 9:21 am

the former head of the UNIPCC is on record that the “environmental movement” is more about the destruction of capitalism than saving the environment – once you grasp that then all the nonsense makes sense

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  William Howard
February 22, 2023 9:39 am


This platform lays out a bold national climate policy agenda that advances the goals of economic, racial, climate, and environmental justice. The platform identifies areas where the undersigned environmental justice (EJ) and national groups are aligned on desired outcomes for the national climate policy agenda. The platform also lays the foundation for our organizations to vastly improve the way we work together to advance ambitious and equitable national climate policies and to work through remaining differences.

Mark Shulgasser
Reply to  William Howard
February 25, 2023 7:19 pm

It’s not the destruction of capitalism, it IS capitalism.

Reply to  explain
February 24, 2023 7:20 am

It is about control. The control of the movement for the pleb(me and you). The control over the totality of the economy and slowing it and speeding it up to the Regime’s liking. It has nothing to do with peak oil nor does it concern itself with the environment. The carbon they want to reduce is you and me.

Bill Toland
February 22, 2023 2:20 am

This brings to mind the cynical definition of foreign aid which is taking money from poor people in rich countries to give to rich people in poor countries.

February 22, 2023 2:21 am

why did my comment disappear

Ron Long
February 22, 2023 2:23 am

Good collection of data and comments in this report by Steve. My experience, working in 13 different countries around the world, is that the alliance between some rich persons and some politicians is the opportunity for corruption. Both of them want a large flow of money, and the origin and destination is not really important. They then go fishing in this flow of money, and not with a fishing pole, like regular persons, but with a large net which gets them more than their share. Here is an interesting observation, of two recent US Presidents one made 100 Million $ while President, and one lost more than 500 Million $ while President. One was in favor of Greenie stuff and one was not. Just saying.

February 22, 2023 2:27 am

Wasn’t it at Copenhagen that a UN official explained that to understand what they were about it was necessary to give up any ideas it had anything to do with climate, the environment, or saving the world? “We are here to redistribute the world’s wealth.”

February 22, 2023 3:18 am

Feudalism is the new black

February 22, 2023 4:21 am

Creating economic activity does not by itself result in “wealth transfer”. Wealth is the accumulation of assets. Building and operating a million dollar windmill create economic activity of a million dollars, plus the multiplier effect, and that does not go into the hands of some smarmy rich guy, but most of that goes to workers and suppliers, and the suppliers pay their workers, and all those workers buy other stuff in the economy, hence the “multiplier effect” of spending. And all those workers pay taxes on their earnings, which flow back into the national treasuries .. and all those workers themselves build some wealth.

All of the above is exactly like the economic activity associated with oil and gas, coal, nuclear, and geothermal energy production.

So this post is highly misleading and inflammatory. The economic effect of renewable energy is exactly like the economic effect of any other business enterprise.

A valid argument can certainly be made as to whether the economic activity associated with renewable energy is ideally efficient, or is not. But to claim that somehow this industry produces only fat profits in the pockets of rich dudes is silly populism, not serious economic analysis.

Reply to  Duane
February 22, 2023 4:47 am

Duane, you are essentially arguing against Bastiat and his parable of the broken window.

You almost acknowledge the heart of the issue, whether “renewable energy is ideally efficient, or is not.”

But it’s not just a matter of efficiency. All sources of “renewable” energy, including solar panels made through energy and mass of coal, as well as wind turbines similarly, are completely dependent upon natural hydrocarbon mass and energy and could not be made nor operated without it.

Kevin Kilty
Reply to  Scissor
February 22, 2023 5:35 am

Beat me to it, Scissor. The idea of opportunity cost is/was a tremendous insight on Bastiat’s part and yet is a difficult concept for most people to grasp.

Reply to  Kevin Kilty
February 22, 2023 6:29 am

Yep. When it comes to economics, history should help guide us, and it’s full of great teachers.

Leftist Duane could benefit from being exposed to a few lessons.

Kevin Kilty
Reply to  Scissor
February 22, 2023 7:25 am
William Howard
Reply to  Kevin Kilty
February 22, 2023 9:29 am

I like the term – Litter Jobs – if we didn’t litter what would all those people collecting trash on the highways have to do

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Scissor
February 22, 2023 7:34 am

Tell me again. Why did Warren Buffet say if it wasn’t for the subsidies he would not be investing in wind?

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Dave Andrews
February 22, 2023 7:34 am

That was meant as a reply to Duane.

William Howard
Reply to  Dave Andrews
February 22, 2023 9:29 am

not to mention Elon

Reply to  Dave Andrews
February 22, 2023 11:48 am

“For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” -Warren Buffet cited by U.S. News/Nancy Pfotenhauer

William Howard
Reply to  Scissor
February 22, 2023 9:27 am

nonsense – the green energy movement is a governmental cramdown – taking money in the form of higher energy costs to subsidize “green” energy projects is nothing like oil or gas which organically grew into industries that have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and helped to create the highest standard of living the world has ever known

Reply to  William Howard
February 24, 2023 1:04 pm

Remember, people who want to lower your standard of living are not your friends.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Duane
February 22, 2023 5:33 am

“A valid argument can certainly be made as to whether the economic activity associated with renewable energy is ideally efficient, or is not.”

Drop the taxpayer subsidies for Windmill farms and they will go out of business. They are not economically viable on their own. Their existance disrupts the energy market and raises the costs to everyone.

We should stop building windmills, and tear down the ones that exist now.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Duane
February 22, 2023 6:24 am

No it is NOT “exactly like economic activity associated with oil and gas, coal, or nuclear,” all of which provide useful energy without which there would be no economy.

There IS NO NEED FOR “renewables” (wind and solar) whatsoever. They make the electric grid less reliable and more expensive, the “benefits” are purely for the “rent seekers” being given taxpayer largesse.

Reply to  Duane
February 22, 2023 8:53 am

Jeesh, Duane, it’s the ancient broken window myth. You didn’t know that?

Reply to  Duane
February 22, 2023 8:57 am

Here’s how the business and media worlds really work.

Lobbyists buy biased news story coverage or pure fabrication in order to further their uncompetitive cause.

Exhibit A: note the strategy in labeling America’s grid as outdated because it does not support grid expansion to nowhere and supported by pay to play news.
Why America’s outdated energy grid is a climate problem (

Exhibit B: the regulatory process becomes a target when it does not bend for the new agenda reach also pushed by paid lobbyists and pay to play news.
Why it’s so hard to add electrical transmission lines in the U.S. (

Stephen Philbrick
Reply to  Duane
February 22, 2023 5:38 pm

So you think that:
> this post is highly misleading and inflammatory. 

However, you are the one claiming:
> But to claim that somehow this industry produces only fat profits in the pockets of rich dudes is silly populism, not serious economic analysis.

That’s not just misleading, it’s a lie. The post does assert
> overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy members of society and rich nations. 

I’d like to see an honest study of who does benefit, and I won’t be surprised if this assertion is a bit of an exaggeration, but your claim that it only benefits rich dudes is nonsense, so I’m not taking your post seriously.

Tom Abbott
February 22, 2023 5:20 am

From the article: “More than 300,000 wind turbines have been erected,”

What a travesty! A Horror Show! And totally unnecessary.

A Big Lie has caused this descent into Climate Change madness.

William Howard
Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 22, 2023 9:31 am

Condor Cuisinarts

February 22, 2023 6:10 am

Many like to find meaning or metaphors for life in fictional works such as The Godfather (the movie, not the book, which was unremarkable). I find a lot of illustration of the battle between good and evil in the Lord of the Rings. In this case, I see governmental power much like The Ring, in that one always takes it up to wield for “good” but invariably and inexorably it corrupts the would be wielder to greater and greater evil, until eventually all thoughts of doing good fall away and all that is left is unbridled, naked evil. Governmental power is precisely like that. The US experiment was designed to limit government to only that which is absolutely necessary, due to experiences with colonial rule, but like the Ring, the power slowly and inexorably corrupts the wielder. The desire to “do good” by somehow “fighting” climate change is no different. It inexorably leads to great evil. So many common adages reflect this it is a wonder people take so little note, such as “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” or ” power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” When will we ever learn.

Reply to  fah
February 22, 2023 7:17 am

<i>The US experiment was designed to limit government to only that which is absolutely necessary</i>

The key word is “experiment”. The designers of experiments can’t know for sure the outcome or the action wouldn’t, by definition, be an experiment. In any large experiment large numbers of people who don’t understand it or are even completely unaware that they are the very subjects of the experiment can easily be the victims of a failed experiment, such as what we are seeing with renewable energy. An individual powering his home with a turbine risks only his own time and money if it fails. On the other hand, if government mandates or encourages installation of thousands of turbines and solar panels, their failure affects in many negative ways completely disinterested parties who have no choice in the matter, even in a faux democracy.

February 22, 2023 7:21 am

Billionaires never lose.

February 22, 2023 7:38 am

Oh my. Woman in center — “I’ll get you, my pretties. And your little ICE cars too! Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha”

Tom Abbott
Reply to  beng135
February 22, 2023 2:48 pm

Then the House falls on her.

February 22, 2023 8:45 am
John M. Cape - Author of Poorly Zeroed
February 22, 2023 8:54 am

Steve, enjoyed this article. Is it still possible to sign up for notifications for future articles you release? I used to enjoy them in the past, but my email has changed.

Janice Moore
February 22, 2023 10:01 am

“Green” Energy.

Bob Weber
Reply to  Janice Moore
February 23, 2023 5:59 am

The graft is always greener on the other side.

February 22, 2023 3:40 pm

Very nice.
February 23, 2023 5:52 am

Reply to John M. Cape:

John, just email me at [snip} and I will add you again to my friends list.


[I’ll put you two in touch. We avoid email addresses here.-cr]

Reply to
February 24, 2023 1:07 pm

But the user name is an email address too.

February 24, 2023 12:46 pm

23 years later and 5 trillion down the drain and the evil CO2 which is the cause of all the concern continues to rise in the atmosphere unabated.

I hope you all enjoy your hijacked standard of living for no demonstrated reason.

Mark Shulgasser
February 25, 2023 7:16 pm

It’s a play for dominance of the energy market — the largest in the entire world’s economy. One form of energy production is trying to drive out another, not by providing cheaper and more efficient energy, but by convincing the public to shun the currently dominant sector through fear and guilt. Quadrillions are to be made by convincing people to pay more for less. Banking on such profits, it’s easy to buy off ‘academic science,’ a bloated institution of diminishing profitability. It’s simply the continuing operation of capitalism.

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