Dominant “ethical” models ignore vital energy, environmental, labor and human rights issues
More and more companies, banks, universities and investment houses are adopting standards and disclosure rules for the environment, social affairs and corporate governance (ESG). They are being pressured to do so by activists, lawmakers and regulators. Many expect to get rich from “renewable” energy projects subsidized by the taxpayer.
Almost all hope to “wash their reputation green” by claiming they will “make the world a better place” by reducing fossil fuel emissions, reducing planetary temperatures and extreme weather events.
You recently got a boost from the US House of Representatives. It voted 215-214 party lines to pass bill that supports the Securities and Exchange Commission’s plans to introduce new ESG rules that require publicly traded companies to disclose “climate risks” allegedly caused by the oil, gas and coal production and use. Some believe the SEC might pay more attention now to ESG climate claims and wrongdoing, but that seems unlikely.
Regardless, organizations that have woken up need to wake up to the realities of climate, renewable energies and ESG.
The increasingly hysterical climate and weather statements were made by Dr. Thoroughly exposed Roy Spencer, Gregory Wrightstone, Marc Morano, Steven Koonin, and others. But what is really outrageous about ESG is the way it studiously ignores the massive, widespread damage caused by pseudo-renewable energy.
Wind and sunlight are certainly clean, renewable and sustainable. But harnessing their highly dispersed, unpredictable, weather-dependent energy to meet the vast and growing energy needs of humanity is absolutely not. This requires land and raw materials that are anything but renewable – with fuels and processes that are absolutely not clean, green, ecological or sustainable. Because they fail to realize this, ESG programs are dishonest, even fraudulent – and need to be reformed, investigated or abolished.
The demand for wind, solar and battery land as well as raw materials is astronomical. Onshore wind turbines require nine times more metals and minerals per megawatt than a modern gas-fired combined cycle power plant. An onshore 3 MW turbine foundation requires 600 cubic meters (1,500 tons) of concrete plus reinforcement.
Offshore wind requires 14 times more material per MW. The 2,100 850-foot (30,000 megawatts) offshore turbines that President Biden plans to install by 2030 alone would require 110,000 tons of copper and millions of tons of steel, aluminum, fiberglass, cobalt, rare earth metals and other materials.
With an average copper content of 0.44% worldwide in ore deposits, the copper alone would require the mining and processing of 25 million tons of ore after 40 million tons of overburden had been removed to reach the ore bodies!
Add materials for solar panels, other onshore and offshore wind turbines, backup battery systems, electric vehicles, transmission lines, and all-electric home heating and cooking systems – to power the entire US, Europe, and the world – and the “green energy transition” would have hundreds Billions of tons of metals, minerals and plastics, trillion tons of ores, trillion tons of overburden and thousands of mines, processing plants and factories require. Almost all of these establishments use fossil fuels.
America’s laws and attitudes make mining in the United States nearly impossible, even to support ESG-certified “green” energy plants. That means that most of the mining and processing will be done in Africa, Asia and Latin America, increasingly by Chinese companies. Manufacturing is increasingly taking place in China, which is why the country is building more coal-fired power plants every month.
Pseudo-clean energy activities use dangerous chemicals and release toxic pollutants. They need huge amounts of water, often in the most arid regions of the world. They cause acid mine drainage, create mountains of old rock and often lead to huge “lakes” with toxic chemicals from the refining of the ores. Most are carried out under almost non-existent pollution controls, reclamation of mined land, endangered species, job security, child and slave labor, and fair wage rules.
40,000 African children as young as four are already involved in cobalt mining! Many Chinese solar modules are manufactured using Uighur forced labor. ESG “green” endeavors would multiply this slavery many times over.
These travesties happen overseas – out of sight and out of mind – causing ESG activists and profiteers to ceaselessly make false claims that fossil-fuel replacement energy is clean and virtuous. But when wind, solar, and battery systems are installed, the negative consequences will reverberate in the United States.
Hundreds of millions of hectares of scenic wildlife habitats and coastal areas would be affected; Millions of birds, bats, turtles and other wildlife displaced, maimed and killed. And when their short productive lifespan is over, billions of turbine blades, solar panels and batteries are sent to huge landfills because they cannot be recycled; Their toxic metals and chemicals could end up in soil, streams, and groundwater. The same will happen in Europe, Canada, Australia and elsewhere.
Even on windy days, Mr. Biden’s 2,100 monstrous offshore turbines won’t meet New York State’s peak summer electricity needs. Tens of thousands of turbines would be required to meet just the demand for US coastal cities. Dredging and filling work associated with the installation would suffocate molluscs and other benthic species. Vibration noise would affect the navigation and communication of whales and porpoises. Their mere presence would create major safety problems for aircraft and fishing, naval and merchant ships.
For a single industrial solar plant near Fredericksburg, Virginia, thousands of acres of forest habitat had to be cleared. Dominion Energy is planning solar power plants in an area of Virginia that is a quarter of Delaware. Solar systems proposed for the American Southwest would cover millions of acres of desert habitat. Wind and solar farms would threaten or exterminate dozens of bird and other species that environmentalists have used for decades to stop drilling, fracking and pipeline projects.
Connecting widely dispersed wind, solar and battery systems to industrial centers and urban areas would require thousands of kilometers of new transmission lines – and even more steel, copper and concrete. Battery fires have already destroyed electric vehicles and homes. Imagine huge warehouses with thousands of battery modules breaking out in huge, uncontrollable conflagration.
Biodiesel projects have already destroyed vital orangutan habitats, and thousands of acres of American deciduous forest habitats have been turned into wood pellets for Britain’s Drax power plant.
Threatened, endangered, migratory and marine species must be protected – wherever mining, processing and production take place and where “renewable” energy systems are considered. The effects of infrasound and light flicker on human health must guide decisions about how close wind turbines can be installed in residential and commercial premises.
Reformed ESG rules – let’s call them Environment and Human Rights Principles (EHR) – must stipulate that all of these issues are taken into account in any proposal for wind, solar, battery, transmission and biofuels.
People need to know in advance how many turbines, panels, batteries, and power lines are going to be considered; how many tons of metals, minerals, concrete and plastics are required; where these materials come from; under which environmental, environmental, environmental, safety, wage and child labor standards. Businesses and government agencies must certify that supply chains are free from child or slave labor.
Project-specific, comprehensive, and cumulative U.S. and global environmental studies must be conducted before projects are approved and must include regular, independent reviews of bird, bat, reptile, whale, porpoise, and other wildlife displacement, injuries, and deaths. Project studies must comprehensively assess all environmental, health, human rights and other impacts worldwide and must not be accelerated.
These reality-based EHR principles will help ensure that any “green future” is based on ethical standards that take into account all human and environmental impacts and actually make the world a better place. You can also help guide the SEC’s investigations and prosecutions for ESG misconduct and fraud – and fuel much-needed mining in the United States to help our dependence on China, Russia, Taliban-Afghanistan, and other opposing countries at critical and critical levels to decrease strategic minerals.
Paul Driessen is Senior Policy Analyst at the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy, environment, health and human rights issues.