Bufka: the simple truth about the Energy Transition Delusion

There just aren’t enough minerals to make it happen

By Karen Bufka

I have a crush on a man named Mark Mills. Why? Because of his remarkably lucid, down-to-earth, information-packed presentation Energy Transition Delusion: Inescapable Mineral Realities.  

For me, apparently, clear-thinking and well-informed is the new sexy.  

Mr. Mills, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and Faculty Fellow at Northwestern University McCormick School of Engineering is addressing investment professionals at the Skagen Funds’ New Year’s Conference 2023 but we can attend with them on Youtube.  

I consider it foundational for any discussion of S.5, the Affordable Heat Act or any other proposed public policy regarding the implementation of renewable energy technologies here in Vermont.

His thesis: whatever our aspirations, the world’s mining can not and will not be able to supply us with the required quantities of the two dozen or so minerals needed to make the machines of our world’s “Energy Transition”.   

He briefly acknowledges the social and environmental problems associated with mining these minerals, the political and economic challenges, too, but his very simple message is that all of those pale in comparison with the simple issue of getting enough of these minerals out of the earth to supply the anticipated, skyrocketing demand.  

In the mining world, problems are solved over decades. The world needs hundreds of new mines to supply the minerals for batteries and solar panels, but mines take 16 years to get going. Investment in mining globally is less than 10% of what it needs to be, so how are those hundreds of new mines going to happen? And are they going to happen immediately? Unlikely.

The video is 46 minutes long, but if you want to get the point and have limited time, start @9 minutes in and go as far as you can. He notes that an EV requires 400% more minerals (and different minerals) to build than a conventional car. It takes 1000-2000% more minerals to deliver the same unit of power as that conventional car. 

If you shift from talking about power to talking about delivering energy with EVs, solar panels or wind turbines—actual miles driven, or the heat, light or computing time they produce— then it takes 2000-7000% more minerals per unit of energy delivered for us humans to use. The point: you need lots and lots—and lots!— of these specific minerals to get the intended jobs done.

Copper is one of the necessary minerals, one that doesn’t have a substitute. A shortage is expected in the next 2-3 years.  Demand will outstrip supply and guess what will happen?  Inflation. The price will go up. Mr. Mills proposes that this will happen for all of the minerals fairly soon. 70-80% of the cost of batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines is in the purchase price of the materials used to make them. 

He explains that we can anticipate rising costs for all of the minerals of the Energy Transition because of the global push to increase the use of the technologies, and the mining industry’s inability to keep up with the demand. 

Prices for batteries, solar panels, wind turbines will rise dramatically. This needs to be carefully considered before passing any bill which will make it more difficult to use our existing cars and furnaces or which will assume that we will be able to easily or affordably replace them with the technologies of the Transition. Even with incentives, we might not be able to.

Please contact your senator, or all of Vermont’s senators, to share your thoughts/concerns about S.5, the Affordable Heat Act, and to encourage them to consider relevant realities—like what is discussed above— before they vote on it.  You can call the Statehouse (802)828-2228 and leave a message or call or email them directly.  Find your senator’s contact info here.

Categories: Commentary

9 replies »

  1. I’ve been reading Mark Mills for years, and Ms. Bufka is quite right to compliment his analyses. Enviros are in a panic about a supposed climate crisis, but they won’t support mineral production, they won’t support hydro (ecological destruction), they think CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere (concentration .04%), they oppose putting money into the power grid, and above all they gag on nuclear power, which is THE answer (if there’s a problem, about which I have serious science-based doubts.)

    • It’s almost as if the climate and CO2 emissions weren’t the ultimate goal of this legislation.
      Spoiler alert: It never has been, never will be about the climate, environment nor CO2.

  2. One interesting point Mills points out is that China is the OPEC of refining of all of these minerals. You think we are dependent upon the CCP now? You ain’t seen nothing yet. When they say jump even Elon will have to say, “ How high?”

  3. When you figure out how much mineral (and $$$) will be needed to achieve this energy transformation, bear in mind that it will need to repeated roughly once every generation, as windmills and solar panels have a life span of roughly 20 years.
    Oh, and don’t forget the massive upgrade to our electrical grid that will have to happen before the “energy transformation” becomes possible. You better believe that universal “15 minute cities”. will become mandatory as well.

  4. Spoiler alert: it’s not about energy, it’s not about the climate, it’s not about the environment. It’s about the reset, the build back better, it’s about the most massive transfer of wealth ever before seen, it’s about control and the return to barons and serfs. The not so very kept secret (if you just look for it) is no, there isn’t enough minerals or power grid capacity for everyone to own an EV. One only needs to dig a bit into the WEF, Klaus Schwab and agenda 2030…you know, “you’ll own nothing and be happy”. They’ve admitted not everyone can own a car, but that the average car owner only uses it 4% of the time, so we will borrow them as needed. Imagine the absolute cluster trying to reserve a car for your often ever changing needs. Imagine also if you’re a naughty girl or boy (said something, bought something, went somewhere unapproved by the regime) and you’re fresh out of luck today, this week, this month…forever. It’s called the social credit score, already firmly in place under the CCP in China, and all set to deploy here if the overlords have their way. Before anyone cries “conspiracy theorist”, remember something is only a theory until it’s proven to be factual. If we scoff and let things progress, it will be too late to turn back when implementation has occurred. Just sayin’…oh and this feeds into the rabid push to disarm the populace, easier to herd sheep when they’re unarmed!

  5. This all reminds me that children in Africa are dying in order to provide materials fro solar panels.

  6. Just like Pelosi telling Congress and the American people that a health care mandate will have to be passed to see what is in it, this energy transformation will have to be mandated and implemented before we realize that it is completely non-feasable.