The mining capacity needed for the world to achieve net zero simply doesn’t exist
It has become something of a cliche, but it also happens to be true. If you want to do your bit for the planet, forget Tesla and other super expensive electric vehicles; just carry on driving the same old gas-guzzling banger you’ve always had.
As much if not more carbon tends to be expended producing a new car as actually driving it. You are going to have to do an awful lot of miles in the old one before you match the carbon costs of buying a newer version.
It was a slightly different, but similar point that Carlos Tavares, chief executive of the world’s fifth-biggest car maker, Stellantis, was making this week when he said that “green inflation” could soon make owning a vehicle the preserve of the rich.
The prevailing narrative – both in the motor industry and among political leaders sold on the idea that the transition to an emission-free world can be accomplished without significant damage to lifestyles – is that as demand grows, the price of EVs will steadily come down until they are eventually accessible to all.
Not so, argues Tavares; the coming energy transition is going to be hugely resource intensive, driving up costs across the board. He didn’t quite spell it out, though he hinted at it, so let me do so instead; it is entirely plausible that the monumental carbon costs of establishing the new infrastructure needed for a net zero world, nevermind its physical cost, could itself trigger the very same environmental catastrophe it is supposed to forestall.
Green lobbyists vehemently dispute such claims, pointing out that though the transition will burn a lot of carbon initially, this will progressively decrease, eventually disappearing entirely.
Yet whatever the modelling used, it is pretty much unarguable that going green will, to begin with, create a huge surge in global emissions. The transition will also result in myriad other forms of environmental and biodiversity destruction.
Reducing our emissions here in Britain isn’t going to be of much use if all we are in fact doing is exporting them. A large part of that reduction stems from the decline in old, energy intensive smokestack industries, priced out of the market in part by rising energy costs.
The solar panels that litter the landscape allow our own coal powered stations to be switched off, but are likely to have been manufactured in China using the very same as the main energy source. By reducing our own emissions, we are paradoxically only increasing them at a global level.
Ministers worry about how to save the sad remnants of Britain’s once mighty steel industry, but for PR purposes refuse to sanction a new mine in Cumbria that would provide the relatively low cost coking coal that might help, preferring instead a long winded public inquiry and in the meantime the much higher carbon footprint of importing the stuff from Russia and beyond.