‘Green New Deal’ Relies on Minerals Environmentalists Won’t Allow Us to Mine

Published January 25, 2019

You’ve probably heard the aspirations and highlights of the Green New Deal (GND), first floated by Jill Stein’s Green Party and now embraced by newly elected U.S. Congress member and media darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Few have paid attention to the details, yet those pesky assertions are the Achilles’ heel of this blatantly socialist agenda. To be charitable, perhaps these naive assumptions are based in true ignorance, since the source for too many on the Left has been the oversimplified drumbeat of the environmental industry that “mining is dirty.”

According to the Green New Deal’s website, one of its goals is to “[t]ransition to 100 percent green renewable energy by 2030, … [as] there are no technological or logistical barriers to a clean-energy transition by that time.”

FACTS: Green renewable energy requires literally tons of minerals that currently are unavailable in the quantities required for this transition. Of course, the GND includes no plan for additional mining to supply this broad initiative.

Don’t be fooled by technology companies’ claims they are running their entire businesses on green energy. They most certainly are not. They use favorable estimates of the energy consumption needed for their massive computer server farms and then make sure wind and solar energy generation is being used somewhere else in the world to offset their own use of fossil fuels.

Why don’t these companies use green energy directly? Why pay for someone else to use renewable sources? The answer is simple: Renewables like wind and solar are too expensive and unreliable.

For years, advocates of green energy have said renewables are much more reliable than they actually are. Many of the batteries and solar panels that were installed using huge government subsidies have not lasted as long as promised, and many are ending up in landfills instead of being reused, repurposed, or recycled. Recycling many of the minerals used in solar generation is literally impossible, because once they have been chemically changed for a specific purpose, they cannot revert back to their original mineral state.

In addition, there are huge logistical barriers to overcome to mine the minerals needed to expand solar generation. The current permitting process is lengthy and expensive, and heavy-handed regulations deter miners from committing to the long-term investment required.

FACTS: The Green New Deal’s website also says one of its goals is ending wars, which will supposedly “become obsolete” when fossil fuels are no longer used. If the advocates of the GND wish to limit the threat of war, then the United States needs to become mineral-independent in the same fashion it is now energy-independent.

Currently, we are 100 percent import-dependent on China, Russia, and other nations for the tiny rare earth minerals that are the foundation of green technologies, such as the scandium used in fuel cells.

The United States imports more than half of the 120 known elements in quantities deemed to be critical by the Departments of Defense and the Department of the Interior. These strategic minerals are critical components of wind turbines’ powerful magnets, and they are used to create thin films for solar panels. They are also used in our country’s advanced defense systems.

This level of import dependence is unnecessary, as we have most of the needed mineral resources underneath our feet, scattered throughout federal lands in the western United States.

The Green New Deal does nothing to solve this problem. In fact, I’ve seen nothing to suggest GND advocates are even aware of it.

FACTS: Another goal of the Green New Deal is to electrify U.S. transportation. Electric vehicles (EVs) use up to five times more copper than traditional, fossil-fuel-powered vehicles. California’s new edict to have five million EVs on the road by 2030 will require 750 million pounds of copper

This is incredibly problematic because copper is used in numerous other vital industries. For example, all U.S. cellphone users require copper-wire networks to carry electricity from the source to our cellphone chargers. If we unnecessarily use copper instead of affordable fossil fuels for our buses, cars, trains, and trucks, what is left to power the computers and electronic devices we rely on will be incredibly expensive, plus higher costs for industrial and commercial use will create price increases on all goods and services.

The idea of electrifying “everything” without dealing with the lack of supply of necessary copper is not just foolish; it is purposely misleading to the public. This is especially true considering many of the same people demanding electric vehicles also want to limit most forms of mining. By blocking mining, they are, quite ironically, making green solutions impossible.

Rather than try to impose the numerous costly mandates and socialistic programs of the Green New Deal, policymakers should focus on improving U.S. industry and making the nation more mineral-independent, a move that would allow for greater technological innovation in the future, both within and outside of the energy sector.

Ann Bridges ([email protected]) is a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute and the coauthor of the book Groundbreaking! America’s New Quest for Mineral Independence.