The green energy ‘transition’ is simply not happening. Nor will it happen soon, or cheaply


Few energy analysts enjoy the level of global respect accorded to Vaclav Smil, a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba and a best-selling author of 47 books. Whenever Smil publishes something new, people in the energy space pay attention. That’s certainly the case with his latest publication, a 48-page report titled “Halfway Between Kyoto and 2050: Net Zero Carbon Is a Highly Unlikely Outcome.”

In the report, Smil details efforts to date by global governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and finds them wholly inadequate to achieve the goal of net-zero by 2050.

“To eliminate carbon emissions by 2050,” Smil writes, “governments face unprecedented technical, economic and political challenges, making rapid and inexpensive transition impossible.”

Among a wide array of major hurdles that must be overcome, Smil highlights the enormous scale of global energy use, the slow pace of energy transitions throughout history, and the fact that “major emitters like the United States, China, and Russia have conflicting interests.”

In discussing the slow pace of prior energy transitions, Smil echoes the thoughts of another respected energy analyst and writer, Daniel Yergin, himself a best-selling author of books like “The Prize,” and “The New Map.” During our interview in March, Yergin pointed to the fact that the transition from burning wood for heating and cooking to using coal – that began in 15th century Britain – is still ongoing. Indeed, the world used more wood for energy during 2023 than any other year in history.

Smil shines a spotlight on the key issue of copper, a vital metal used in most every electronic gadget, car, home appliance, and power grids worldwide. His report delves into detail on why it will be impossible to produce copper in the amounts needed to turn  the supposed “transition” into reality, a theme that echoes a growing array of findings by other studies.

Smil estimates that efforts to replace today’s 1.35 billion light duty cars and heavy trucks would “require nearly 150 million tons of additional copper during the next 27 years. That is an equivalent of more than seven years of today’s annual copper extraction for all of the metal’s many industrial and commercial uses.”

He also points out the facts that “metal content of exploited copper ores from Chile, the world’s leading source of the metal, has declined from 1.41 percent in 1999 to 0.6 percent in 2023, and further quality deterioration is inevitable.” The declining metal content means a corresponding massive rise in the tonnage of ore that must be mined and thus a corresponding cost in the disposal of all the additional waste product at a terrible environmental cost.

Worse, copper is just one of an extensive array of critical energy minerals that must also be mined in the coming years to feed the needs of the wind, solar, battery, and electric vehicle industries chosen by globalist governments as the favoured solutions. Metals like lithium, colbalt, tungsten, antimony, nickel, and silver, not to mention an array of rare earths, all must achieve radically higher production levels to make any or all of this transition work.

Smil also highlights the stunning costs of the planned energy transition, pointing out that the US current GDP is about $25 trillion, and getting to net zero will cost 20 per cent of our GDP, meaning the US would have to begin spending about $5 trillion per year on decarbonisation efforts. Citing a McKinsey study that estimates the energy transition’s total cost at $275 trillion, Smil posits that inevitable delays and cost overruns not factored into that estimate are likely to cause the real cost to rise by 60 per cent, bringing the total to an unimaginable $440 trillion.

Smil’s conclusion that a “rapid and inexpensive transition” is “impossible” gives the lie to the preferred narrative pushed by transition proponents that their desired end state can be achieved without major sacrifices and reductions in standards of living. Indeed, we are already starting to see such sacrifices being mandated by governments across the western world.

Prices for every form of energy have risen dramatically since the policy push for Green New Deal-type subsidies started in earnest with Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021. The public pronouncements by politicians in the US, Canada, and Europe increasingly include advocacy for rising restrictions in the ability for ordinary citizens to engage in tourist travel, and the need for them to live smaller, less comfortable, less prosperous lives to “save the planet.”

To his great credit, Smil’s report adds to a growing body of data detailing the enormous costs involved in this forced march to lower standards of living for all but the privileged elites among us. It should be required reading in every household and school.



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