It’s all a bit hush hush, for now. But I’m working on the most enticing project since joining Southbank Investment Research. And I’d like your help to figure out what happens next. It’s all about the net-zero commitment to prevent climate change.
You see, governments have pledged to reach net zero on carbon emissions. The timeframes vary. The methods do too, such as the date of banning petrol and diesel cars. (It wasn’t long ago that we subsidised diesel to save the planet…)
My question is what’d happen if we can’t get there – or, in other words, if we can’t make it to those commitments, for whatever reason.
Actually, I’ll give you the reason…
The Green Energy Transformation and the electrification of everything requires a truly impossible amount of resources (i.e. metals, minerals and energy). It just can’t be done.
I can’t give away the research I’ve been doing on the resources shortfall. But here are a few choice quotes from experts that I’ve uncovered so far:
“The energy system in the future as imagined in the transition will require the extraction and movement of a quantity of materials equal to or greater than the quantity of materials that humanity extracts, moves and grows for all other purposes combined. I don’t think that is going to happen. I mean, this is not a statement of politics, statement of aspiration, or an objection to motivations. It’s just not going to happen. The world is not capable of doing that.”
The biggest shortfall in terms of the total amount needed is in copper. Here’s how one expert thinks we’ll meet net zero’s copper demand: “I would say to you that this is impossible for copper alone, never mind the other minerals.”
It’s not just about creating enough energy supply from green sources, or the electrification of things which demand energy like cars. The grid we currently use in our homes was designed to manage a kettle, not an electric car, electric heater, electric water heater, electric hob and the rest of it. The safety switch in my house gets triggered when I run my laptop, internet modem, washing machine and garage door at the same time.
Overhauling the electrical systems of homes to manage the electrification of everything would be rather labour intensive. That would be true even if everyone decided to become an electrician.
Then there are the geopolitical consequences of going green. If you think that Europe’s reliance on Russia’s gas turned out to be problematic for supporting wind and solar down times, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Renewable energy has been captured by China to a far greater extent, especially for refining the materials needed to manufacture green energy-related products.
If you think Qatar’s human rights abuses were awkward for European gas buyers, you should check out the cobalt mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo…
Making things even worse, the net-zero commitments are built around the assumption presumption belief that we will be able to sequester carbon out of the atmosphere in order to cancel out the emissions we do still dare to make, such as breathing.
What if we can’t do so? What if we can’t net out Johnny’s bad breath or Mary’s flatulence?
Of course we can! It’s just a question of cost and energy efficiency. Sequestration technologies are likely to be rather energy and resource intensive…
As business consultants like to say, you can’t make up for negative margins with volume.
Anyway, I’ll leave the details for my upcoming reports.
Today I need your help with the solution to all this… at least, that’s what the politicians will call it.
All of the above this implies one of two things will have to happen. And I’m asking you today which of the two it’ll be.
I am not asking which option you’d choose as prime minister, but the choice you expect from the buffoon who happens to be in charge at the time that reality dawns on the electorate.
Option One is to give up on net zero and declare your intention to destroy the world by drowning it in carbon dioxide. In that case, fossil fuel companies’ shares go bananas as demand outstrips supply after a severe lack of investment caused by ESG and political threats.
Political pressure for this is already building, of course. Some local governments in the UK are refusing to go along with various green projects already. London’s ULEZ expansion is an amusing example for anyone who had the misfortune of crossing the wrong imaginary lines.
But other local governments in the UK are already considering Option Two. It’ll be called, “demand management”. The lights go out, in other words, but as a result of deliberate decisions. You won’t be allowed to drive your car where you want to go. You won’t be able to keep warm or buy good food. Well, your ration card will tell you how much good food you can buy. Carbon ration card, that is. And don’t worry, the card will be digital, so they’ll know where you are too.
Faced with the inability to reach net zero by producing the energy we need in a net-zero way, governments will be forced to cut demand by curtailing your life.
No doubt this sounds absurd. But we’ve just lived through a decent chunk of it this winter and would’ve experienced far more in a colder one.
And, if you’re not convinced the government would lock you in your house or cause shortages of basic goods by disrupting the supply chain, consider that saving the planet is a rather good excuse to impose just about anything.
So, which will it be? Will governments go for broke on net zero, or give up on the planet?
Let me know your thoughts, along with your permission to publish, at [email protected].
Editor, Fortune & Freedom