Lithium Mining vs Oil Sands Meme: A Thorough Response

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EDITOR’S WARNING: It is important to read the article below. The meme at the top is being debunked as nonsense, not supported.

Originally published on Daily Kos.
By Mark Sumner

Somewhere, someone is wrong on the internet. Yes, that’s shocking. And normally I’d feel just about as compelled to correct that someone as I would to put my hand in the corned beef slicer at the deli. But dammit, sometimes someone is just so wrong on the internet, that you must get out the mustard.

Lately (or more specifically, perpetually off and on for the last few years), this set of images has been circulating.


Why golly, that does look bad, doesn’t it? Know what? Someone is a f#@%ing liar.

That top image is, in fact, a mine. It’s a copper mine. This particular mine is BHP’s Escondida Mine, one of the 10 largest in the world.

Before this continues, to repeat … that’s a copper mine. In 2015, we used about 19 million tons of copper. Getting that copper out took digging big holes in the ground, just like the one in that first picture. It also involved using millions of pounds of blasting agent, carrying rock to crushers, spraying that crushed rock with millions of gallons of sulfuric acid, then letting the resulting toxic sludge sit around in leach fields to extract the copper.

How many times has someone approached you and warned you that copper is a bad thing and that you shouldn’t use it? I’m willing to bet that number is zero.

On the other hand, the world produces about 650,000 tons of lithium each year. Lithium exists mostly in the form of concentrated salts. Almost all that lithium—greater than 95 percent of it—is produced through a process of pumping underground brine to the surface and allowing it to evaporate in big pans. It’s separated from the brine using electrolysis.

There’s nothing you would think of as mining. No blasting. No trucks driving around carrying loads of crushed rock. No sprays of sulfuric acid.

The primary sources of lithium are from the Atacama Desert in Chile, and the Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia. These are two of the deadest places on Earth. It’s not exactly that nothing lives there, but …

“In 2003, a team of researchers published a report in the journal Science in which they duplicated the tests used by the Viking 1 and Viking 2 Mars landers to detect life, and were unable to detect any signs in Atacama Desert soil in the region of Yungay.”

Not all of the Salar de Atacama (the big Atacama salt flat) is this dead. There are some pools there with very salt-resistant shrimp, and weirdly enough, flamingos come to this desolate, otherwise empty place. So you know what they did? They made the area where the flamingos go a national reserve. It’s both desolate and lovely. They don’t extract lithium there.

Now, it’s a safe bet that someone, sometime has told you that lithium mining is awful. That it requires big holes like that one that was used to make the copper pipes, and copper wires, and copper electronics you use every day. Someone told you that, even though it’s not true.

Why did they tell you that? Because someone knew just enough to know that lithium is used in electric car batteries, and that someone was enough of a dickweed to want to make electric cars look bad. Even though they knew they were lying.


Now, about those oil sands. “Oil sands” is one term for them. The phrase you hear more often is actually “tar sands.” Why? Because what’s in those sands isn’t nice, fluid oil. It’s sticky, thick, blocky, and solid. If you cut a chunk of it, oil doesn’t pour out. It’s just stinky black sand.

And getting oil out of the tar sands? That’s not done with a neat little well. There are two primary ways of extracting oil from tar sands. One is to force steam into the sands through a series of horizontal wells. Then another series of wells is drilled to extract the oil freed by the steam. And all it takes is about 1,500 cubic feet of natural gas to make the steam that drives out a single barrel of oil.


But that steam extraction? It accounts for a small fraction of the oil extracted from the Athabasca tar sands. Most of it comes from a process that looks like this:


And like this:


Gosh, you know what that looks like? Mining. That’s what. There’s the blasting, the trucks, the crushing, and then a mixture of hot water and caustic lye (sodium hydroxide) is added. It’s all mixed up into a black, sandy paste, then the paste is piped over to a plant where it gets churned until the oil floats to the top. Then the oil gets sent down some fine pipeline (Keystone, anyone?) while the remaining muck is dumped. It takes about two tons of sand to make a single barrel of oil.

So … yeah. That’s the truth. That’s what lithium “mining” is like. That’s what oil sands “extraction” is like.

That’s how stupid this meme is.

Now, it’s the internet, people. Play nice.

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222 thoughts on “Lithium Mining vs Oil Sands Meme: A Thorough Response

  • Mark, you should slap a big red “WRONG” across the top image or something. As it is now, people doing a quick image search may get the exact opposite of what you’re trying to convey.

    [Now, in a sense, I wish the top image was a lithium mine. Given its gigantic size, and how little lithium goes in each PEV, it’d mean that we’re manufacturing zillions of them…]

    • Had the same thought! Stop spreading a false image.

    • Indeed. Many lithium ion batteries used in EVs contain about 7 pct lithium by weight.

      • If, big if, your statement is true, 7 percent is about 85 pounds. Not something to ignore. Some, I’m sure, have more.

        • Nissan Leaf batteries contain 4 kg of lithium. 8.8 pounds.

  • What’s lost in the discussion of lithium is that once it is put into a car battery, it lasts for as long as the battery and can then be re-used. The battery is a closed unit and none of the metals are lost. Furthermore, they are designed by the likes of Tesla to be recycled at the end of life with all the metals re-used. As opposed to the oil from oil sands, which is destined to be burnt, releasing CO2, going into cars designed to consume oil over their entire life cycle.

    • That is of course true for all metals. Nobody bothers with sodium because there are limitless quantities in sea salt, but iron, copper, aluminium, lead, gold, silver, platinum etc etc are all routinely recycled.

      • On what scale? I am willing to bet the recycling is less than 3 percent.

        • Depends on the country. IIRC Sweden puts only 2% of all waste in to landfill, so they are recycling almost every scrap of metal.

        • Considering that few Li Ion car batteries have reached end of life, and EVs are about .1% of car sales – I bet you’re right (Except for maybe in Sweden, LOL! Thanks Rikaishi Rikashi).

          Though car batteries in general are the most recycled of industrial items – and they are much smaller and far less valuable than propulsion batteries.

      • Stop the Press: The biggest point here is oil is dirty, it’s becoming even more expensive and dirty to extract, it’s already triggered numerous wars, it releases gigantic amounts of CO2 yadda yadda. We know this, the above meme is simply bull. The problem is you’re not going to realistically stop Russia, India, China et al from using their share of fossil fuels after the West had such a great time at everyone’s expense for so long. They have the resources, they have the manufacturing capability, they’re going to use them until the end.

        Just won’t work the US/EU dictating to the above as their growing middle classes consume ever more resources.

        COP21 failed, pledges made, nothing happened.

        Human nature to crave resources, something that world wars have been fought over and will continue to be fought over.

        • You probably ought to check the news. China and India have aggressive renewable energy problems. Russia is installing renewables, but lagging the other two.

          China may have already hit ‘peak coal’ and should be cutting coal use going forward. China also has a very aggressive program to get their drivers into EVs and cut petroleum use.

          You seem to assume that the leaders of China and India don’t understand climate change. And that they are so irresponsible that they are willing to destroy their countries’ futures for short term game. (Hint: the leaders of China and India are not named Koch.)

          • Yeah I do buddy, in fact I’m looking right now at the satellite images of the unprecedented contango bet of tankers in the largest traffic jam in ocean history packed with more oil that would make green peace die a thousand deaths.

            I speak with the politicians in both nations including Russia given the nature of my work in diplomatic circles, I’m telling you straight, they laugh at the suggestions they cut back their use of coal O&G over environmental grounds. Maybe if demand declines yet, but they aint cutting back on enviro grounds given they have massive populations to maintain.

            Hint: reality not utopia. YES climate change is here now, it’s doing its thing, they don’t care when the US also blasts through millions of barrels everyday.

          • buy hey, you keep in amidst the feel good news stories and safe spaces whilst the wolves tear each to pieces.

            They will NOT stop burning fossil fuels because they’re doing what the Western world once did, continues to do.

            COP21 solved nothing. It failed. Even Naomi Klein admits that.

          • Indian and Chinese cities also have terrible smog problems and the leaders of those nations don’t like to breathe that crap any more than the rest of us do. China and India aren’t solving their smog problem with stack gas scrubbers the way that North America and Europe did because renewables are now cheaper than scrubbers.

    • Are you sure that the lithium can be recycled? Pretty impossible in my opinion for such highly reactive metal. Usually li-ion battery are recycled, but for other materials inside.

      • CT just did an article about a new process tharptthat helps with recycling that.

      • If it’s impossible to recycle, then it’s impossible to extract in the first place. Since I’ve seen actual Li-ion batteries, my guess is that you are wrong.

        • Didn’t Musk make a statement about used EV batteries being a source of concentrated lithium?

      • Degradation of Li-Ion batteries is mainly due to particle fracture and weird structure formation in the electrodes, not pollution of the lithium charge-carrier.

        Lithium-Air batteries and hydrogen fuel cells suffer from pollution which would make recycling difficult because of all the random and complex chemistry that occurs.

        • Dendrite formation in the batteries, yes, that was a problem two years ago. Now, they’ve added a small amount of solution that stops Dendrite formation.

          • That explains some things.

            Tech moves so damn fast these days that it’s hard to keep up. Even if you hear about the breakthrough, you may not know a few years later whether that breakthrough got widely implemented or was one of the many that turn out to be irrelevant.


          Well I was more wrong. According to this lecture the particle fracture problem has also been mostly solved.

          The most pressing issue now appears to be the electrolyte and electrodes reacting with each other while the battery is charged, and some of those reaction products coating the graphite negative electrode and blocking the lithium from getting to it.

          On the downside that means that some lithium is getting locked up in these weird reaction products. On the upside, the coating of reaction products is very thin and mostly consists of non-metals, so only a small fraction of the metals should be lost.

        • That brings up a great point too. The same people spreading the FUD like the image at the top of this article, are also spreading things like “in an accident, do you want to be sitting on top of hundreds of pounds of lithium?” They have no idea how little lithium is in the batteries.

          • Totally correct. The other major disconnect in that type of argument is the fact that ICE vehicles burst into flames in collisions on a regular basis. It’s so common the media hardly mentions it anymore. I’d wager EVs involved in collisions are significantly less likely to catch fire than ICE vehicles all things being equal.

          • That’s disgusting. What happened to the world market for sulfur. There is no way we can use that up as fast as it’s made. No accounting for waste products at all.

          • The world market for sulfur is… well, basically you can buy sulfur for less than the cost of purification and transportation. Unpurified sulfur is actually worthless because there’s so much of it. There are already mountains of it left over from “conventional” oil wells.

          • 3% will produced like the above, 97% will be drilled, but keep up the misinformation, fewer and fewer people are listening b/c, well because I guess NYC is not underwater and there are still polar ice caps and there is no “Climate” starvation that killed billions. How many failed predictions before you start to question sheeple?

          • My reply is “in an accident do you want to be sitting on top of 100 # of liquified Napalm?”

          • Let me copy in the meat –

            “(Tesla) will recycle its battery packs at a factory in Belgium operated by Umicore, a materials technology company.

            The company will use materials from the battery to produce an alloy that can then be further refined into cobalt, nickel and other metals, some of which can be further transformed and sold to battery manufacturers, or made into slag for concrete.

            The company’s technology allows for 70 percent CO2 emissions reduction in the recycling process.”

  … 25/02/2011

      • Yes lithium is a very reactive metal but that doesn’t make it impossible to extract. instead it makes it easier. most lithium compounds are water soluble. So you could in theory simply chop up the battery and soak the material in water The lithium dissolves in the water which is then piped off. The water is then treated to remove the lithium using a process very similar to that used to separate the lithium from brine in Chili and Bolivia. The material that doesn’t dissolve in water contains mostly metal such as nickel, iron, and other metals. Those can also be separated and melted down into new metal.

        • That makes it sound like extracting the lithium would be the first step along the path to getting to the more valuable materials.

          Even if the cost of recovering the lithium wasn’t a savings over the cost of outside sourced lithium it would probably be cheaper to evaporate the brine than to pay for waste disposal.

    • co2 isnt a bad gas. There are plenty of other gases and toxins you could have said in its place.

    • CO2 is great for Farm Crops.

      • So is water.

        Too much CO2 and too much water is bad for both.

        And too much CO2 and too much water can kill humans.

      • Oxygen is great for people.
        Too much, and you will burn.

        • We like living in a Goldilocks world.

          We wouldn’t like living in a Pappa Bear world where everything is too hot. Neither would plants.

          I wonder if many people realize that plants like tomatoes stop production during heat waves?

          • Yep. Been there, done that. Sucks to see a whole field drop their flowers.

  • Here is the Alberta oil sands.

    • Here are the lithium “fields”.

      • You can also extract it out of seawater.

    • Vensonata, you weren’t kidding. Just did a search for it and if this is the actual picture of it, it’s gorgeous.

      • Thanks. I am only computer semi-literate in posting pictures.

    • Would’ve gotten extra points if you said water gardens of Dorne.

    • See above. Post got displaced. Oops.

  • I had the exact same thought! Stop spreading a false image.

  • Tweeted this article. Idiocy on this level needs to be slapped in the face.

  • The picture is retarded on the face of it. You don’t measure how bad something is for the environment by how big the hole is. You measure it by how it affects the environment. Does it screw up the atmosphere? Does it screw up the food web? Does it screw up the water supply? I don’t care if some nearby animals lose their home because of a big hole in the ground, i care if the extraction process screws up the SOIL or the AIR or the WATER TABLE for dozens of miles in every direction. Because that has like… ripple effects and it one day might hit us.

    • Then read up on the giant OK Tedi copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea where spoil went straight into the OK Tedi River (for twenty nine years) and pretty much destroyed it for a thousand kilometres of its length.

      • Well then THAT thing screws up the WATER, then DOESN’T IT? Did you READ past “big hole”?

        • Um … lol I’m pretty sure he did. …… That’s kind of why he made his post to you. lol

  • The usual type to send this kind of disinformation read non science blogs and have a particular mind set that is anti any change in their mind set.

  • I never heard of that weed before. It might be local or it could be widespread globally.

  • Thanks for shedding light on that

  • This article is false. About 30% of the worlds lithium supply is mined from hard rock (spodumene ore) in Australia and more mines are being developed to cope with the current supply shortage because the brine producers are not increasing capacity quickly enough. Secondly the major brine resources are located in Argentina and Chile. Thirdly Bolivia’s reserves are currently uneconomic to extract because of their high magnesium content

    • Hard rock is still more expensive than brine. And the Nevada brine fields are expanding, and the province of Alberta, in Canada (home to the tar sands) also has lithium brine that could be coming online in the next few years too. In any case, there are environmental impacts for any of these projects. The difference with renewable technology is that it is a one-time impact. With non-renewable fuels, you need to keep mining continuously.

      • And Tesla already has contracts for the lithium produced by the Nevada brine fields for use in the Gigafactory.

      • There is a bunch in Wyoming too. Any idea how difficult that would be to mine?

        • And California and Canada too.

      • There may be one more difference. Lithium isn’t burned, during the one time use that you noted. And lithium thus does not create a toxic mix of photo reactive chemicals, which are then dumped into the atmosphere as waste gasses.

        • when you plug the electric car in it to an electrical outlet it “creates a toxic mix of photo reactive chemicals, which are then dumped into the atmosphere as waste gasses.” Just sayin’

          • By, Stan.

            Tell the boys back at the oil company that you augured in….

          • Good point Stan. And let’s see the exceptions. Wind, solar, hydro, geothermal. And when do they grow in use…umm every year?

            And when does that “just sayin” happen – right, right with coal. And coal is now 1/3rd of US electricity? And is down in use by 30% over the last three years.

            And the alternative is…oh yeah gasoline. Don’t burn it in an enclosed space Stan – you’ll die – just sayin’ and how is that gasoline refined Stan? On the same stuff you plug in your EV into – uh no, refineries haven’t put solar panels on their rooftops like, EV drivers, to offset their energy use, like fully 35% of EV drivers have.

            So Stan, billions of kWh of electricity are used to electrically pump oil to refineries, to refine gasoline, to pump gasoline to distribution centers, and to pump gasoline into every customers tank – after it has been delivered to stations in diesel trucks. This is after about 15% of the gas and oil stocks have been used for process heat in the refineries. So Stan, when you plug your refinery into an electrical outlet it might just create “a toxic mix of photo reactive chemicals, which are then dumped into the atmosphere as waste gasses.”

            And a lot of folks are trying to replace coal with cleaner burning NG. Some are even trying to replace gasoline with cleaner burning NG. It’s often used in kitchen stoves (don’t try that with gasoline Stan – you’ll die). You know what, NG is available for EVs now. From the grid. And far more efficiently than having millions of small power plants on the road. And electric motors are efficient, boy are they! Over 90% efficient vs only 22% efficient for gasoline engines. That means after getting gas into your tank – you’ll throw away nearly 80% of it’s energy as waste heat – wow! Some alternative, right Stan!

            Next time you’re just sayin’ Stan, try some facts!

      • and lithium brines under the Salton Sea in Southern California.

      • Really? From, “Critical Elements is a junior mining company in advance exploration stage. Its Rose Lithium-Tantalum flagship project well located in Quebec with on-site access to infrastructures like: powerline, road, airport, railway access and camp.

        A recent financial analysis (Technical Report and Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) on the Rose Lithium-Tantalum Project, Genivar, December 2011) of the Rose project based on price forecasts of US$260/kg ($118/lb) for Ta2O5 contained in a tantalite concentrate and US$6,000/t for lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) showed an estimated after-tax Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of 25% for the Rose project, with an estimated Net Present Value (NPV) of CA$279 million at an 8% discount rate. The payback period is estimated at 4.1 years. The pre-tax IRR is estimated at 33% and the NPV at $488 million at a discount rate of 8%. (Mineral resources are not mineral reserves and do not have demonstrated economic viability). (The preliminary economic assessment is preliminary in nature). (See press release dated November 21, 2011.)

        The conclusions of the PEA indicate the operation would support a production rate of 26,606 tons of high purity (99.9% battery grade) Li2CO3 and 206,670 pounds of Ta2O5 per year over a 17-year mine life.

        The project hosts a current Indicated resource of 26.5 million tonnes of 1.30% LI2O Eq. or 0.98% LI2O and 163 ppm Ta2O5 and an Inferred resource of 10.7 million tonnes of 1.14% LI2O Eq. or 0.86% LI2O and 145 ppm Ta2O5.”

    • Wouldn’t that make this article 70% true?

  • This meme is from series “You Can Trust Me, I’m A Random Picture From The Internet”

    • Also from the series, “whatya mean I gotta sit still and take it while these enviro wackos destroy billions of dollars of my fossil fuel and automaker investments.”

  • Superb smackdown.

  • So what is the eco/mining footprint of Nickel and Cobalt used in the batteries? Also don’t many EVs use rare earths for the motors for decent low speed performance without resorting to a induction machine (i.e. driven rotor windings) like Tesla? What is the eco footprint for that? How about rare earths in windmills – do they use a lot. Can we wind fancy patterns in the stator/rotor and/or drive harmonic multiples to get an induction machine to do the same thing at very low speed?

    How about copper vs aluminum wiring & transformer windings?

    I’m not arguing that EVs are worse for environment than ICE by asking this, etc…… I’m very much of the school of “reduce dirty energy first, then worry about other stuff”. I’m just curious if someone knows.

    • Good questions. I know some wind turbines are suppose to be using zero or near zero rare earth material now and will be at zero by the end of the decade. However I don’t know what percentage of the Turbine market that is true for. These types of questions should be front and center along with their answers so people can’t get blindsided with false internet bs.

    • I think you’ll find that most EVs don’t use permanent magnet motors for exactly that reason. It’s also worth noting that most rare earth metals are byproducts of other types of mining, which makes their *incremental* impact fairly low. And finally, for exactly the reason that rare earth metals are, well, rare (they’re not, they’re just hard to extract economically), there is a great deal of ongoing research in to how they might be replaced with other things, particularly in magnets.

    • Prius uses some RE and probably Volt. It’s not the largest use. Cerium is massively used for refinery cracking. Renewables are far down the list of uses. As you pointed out, they are not necessary for motors. Cobalt is harder to substitute, but cell chemistries are still evolving. The amounts are small. The original Leaf chemistry used no cobalt, for example.
      In all, a tempest in a teapot about RE.
      Copper has properties that are preferred for most house wiring, but aluminum is used extensively in transmission.

    • The best way to think about them is this:
      If something is consumed (i.e. Burned up), there is going to be an exponential increase in consumption compared to that very same something being used in components that stick around for 20 years, and then are recycled.

    • Vastly smaller from the steel and copper needed to mine oil. Drilling equipment, pipelines, port storage to supertankers, port storage from supertankers, trucks, gas stations and gas station tanks.

      • And then there’s the REFINERY which needs so much Electricity you could fuel the whole US auto fleet with it with EV’s.

        Not to mention the Primary product of oil and coal is Pollution and not energy.

        • That’s an exaggeration, based on a common misinterpretation of data. Refineries consume an awful lot of *energy*, most of it sourced from the crude oil feedstock and in most cases a significant amount also from natural gas. They do also use a large amount of electricity, but it’s only around 1% of the total energy input to an oil refinery, aka less than 10% of the energy consumption of the refining process, and definitely not enough to drive EVs the same distance as the liquid fuel products drive ICEVs.

          • No, since 80% of the energy (not including exploration, refining, delivery in pipelines etc) is lost in combustion engines through heat.

            And we would be looking at 3-5% electricity depending on the efficiency of the refinery (newer = more efficient), after including transportation in pipelines, transfer facilities, retail operations/pumping into customer tanks, not 1%.

          • I was talking about energy consumption in refineries, as was the comment I was replying to. Electric power demand from other parts of the supply chain, wells and pipelines and storage and retail, is in addition to that. Your 3-5% guesstimate could be right. That’s still not more than about one quarter of the total energy consumption of refineries – -the lion’s share of which is from chemical feedstocks, not grid electricity.

            It’s certainly true that combustion engines discard a lot of heat energy. The amount varies considerably depending on how well the engine’s operation is optimised for efficiency; a good internal combustion engine can easily achieve 40% thermal efficiency or better, which is indeed what happens with trucks on the highway, with gensets producing electricity, and in hybrid ICE-electric cars which do not incur the inefficiencies of operating through a broad range of power levels on demand. Conventional ICE cars, and idling trucks, are considerably less efficient, but those inefficiencies are becoming less common over time. Even cars not billed as “hybrids” have a lot of hybrid features these days.

          • “40% thermal efficiency or better, which is indeed what happens with trucks on the highway” I have seen this number thrown out several times. Is there evidence of it on the road? I have only seen this achieved on test bench conditions under steady state conditions. Not with a load and under varying (real) conditions, acceleration, braking needs etc. Is this really an on-the-road number?

          • It’s not a real on-the-road average under varying real conditions, it’s the best achieved under sustained real conditions of constant power delivery. The average is definitely worse. Braking energy is not recovered. And so on.

    • I have no idea why so many manufacturers are using permanent magnet motors. AC induction motors are superior for nearly all purposes.

      • Nikola Tesla’s amazing insight, I believe.

        • Yeah.

          The reason they weren’t used much for about a century is that in order to modulate motor speed on an AC induction motor, you have to vary the *frequency* of the AC current, and initially, nobody knew how to do that. The development of modern electronics made that possible (with IGBTs, MOSFETs, and electronic chopper controllers).

          So once the control circuitry was available, AC induction motors promptly started being used in trains — in the late 1990s — and were pretty much standard in trains by the early 2000s.

    • IIRC, cobalt is an add on from copper mining, from taking a by-product of the copper mines.

  • Australia is the world’s largest producer of lithium, or at least it is if Chile hasn’t recently upped its production and regained first place. In Australia open pit mines are used to produce about 13,000 tonnes of lithium a year. Australia also uses open pit mines to produce around 400 million tonnes of coal a year. It is left as an exercise for the reader to determine which process is worse for the environment.

    • I almost got it wrong Ronald. Now if you’d put the zero’s in, 400,000,000 tonnes of coal v 13,000 tonnes of lithium, it’s not so taxing. Thanks for the exercise – clearly I need it.

      • Good point that writing the tonnages out fully numerically would make a visual comparison easier. And that if people have to stop and think for a second the figures it can make more of an impact on them. Not that I think it is a good idea to be obscure like that on purpose, but sometimes it does help.

    • Just Greenbushes is over 40kt of lithium in over 700,000t of concentrate.

      • That’s a whole lot of lithium. There’s so much of it running out is not a realistic possibility, and if we make the effort to recycle it, the effects of mining and other forms of extraction will be limited. And then there’s the fact that lithium batteries have plenty of competitors that might take its place in the future, especially when it comes to stationary energy storage.

    • …better to just put giant red X across both and offer up two more accurate pictures from the article above.

    • Can you mark it up as, False: this is a diamond mine in Siberia –

      and, Busted: this is a natural gas wellhead in Canada 🙂

        • Wow! Awesome. Now that makes me hope someone tries to trot out that tired meme to someone here!

          • Wonder if one can somehow set an image alert?

            If the original showed up somewhere it could be smitten….

          • Smitten, LOL!

            I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands – from the Book of Haggai.

  • No one is arguing that we don’t need copper, the argument is that the image of the copper mine should not be misrepresented as an image of a lithium mine. The specific process that the copper goes through is completely irrelevant.

  • So, since it’s not perfectly benign, with no side effects whatsoever, we shouldn’t do it? That’s basically the exact argument FUD spreaders use to argue in favor of the status quo.

    An incremental change is still better than nothing, and Lithium “mining” is a pretty big incremental change.

    • Yes. A balanced view must look at all factors and weigh the effects.

      • And with only a small amount of study one finds that the best ones are much much better than the less good ones.

  • It’s soooo silly, when you look at it all like this: technology has BOOMED in the last 30-40 years. Like, the microwave was invented just before I was born (I’m 28) when everyone was listening to records and then eventually tape cassettes.

    Now we have miniature computers at our fingertips and hover boards and all this awesome new tech that we consider part of our everyday lives (ok maybe not the hover boards).

    HOW THE F**K is it acceptable that we are still living in the 1900s when it comes to fuelling our cars? I mean yeah, sure there are electric cars NOW, thanks to Tesla, but the fact that so many renewable energy sources are being shunned and deemed as “we’re gonna lose all the jobs” is deplorable. But who are we, as a democracy, to say anything about THAT?

    OFF WITH THEIR HEADS (not literally, NSA, I know you’re watching)

    • Off with the caps lock key. You’ll wake the dozing oldies with that shouting.

      We’ve got to wait a few more years until folks can buy a 200+ mile range EV for close to the cost of a Camry or Civic. Then the move to EVs will really take off.

      • Of course, I know that. I actually own a Civic, funnily enough. It’s pretty great on gas, actually. AND I I LIKE CAPS LOCK, SO WHAT? Lol, ok, sorry. All I meant by my comment was that, no, we haven’t really advanced as much in fuelling our cars as we have in other technological advancements. I can’t wait for the day that everything, everywhere is electric and powered by wind turbines, solar panels and other sources of renewable energy. It definitely will still be quite a while until the whole world can follow suit. We need to get there, though.

    • I am right with you on the notion we should have been moving forward with electric and RE back when Carter tried to promote it. What a different would we would be in now.

      Mentioning how old ICE technology is also made me realize that with advances in transmissions and other ICE improvements; we probably should have advanced fuel efficiency by over 60% since the 70s instead of a meager 15%. We want bigger and faster. Something is wrong culturally.

      I think people are selfish and easily misled. Hopefully, things will get better in spite of this…

  • The oil industry will not go down without a fight. I highly recommend reading, “Merchants of Doubt” by Oreskes and Conway, or “Unprecedented” by Griffin, or “This Changes Everything” by Klein. Then you really get a good idea of how the American public is being manipulated and how gullible Americans are to perpetuate these falsehoods.

    • It IS beginning to change though.

      • Mike, I think you are right, and Bob too. I have one “denier” that it doesn’t matter what facts I present from much more reliable sources than she ever responds with. Her belief that all this climate change stuff is some world-wide plot to either force us into one world government or to somehow raise her taxes. I am at a point to tell her that she can maintain her position, I and the rest of the world are passing her by. And I believe it is.

        • Some people will go to their graves, er…, scattering still believing that humans never walked on the Moon and that Roswell was an alien crash. And some will believe that the Russians are talking to them through their back teeth.

          That doesn’t really matter as long as a large majority is reality based. A large enough majority to keep things moving forward.

          • Right you are and I think to Mike’s point, is does seem to be happening. I just hope that all voters in the next Presidential and in particular the Congressional elections will pay attention to what their representatives say about the environmental issues. It was so disheartening when it was 26 (I think) Congressional Republicans signed that letter denying climate change and global warming.

          • I don’t expect climate change to be able to change any seats this November. CC will be part of the reason why some people are elected over others but it will take more years before CC becomes a primary reason for electing someone.

            Let’s melt out the Arctic Ocean, finish turning Glacier National Park into No-Glacier National Park and experience a few more massive heat spells with large fatality counts. Then we’ll see CC become a major election driver.

          • I found this site interesting,

          • Keep drinking the coolaid, there are more skeptics than believers as Economies like Germany, Ontario (Canada) start to crumble because of disastrously aggressive GW policies that have done NOTHING….. There is not one single world ending event that Gore, Mann, Ehrlich, Holdren predicted that has come true. Yet to anyone who questions it and put counter facts in the name of scientific debate means they are subject to jail terms. Do you see how ridiculous your movement has become, you’re high priests want to jail apostates for providing evidence and countering the religious narrative. The public perception of this BS scam is change for sure, but not in your direction

        • Computer model predictions are not facts

          • That’s the point that the skeptics are missing. You don’t need models to predict the future. All you need is to track the past and see the historic variables that got us to this point. The ice caps are melting (I’d recommend getting a copy of the DVD, “Chasing Ice” by James Balog). We are seeing “100 year” storms occur more frequently and a host of other climate changes. We not only have a large amount of climate data from all over the world and ocean temperatures, etc. and they reveal a geologic sudden rise in the Earth’s temperature. On top of that, every time a fossil fuel changes hands we have record of the increasing amount of pollutants that are being poured into the atmosphere. We know how much coal is mined. We know how much has been transported. We know how much the utilities are burning and the same goes for oil.

            If you are open to investigating the issue in more depth, of the dozen books I’ve read on the subject, I’d highly recommend, “This Changes Everything” by Naomi Klein, “Unprecedented” by David Ray Griffin, and “Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway. These aren’t just unsupported ramblings. They have 199 pages of references to the sources of their statements.

          • only 3% of Oilsands will be surface mined. 97% will be produced through the much less invasive SAGD drilling process” so the author is completely misrepresenting the truth in this article to placate to those who bow to the climate alter. You reference Naomi Klein so I would suggest you are a flock member. I suggest you read “A Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” by Alex Epstein, where he points out that there are fewer hurricanes and tornados in the last 50 years, Florida hasn’t seen a hurricane make landfall since 2006. That CO2 is a trace gas that represents .04% of the atmosphere. Since the industrial revolution our carbon output has quadrupled but the trace gas CO2 has gone from .03% to .04%. How do you reconcile that we will destroy our planet when we have quadrupled the CO2 in 100 years and the change in CO2 in the atmosphere as moved only .01%? It’s well documented that the hysteria around global calamity serves researches and governments very well, not the mention the snake oil salesmen that have flocked to the renewables energy market with hand out for government money.

          • Just follow the money. Here’s a little bit about Alex Epstein:
            “Critical reviews can be found in Our World, a publication of the United Nations University,[23] Inside Higher Ed,[24] The Huffington Post,[25] and the UK newspaper The Guardian.[26] Most of these critical reviews note Epstein’s close association with conservative advocacy groups, funding by the Koch Brothers and Epstein’s pro-carbon opinions that run counter to the prevailing scientific conclusion that the rise of greenhouse gasses is bad rather than good for the future of the globe”

    • Then make sure you help in the educational effort to counter the misinformation.

      Keep an eye out for oil industry BS and fight back with facts.

  • Great article!!! Entertaining, informative, and beneficial. Thank you!

  • The article says the mine is Escondida.
    Copper is important regardless of oil ICEVs vs lithium EVs.
    Rest is good info, thanks.

  • So, let’s all band together to be the enemy of such great leaps forward, until the perfect solution comes along…

  • People involved in renewable energy claim that renewable are completely benign?

    Having never seen that I suspect that’s a red herring thrown out to muddy things up.

  • I think everyone here is missing the point of the Meme. You think youare environmentally friendly because you drive an electric car? Think about it for a minute. How much of your car is made from products made from oil (ie plastic) Think about where your electricity comes from. More then likely a coal fired power plant. I could go on but i’m sure the smart ones get my point.

    • The smart ones understand that we don’t go from bad practice to perfect solution in one giant leap. We move toward perfect in steps of various size, sometimes taking a misstep backwards and having to correct.

      We are in a great transition away from a way of life based on consumption of limited source materials to a sustainable world. For multiple reasons we can no longer depend on fossil fuels for our energy and manufacturing materials sources.

      Moving from ICEVs to EVs is part of that process. And a very major step forward.

      Eliminating fossil fuels from our electricity generation mix is another major step.

      It’s only in the very recent years that we have developed workable and affordable batteries which make EVs a practical and acceptable alternative to vehicles powered by oil. And in roughly the same time frame we’ve developed solar panels and wind turbines to the point at which they are now practical and acceptable alternatives for coal and natural gas for electricity generation.

      People who drive electric vehicles are doing the future a great service. They are helping reduce the amount of CO2 we pump into the atmosphere. Their purchases help drive the development of EVs faster.

      And as the days turn our grids become less based on fossil fuel and more on clean renewable energy. Coal is now less than 30% of US electricity generation, down from a high of 54%.

      These are the early days of the transition. The typical pattern for transitions change tends to start slowly and then accelerate.


  • That copper mine looks remarkably similar to numerous gold mines we have here in Australia. In particular the Super Pit in Kalgoorlie – it is HUGE !!! Google it & hold your breath 😉

  • Your informative article was lost by the immature insults peppered within.

    Grow up!

  • Lithium extraction is hardly benign. It pumps a large amount subsurface water in salt flats which are already arid. The chemicals added to the evaporation pools seeps into the ground water in the region, because there aren’t strict environmental standards to isolate the water in evaporation pools. Communities in the Salar de Atacama are dying because lithium extraction had lowered the water table and dried up the oases, plus made their water undrinkable. The population is sparse, but fragile environment is being destroyed. Most lithium extraction happens in the Salar de Atacama in Chile and another Salar in Argentina, and there is almost no extraction in Bolivia because of problems negotiating with the Bolivian government and higher lithium extraction costs. However, the Bolivian government has a plan to pump dry one of the critical lakes used by the flamingos in order to do lithium processing.

    Although Bolivia (where I live) has roughly 60% of global lithium reserves, most of its reserves are in low concentrations of less than 600 parts per
    million in the water, and its lithium salts are only 1.5 meters deep
    with higher concentrations of magnesium and other contaminants, which increases the extraction
    costs. It takes roughly 10,000 liters of water to get one kg of lithium
    in Bolivia.

    Another major environmental problem is the amount of energy which is consumed in lithium concentration and to produce the chemicals used in lithium extraction. In Chile, most of this energy comes from petroleum. At this point, less than 1% of lithium is recycled, and so almost all lithium is virgin material, so it is in no way sustainable. Lithium reserves in high concentrations are very limited. If the world builds a billion long-range electric vehicles, the world will run out of lithium in less than 3 decades with today’s known reserves. There is plenty of low-concentration lithium reserves in the world, but it will take extreme amounts of water, energy and chemicals to process them. We face the same problem with nickel and cobalt, since we will run out of today’s known reserves in roughly 50 years if we build a billion long range EVs.

    If you look carefully at the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the full life cycle of a long-range electric vehicle like the Telsa Model S, it will produce more GHG emissions than a conventional gasoline car, except in places where almost all electricity comes from renewables. The problem is that producing the lithium, nickel, cobalt, aluminum and copper which are used in automotive batteries emits a large quantities of GHGs. Every study which has examined the full life cycle costs of EVs has only examined short range EVs like the Nissan Leaf, but the environmental costs are dramatically higher for long-range EVs, because of the size of their batteries.

    At the end of the day, the only sustainable solution is to move people to public transportation and redesign our cities, so that personal vehicles are no longer necessary. We simply don’t have the metal reserves to produce a billion private EVs. We will need to move to 100% renewable electricity and we will need to electrify our buses, trucks and taxis, because they are run often enough to justify the environmental cost of producing their automotive batteries. However, we have to give up our suburban residences and spread-out cities if we want a sustainable civilization.

    • Thank you for this important perspective on the local environmental effects of lithium extraction in Bolivia. It seems that it is very important to improve water efficiency and water table management. Perhaps brine extraction in sensitive environments should be avoided altogether; there are after all plenty of competing sources for this important mineral, it’s not like the rest of the world will take up arms against Bolivia if it chooses to limit supply.

      How to exploit Bolivia’s resource, and indeed whether to exploit it at all, is an important decision for Bolivians which involves some difficult trade-offs. It’s likely that the price of lithium will increase significantly in the not too distant future, which may make it affordable to pay for improved environmental management.

      When you mention “today’s reserves”, however, you are repeating a common misconception. Reserve figures for of a mineral commodity depend on the relevant mining technology, on regulations, and on price. Reserve figures grow rapidly when the price of a commodity increases or when technology permits exploitation of a new type of resource. They shrink just as fast in the face of a falling price. Reserves can also change in the face of regulatory changes which prohibit exploitation of a particular site, or restrict the use of a certain technology. The size of the ultimate *resource* is, however, constant — and in the case of lithium, enormous. Like uranium it is quite possible to extract lithium from seawater; the price would be prohibitive in competition with today’s brine and hard rock resources, but not so high that it could not be viable for the various highly valued uses to which lithium is put.

      Lithium is not even the most expensive (nor the dirtiest or most toxic) mineral resource used to produce lithium batteries. Most lithium-ion batteries contain more cobalt by weight and by dollar value than they contain lithium.

      By the by, no thank you for repeating fossil fuel industry FUD regarding lifetime greenhouse gas emissions of EVs. Please do revisit those calculations with an open mind.

      • I was very surprised when I did the calculations myself and found that long-range EVs emit more CO2-e than a conventional gasoline car. Now, I might be wrong about the greenhouse gas emissions of producing lithium ion batteries, but based on the 5 studies I found, it looks like the Model S85 will emit more CO2-equivalent than a conventional gasoline car if we look at the production and the first 100,000 miles using grid electricity from both California (low CO2-e/kWh) and China (very high CO2e/kWh). Only if you are charging the Model S85 with 100% solar energy at 48 g CO2/kWh does the Model S85 emit less than a conventional gasoline car. If you assume that the Model S85 will last 300,000 miles then the Model S is definitely better on the California grid than a conventional gasoline car, but still worse in China where almost 90% of the electricity comes from burning coal.

        Eventually long range EVs will emit less CO2-e than gasoline cars, because lithium ion batteries are getting 6%-8% more energy dense every year (so the environmental impact of producing them reduces 6%-8%) every year and the grid is gradually switching over to more renewable energy. However, my biggest finding is that we simply don’t have the metal reserves to produce a billion long-range EVs. There is plenty of lithium in the world, but at this point we are rapidly exhausting the most concentrated reserves of lithium, nickel, cobalt and copper, so the environmental impact of extraction will increase because it takes a lot more energy and resources to extract from less concentrated sources. I am currently writing a paper on this and will publish it online so you guys can see how I came to these conclusions. I would love to get some feedback from the community of CleanTechnica readers.

        I want to make one thing very clear. I am a global warming activist and I am very scared about the future of our planet, so I am not trying to spread FUD. I also want to make clear that I believe that we must change the grid to renewable electricity as fast as possible and all transport must also go electric (since hydrogen doesn’t make much sense) to save the planet. My conclusion after looking at the environmental cost of the metals in EVs is that we simply can’t allow a billion private EVs to be built if we want a sustainable civilization, so we have to switch to public transport on a massive scale. Nobody seems to be prepared to accept this hard truth.

          • Bob, The study by the Union of Concerned Scientists has several methodological problems. First of all, it does not consider the greenhouse gas emissions from producing the car, which I calculate to be roughly four times as much as a conventional gas car. Producing a 1200 lb battery composed of aluminum, copper, cobalt, nickel and lithium which has 16 circuit boards and controlling electronics takes large quantities of energy and resources and emits GHGs.

            The UoCS study also does a very poor job of calculating emissions from electricity generation because it assumes that all renewable sources produce zero GHG emissions. To get an accurate measure of GHG emissions from renewable energy, you have to include the emissions from producing solar panels and wind turbines, averaged over the lifespan of the panels/turbines. For hydroelectric dams, you have to include the emissions from the cement and steel in the dam, plus the extra methane produced by rotting vegetation in the dam that ordinarily would have produced CO2 without the dam. When you take these factors into account, according to the IPCC AR5 WGIII, the median emissions in grams of CO2-e per kWh are:
            12 for terrestrial wind energy,
            40 for utility solar,
            48 for residential solar,
            480 for modern combined cycle gas thermoelectric,
            650 for traditional gas thermoelectric
            850 for modern coal thermoelectric
            1050 for traditional coal thermoelectric

            For hydroelectric energy and nuclear energy, there is great scientific debate about their emissions, but in my opinion, the UoCS study should have picked some value between 50 and 100. The emissions from gas thermoelectric energy are probably wrong because recent research shows that between 2% and 3% of natural gas leaks into the atmosphere so it probably has the same greenhouse effect as coal. We can quibble about how much each energy source emits, but by any measure, the UoCS study dramatically underestimates the GHG emissions from electricity generation.

          • ] T. R. Hawkins et al., “Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles,” J. Ind. Ecol. 17, 53 (2013)

            “The study’s findings include:

            “EVs powered by the present European electricity mix offer a 10% to 24% decrease in global warming potential (GWP) relative to conventional diesel or gasoline vehicles assuming lifetimes of 150,000 km.”

            While much of the global-warming potential of internal-combustion energy vehicles is associated with their use, nearly half of an EV’s life-cycle GWP is associated with its production. “We estimate the GWP from EV production to be 87 to 95 grams carbon dioxide equivalent per kilometer (g CO2-eq/km), which is roughly twice the 43 g CO2-eq/km associated with [internal combustion engine vehicles] production.”

            Batteries contribute 35% to 41% of the global-warming potential of the production phase of an EV; by comparison, the electric engine contributes only 7% to 8%. “Other powertrain components, notably inverters and the passive battery cooling system with their high aluminum content, contribute 16% to 18% of the embodied GWP of EVs.”

            “Because production impacts are more significant for EVs than conventional vehicles, assuming a vehicle lifetime of 200,000 km exaggerates the [environmental] benefits of EVs to 27% to 29% relative to gasoline vehicles or 17% to 20% relative to diesel because production-related impacts are distributed across the longer lifetime.”

            “An assumption of 100,000 km [lifetime use] decreases the benefit of EVs to 9% to 14% with respect to gasoline vehicles and results in impacts indistinguishable from those of a diesel vehicle.”

            Figures from the European Union indicate that the E.U. generates significantly more power from renewable sources than does the United States. Consequently, the current potential of EVs in the U.S. to decrease global warming impacts is correspondingly lower.”


            The average age of US cars is 13 years. At 13,000 average miles per year that works out to 169,000 miles, about 270,000 km. And that’s not an “average miles driven during life of car” which would be higher.

            Again, ” assuming a vehicle lifetime of 200,000 km (160,000 miles) exaggerates the [environmental] benefits of EVs to 27% to 29% relative to gasoline vehicles”

            2014 US 13.7% electricity from renewables including hydro. 30% for Europe.

            “between 2% and 3% of natural gas leaks into the atmosphere so it probably has the same greenhouse effect as coal”

            Methane leaks from coal mines and coal processing is significant.

            A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that surface mined coal releases 1.91 grams of methane per kilogram and underground mined coal releases 4.23 grams of methane per kilogram.

            Pamela L. Spath et al, “Life Cycle Analysis of Coal-Fired Power Production,” National Renewable Energy Laboratory, June 1999

        • I’m wondering what calculations you did and what studies you examined that found higher amortised emissions from a Tesla Model S than a “conventional gasoline car” and what model of conventional gasoline car you were comparing it against. Do remember that the Model S, especially the P85D variant, is very much a high-end vehicle and that tomorrow’s high-volume production electric vehicles (whatever the manufacturer) will tend to have smaller batteries, lower vehicle weight, and to achieve better economies of scale throughout the supply chain including in battery manufacture.

          Also — and this is a *very* important point — remember that a large fraction of the life-cycle emissions of an internal-combustion vehicle come from the supply chain of the liquid fuel. “Conventional gasoline cars” should be debited for oilfield and refinery emissions, and the emissions associated with oil transshipment, as well as with their direct “tailpipe” emissions. Oil refining is one of the more energy-intensive manufacturing processes, consuming around 14% of the energy embedded in the final product and emitting large amounts of CO₂ all the while (exact amounts vary considerably depending on refinery technology).

          The fraction of China’s electricity generated from coal-burning is now just 69% and still falling. The figure was never as high as 85% (World Bank has it peaking at 80% in 2007), as China has always had a large amount of hydroelectricity as part of its generation mix. This has been joined by nuclear, wind and solar power.

          China’s coal consumption has fallen considerably since reducing it became a matter of national policy.

          I will not argue for one second against greater adoption of public transport, cycle-friendly and walkable urban neighbourhoods. I’m a lifetime public transport passenger myself and have never owned a car. Most people and most cities are highly amenable to improved public transport, but please remember that light vehicles (from motor scooters to delivery vans to minibuses to ambulances and police cars) are heavily used in all places whether they are well-served by public transportation or not. Electrification of that class of vehicle, not to mention smaller and larger ones (think of the motor scooters which crowd the streets of most developing nations), is a highly desirable process.

    • No, it will produce much, much less GHG emissions. You’ve done the math wrong.

      I think you haven’t taken into account the fact that the GHG emissions from electricity generation drop every year and will be roughly zero in about 15 years.

      We will end up spending a lot of *solar* energy refining lithium. Seems pretty much predictable. I hope we can do it without damaging fragile ecosystems.

    • Some very good points all pointing the the reasons why the US regulates mining.

      “If you look carefully at the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the full life cycle of a long-range electric vehicle like the Telsa Model S, it will produce more GHG emissions than a conventional gasoline car, except in places where almost all electricity comes from renewables.” You are going to need a cite for that, as Neroden has pointed out, that is far from undisputed, and clearly JonathanMaddox believes it lowers your credibility as simple FUD.

  • The fact that electric cars cost more than conventional cars MEANS that
    more resources have to be used to produce electric cars than
    gas-powered. For details, see Julian Simon’s “The Ultimate Resource”.

    • No, you miss the point of economy of scale.

      By around 2020 we should hit manufacturing cost parity between EVs and ICEVs. At that point they will cost the same to manufacture. And after that EVs will almost certainly become less expensive to manufacture.

      It’s all a matter of building more large scale battery plants.

      LCD monitors cost more than CRT monitors when they were first introduced. Then they became cheaper than CRTs. Not because fewer materials were used, but because manufacturing became more efficient.

      • Bob I understand economy of scale. Do you understand the broken window fallacy?

        Even if EVs hit manufacturing cost parity with ICEVs AND operating-cost parity (a completely separate and currently unsolved issue), that still doesn’t justify the misallocation of capital and resources to developing EVs by government mandate along the way. People look forward to the goal of (say) EVs hitting manufacturing parity with ICEVs but never think about (or even realize they SHOULD think about) the products and services that could have been invented or improved if that capital had been allocated instead by individuals’ free choice in the open market.

        • Sure, because deliberately allocated public-sector investment never built anything worthwhile.

          Well ok, but apart from the Pyramids, the Apollo program, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, roads and sanitation what has government ever done for us?

          (… Peace? Fuck off!)

          • The argument is not that government has never produced anything useful, it’s that whatever it produces could have been produced with better allocation of resources (i.e., better and cheaper) by the private sector — or that we unknowingly give up so many products that we COULD have had instead of the government product that we’d choose the private-sector alternate if we could.

          • Alan, one does not have to look hard to find inefficient private businesses. And businesses which totally rip off their customers intentionally.

            There’s nothing holy about private enterprise. It’s got its share of crooks and bumblers.

          • See my reply above. No one’s saying the private sector doesn’t make mistakes.

            And if you don’t think individual freedom is holy, we have a fundamental disagreement that I’m not going to be able to overcome in this limited space.

          • There’s no argument that can be levelled against the public sector along these lines which doesn’t apply equally to numerous examples of gross misallocation in the private sector.

          • Yes, there are:

            1) the freedom to choose how to spend or save one’s money instead of having it forcibly confiscated and spent as someone else (in this case, the government) chooses.

            2) the inevitable waste and misspending that occurs when an agency is spending someone else’s money. No one is arguing that the private sector doesn’t make mistakes, but it’s incontrovertible that nothing focuses one’s mind and calls forth one’s best efforts when it’s one’s own assets at stake, with a paycheck, bonus, or profits riding on the outcome. None of those are typically present when a bureaucrat decides how to spend his agency’s budget.

          • The private sector has more than its share of inefficient bureaucracies, and of people spending other peoples’ money.

          • Alan, I’ve worked for the federal government, three state governments, private enterprises and I ran the corporation I founded.

            I can assure you that not much money is wasted in the government organizations in which I worked. We were generally underfunded for the tasks we were given.

            In private enterprise I’ve seen a lot of money skimmed off by those at the top and a fair amount of waste at lower levels.

            Try not to be overly influenced by right-wing windbags. Their goal is to take money out of your pocket and send it to the “top 1%”. Thirty-five years ago we were sold the idea that if we lower taxes on the rich we’d all be better off. Clearly that was a lie.

            They continue to tell us that lie. The middle class and working class continue to fall further behind.

          • Bob, I’m not influenced by right-wing windbags. As far as that goes, you don’t even define what you mean by “right-wing windbag”. Rush Limbaugh? Glenn Beck? I assure you no one like that is getting penny from me.

            What do you mean by “skimmed off by those at the top”? Taking their agreed salary and bonuses, or defrauding the company? Did you “skim off” when you were running your corporation? Did you see a “fair amount” of waste in your corporation?

            The argument isn’t based on a spreadsheet of who wastes most and who contributes most to which cause or goal. Rights aren’t a matter of math or money, A free people, free to spend their money as they like, is the only foundation for a moral society, and sadly, that’s very far from what we have now.

      • I should think that LCD monitors requiring fewer materials than CRTs is a major part of the reason that manufacturing them is cheaper. The argument that cost reflects material input can only apply at commodity scale; specialty products always cost more not because of high material requirements but because they require specialised labour, and in the case of emerging advanced technology, also “specialised” risk capital and expensive design and tooling work which can initially be amortised only over small production runs.

        • My point (the one I attempted to make) was that LCD prices started very high and then fell. Not due to reducing the materials input, but by building at a scale which allowed for efficient supply streams and high automation.

          CRTs were already a mature industry. They got their start in the 1940s with the TV industry.

          The cost to manufacture an EV is dropping fast. EV batteries were around $1,000/kWh a few years ago. Now they are under $200 and closing on $100. That’s not because we’ve cut the material input but because we’ve improved efficiency.

          Somewhere between $100 and $200 for a battery pack the manufacturing cost for an EV reaches the manufacturing cost for a similar featured ICEV.

          There’s a range of numbers for manufacturing cost parity.

          In a major 2013 analysis, “Global EV Outlook: Understanding the Electric Vehicle Landscape to 2020,” the International Energy Agency estimated that electric vehicles would achieve cost parity with internal combustion engine vehicles when battery pack costs hit $300 per kWh of storage capacity.

          and –

          “The single most important factor in achieving a compelling and affordable mass-market BEV [battery electric vehicle] is its relative cost,” Nykvist and Nilsson wrote. “It is commonly understood that the cost of battery packs needs to fall to below US$150 per kWh in order for BEVs to become cost-competitive on par with internal combustion vehicles.”

          and –

          “The tipping point for the mass market to move from internal combustion engines to EVs is between $US250 and $US300/kWh. Once it gets to $US100/kWh, it is all over. I think we will get to $US250/kWh by 2020. By 2030, when batteries are at $100/kWh, gasoline vehicles will be obsolete. Not on their way out, obsolete,” said Mr. Seba to RENew Economy, while noting that he thinks that “mass migration” to EVs will start between 2018 to 2020.

          Tesla recently stated that their current battery pack price was “below $190/kWh”. That’s pack price, not cell price which is lower. And that’s before manufacturing moves to the Gigafactory which should result in a major (30%?) cost drop. I think Musk has talked about hitting $100 by 2020, not sure about that.

  • If this “thorough” response was genuine and balanced the author should have revealed that of the remaining OS reserves only 3% will be surface mined. 97% will be produced through the much less invasive SAGD drilling process, but big yellow trucks and baron surfaces don’t sell stories and don’t promote the Hiroshima narrative. The “Site” picture above is a SAGD site. And really, if anyone thinks that alarmists are guilt free when it comes to promote misinformation then they need to give their head a shake. The 97% consensus comes to mind…

  • What’s your problem with Steyer?

    “Thomas Fahr “Tom” Steyer (born June 27, 1957) is an American hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and environmentalist.[2]

    Steyer is the founder and former Co-Senior Managing Partner of Farallon Capital Management, LLC and the co-founder of Beneficial State Bank, an Oakland-based community development bank.[2] Steyer is responsible for funding the creation of the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford University, part of the Precourt Institute of Energy.[3] Since 1986, he has been a partner and member of the Executive Committee at Hellman & Friedman, a San Francisco-based $8 billion private equity firm. Farallon Capital Management, LLC, manages $20 billion in capital for institutions and high-net-worth individuals. The firm’s institutional investors are primarily college endowments and foundations.[2][4]

    In 2010, Steyer and his wife signed the Giving Pledge to donate half their fortune to charity.[5] Since leaving Farallon in 2012, he has become a leading figure in environmental causes, being among the top donors of the 2014 election cycle, and an environmental advisor to the Obama administration.

    Steyer is on the board of Next Generation, a non-profit that intends to tackle children’s issues and the environment.[6][7] Steyer is NextGen Climate’s founder.[8][9] He serves on the Board of Trustees at Stanford University[10] and is active in political campaign fundraising.”

    “After holding several conversations in the summer of 2012 with environmental writer Bill McKibben, Steyer decided to focus much of his attention on the Keystone Pipeline. That October, Steyer officially left Farallon. He was criticized by some Republicans for attacking the pipeline even though he himself held some investments in the fossil-fuel industry, including stock in Kinder Morgan, which had its own pipeline connecting the Canadian tar sands to a port on the Pacific, which could be seen as a rival to the Keystone pipeline. Steyer promised to fully unload his holdings there within a year.[14]

    In September 2013, Steyer appeared in a series of commercials in opposition to the proposed pipeline.[14] Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) argued on C-SPAN in March 2014 that Steyer’s opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline was founded in Farallon’s investment in Kinder Morgan and its competing Trans-Mountain Pipeline System.[73]

    In a November 2015 interview, Steyer described the Obama administration’s decision to reject the Keystone pipeline as “fantastic.”[74]”

    “Steyer has raised millions of dollars to confront climate change and has raised money for Hillary Clinton at his home in San Francisco.[75] After the 2016 Republican presidential debate, Steyer stated, “The Republican candidates haven’t presented a plan to address climate change — and so those candidates still aren’t ready to be president”.[76] In the 2016 presidential elections, NextGen Climate has been advocating for candidates to endorse a 50 percent renewable energy goal by 2030 through ad campaigns.[76][77] Steyer is reportedly keeping a possible run for governor on the table, while planning to force Republicans to address climate change in the coming 2016 elections.[78]

    Steyer is widely compared with and contrasted to the billionaire Koch brothers.[67] While many Americans view Steyer as the left’s answer to the Kochs, Steyer dismisses this analogy, stating the Kochs are into politics for profit, whereas he is not.[17][79]

    Steyer has himself been very critical of the Koch brothers, and has more than once sought to distinguish himself from them.[11][80] Appearing with David Koch at the 2015 Aspen Ideas Festival, Steyer called on him “to make his views on climate change public.” Koch “sidestepped the question, saying there were some things he agreed with Mr Steyer on and ‘other things that make me concerned.’”[81]”

    • Seriously? What’s your problem with the Koch brothers. My last post – you wackos are a lost cause….

  • Also, for the supposed “oil sand operation”, please note the “Saskatchewan Proud” logo on the bottom right. The picture is obviously taken in Saskatchewan, which doesn’t have tar sands operations.

    And I believe that’s a natural gas extraction plant in the photo.

  • Nice article. I think people should understand that when they plug an electric car in to charge, that they are charging it with electricity mostly created by burning hydrocarbons or coal. So you see, even though you make valid points about the meme, electric cars convert hydrocarbon energy into kinetic energy just like RICE cars and not necessarily more efficiently. The energy required to force the electricity through the wires to your home is pretty inefficient and the heat generated by creation of the steam contributes significantly to it’s carbon footprint.

    • And I think you should realize that our grids are transitioning away from fossil fuels. As you keep plugging your EV in to charge the electricity gets cleaner and cleaner and cleaner.

      This –

      “electric cars convert hydrocarbon energy into kinetic energy just like RICE cars and not necessarily more efficiently. The energy required to force the electricity through the wires to your home is pretty inefficient and the heat generated by creation of the steam contributes significantly to it’s carbon footprint. ”

      – is bullshit.

      You need to go back for some more concern troll training….

    • “The energy required to force the electricity through the wires to your home is” about 7% on average. Though 35% of EV drivers have deployed solar panels (according to research from California CSE) to completely avoid any of those losses and…much much more.

      The energy required to force energy through your ICE to the wheels is approximately 80% of the energy in each gallon of gasoline – after all of the earlier losses from exploration to refining and retail sale are accounted for.

  • Funny, you eco-fascists don’t mind spreading lies about fossil fuels.

  • Got a picture of the mines in Bolivia? Or something other than a satellite shot of the Atacama mine?
    Wait… I have some.

    • Doesn’t look like a lithium “mine”. Looks like brine evaporation ponds in Chile.

      • Litium is mined from salt flats… or, brine evaporation ponds.

        • Some lithium is extracted from surface deposits (salt flats). Some is mined. Some is taken from geothermal plant waste water streams. Some comes from seawater.

  • The truth is lithium couldnt even be mined without using fossil fuels.

    • The truth is that lithium could be mined using only electricity.

      Do you have any idea how we do underground mining? Do you think we run those machines on diesel? (Even hear of carbon monoxide?)

      • The picture below looks like they are using a lot of solar power to me.

  • How are electric cars charged? Anyone??

    • I know! I know! Call on me!! (Waving hand wildly….)

      It’s electricity, Jim. We use electricity to charge electric cars.

      Do I win a gold star or something?

      Here’s the deal, Jim. We realize that you’re trolling. (And that you’re not good at it.) But let’s use this opportunity to tell you something you should know.

      A bit over 50% of US electricity now comes from fossil fuels. But that percentage is dropping every year. Each year we add more wind, solar, and other renewables to our grids and burn less coal and natural gas.

      Look at the graph below. Look at how wind and solar are taking market away from fossil fuels.

      Each year our electricity gets cleaner and cleaner.


      • The only reason wind and solar are taking the market is because they are being heavily subsidized and and fossil fuels are heavily regulated. They are not near as efficient either. I might be a troll but your opinion of me not being a good one is just that.

        • There is a bit of subsidy in fossil fuels as well…

          “The International Energy Agency is calling for 312 billion dollars in fuel subsidies to be scrapped…” Phys – Org, 4/6/2011.

          “In the United States, credible estimates of annual fossil fuel subsidies range from $10 billion to $52 billion annually yet these don’t even include costs borne by taxpayers related to the climate, local environmental, and health impacts of the fossil fuel industry. As of July 2014, Oil Change International estimates U.S. fossil fuel subsidies at $37.5 billion annually, including $21 billion in production and exploration subsidies.”

          A list compiled by George Craig:

          “Just a few off the top of my head:

          1. Energy companies get a 15% tax credit for all expenditures related to “advanced” recovery methods. Example: An oil company uses fracking instead of an old-fashioned oil well.

          2. Refineries can expense 50% of the cost of capital equipment.

          3. coal mines can expense long-term investments in equipment if it’s considered safer than their previous equipment.

          4. FERD, paid for by the federal government, finances research into fossil fuel technologies

          5. Tax credit to coal companies for each btu-barrel equivalent of coke produced

          6. Tax credit for shale oil production

          7. Refined coal tax credit

          8. Native American Coal credit

          9. Capital Gains treatment for royalties on coal

          10. Integrated natural gas and oil companies can deduct 70% of exploration and development costs for wages, machinery, unsalvageable material, and grading expenses involved in drilling a well.

          11. Percentage depletion of profits, up to 100% for some marginal wells

          12. accelerated depreciation for gas pipelines

          13. Unlimited “passive losses”: There is no limit to the amounts fossil fuel companies can claim for loss of rent on properties where their activities prevent them from leasing the land for other purposes.

          14. Expensing of up to 50% of the cost of real property used for oil or coal development

          15. Aid to Small Refiners program

          16. Nearly every state with a fossil fuel industry has quite a few tax credits and incentives available.”

          Just for laughs a subsidy that was never used until the floor dropped out of oil prices: Known as the marginal well tax credit, the government money was signed into law in 2005 and was intended to protect small oil producers when times are tough. The tax credit (worth 25, 50 or even 100 percent of the extraction tax the producer would owe, depending on how long the low prices continue) is only available to producers who average 15 barrels or less each day for three months. This year, the tax was paid out for the first time because we’re finally at the low levels mentioned in the law – under $30 and over $25 for a barrel of oil.

          …and FF have been subsidized, (by wars and more) for over 100 years.

          • Ok then end all subsides and see which ones survive. Mind you I am not against so called “clean” energy. I am for the one that is the cheapest and most efficient. You sarcastically make the comment about importing sunshine. Well that sunshine doesn’t just magically turn into electricity and it is not always shining. You know like during the night and when it is cloudy. It has to be converted through solar panels. Those solar panel are made by raw materials and they have to come from somewhere. Same goes for wind mills. So if you think just by stopping the use of FF will stop wars over resources then you are truly naive.

          • Jim, I may be quite naive, admittedly so, but I just took you to school 21st century style – and you in turn have added nothing new to the mix. Do you have any idea how much steel and concrete are used to make a coal plant, a multi-cycle NG, combine district heat and power plant? And that there is a vast amount of water used in each of these processes – not just in constructing them?

            You do realize that winds blow at night, geothermal produces at night, biomass can be burned at night, hydro can spin at night, solar can be saved as pumped hydro for use at night, demand management works night and day and most power is used during the day? Right!

            You do realize that no fuel has to be transported for the above? No trillions of therms of NG, no massive terminals, no two mile long coal trains – twice a day for every generating station. You’ve got to do better than this Jim, or I’m gonna get bored and go play with my dogs.

          • I almost forgot. Do you know how many other byproducts are made from fossil fuels? The computer or phone you are using now most definitely is using some of those byproducts. Just keep that in mind because if we completely get off FF those things may not go away but they will definitely be less affordable.

          • I didn’t forget Jim.

            We do not burn computers and phones to travel to grandmas house every Thanksgiving – so with recycling and reuse they may just be sustainable. With increasing quality of life even.

          • Its not just plastics Jeffhre.

          • Your examples were computers and telephones.

          • Yes I know. Those were just examples. It wasn’t meant to be all inclusive.

          • What are your other examples of our degraded and expensive lives…because we may no longer burn oil to get to work in the future then?

          • If you’re talking about oil as a manufacturing input, that’s not a problem. We can continue to use oil as a material as long as we don’t burn the product and send the carbon into the atmosphere.

            Make some plastic with oil. Use it. Recycle it if possible. If it can’t be recycled then stick it in a landfill. The carbon is back underground and not a problem.

            That said, it would be better if we moved to plant based plastics.

            Don’t confuse manufacturing inputs with fuel.

          • The products I am referring to are made from what is left after the oil is refined into gasoline from crude oil. What exactly are they going to do with all the leftover gasoline after it has been refined. They used to just through it away until they discovered it could be used as a fuel. Do you suggest just putting it back under the ground or throwing it in a landfill? The cost of that would be quite EXPLOSIVE!!!

          • It is 2016 not 1896. We now regulate transport of hazardous industrial chemicals like naphtha.

          • Renewables would be elated if all subsidies were removed. Remember, those hundreds billions we pay to treat coal-caused health problems are subsidies. And there’s another bunch of billions we spend due to auto exhaust.

            But, Jim, you know that won’t happen. Senators and Representatives from coal and oil states are not about to let subsidies for fossil fuels to be terminated.

            Here’s the deal, Jim. Subsidies for both wind and solar are scheduled to run out in a couple of years. And the wind and solar industries are fine with that. By that time wind and solar are going to be so much cheaper than fossil fuels that the subsidies that fossil fuels receive won’t tip the balance in their favor.

            Now the Sun doesn’t shine all the time.

            That’s true. But a combination of wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal, biomass, biogas and storage will keep the lights on 24/365. And the cost will be lower than what we’ve been paying for fossil fuel generation.

            Fossil fuel wars. I can’t think of anything used to make wind turbines or solar panels that we can’t dig up in the US. We need nothing from outside our borders.

            We’ll probably import materials because they are cheaper from other countries. But if a “copper OPEC” decided to jerk us around we could do without their input.

            We’ve never had a war over coal. We’ve got our own supply. We won’t have a war over sand to make solar panel silicon wafers and cover glass.

          • Also most of these so called subsides are actually deductions. The same ones you and I get if we owned a business. The answer is to lower the overall tax rate and cut most if not all “subsides” and deductions.

          • Deductions that are available to no other sector are most often known as…

          • Almost every sector has there set asides specific to there industry. It would be a difficult for a company that makes cars to take a deduction for oil drilling. You can call them what you want. I will continue to call them deductions. Like I said previously remove the deductions or what you like to call subsidies and lower the overall tax rate. That is fair and equal to everybody,

          • I think it would be very difficult and likely impossible to come up with political consensus to eliminate all subsidies.

            Each subsidy has its support group to apply political pressure – it’s easier to say yep the other guy needs a subsidy too, rather than eliminate them all.

            That would just result in starting over with new subsidies, once each interest group makes its argument about how important their new subsidy would be.

        • You’re proving your quality, Jim…. ;o)

          Unsubsidized onshore wind is now less than 4 cents per kWh in the US. Unsubsidized PV solar is now around 6 cents per kWh.

          That’s cheaper than some paid off coal plants. It’s far cheaper than what the cost of electricity would be from a new coal plant.

          In the US we spend between $140 billion and $242 billion every year in taxpayer dollars to pay for the cost of treating coal caused health problems. That’s an enormous subsidy that we’ve been paying for decades and decades. A huge amount of money.

          (Are you old enough to remember when our lakes and forests were dying because of acid rain? That’s a big reason we regulate coal.)

          Stick around, Jim. Read a bunch of the articles here. It’s clear that you could benefit by learning more about the energy transition we’re experiencing. Fossil fuels are last century solutions.

  • The erratic nature of this article, the way the author grasps at straws, the obvious bias that comes with any article on this site, and the obsession with proving something that, in the author’s eyes, is already evident in its falseness…Never been to this site before. Kind of reminds me of The Onion…

    • Well, that comment gave me an early morning chuckle….

  • Memes like this are a huge part of the problem with our political system today. Most people, especially on the right, mindlessly believe these and share them and it riles up the base. You would be surprised how many people believe that Obama took down the American flag and put up a Muslim prayer curtain in the White House. A quick fact check will tell you that there isn’t such a thing as a Muslim prayer curtain and the curtain shown in the meme was put up when John F Kennedy was in the White House.

  • A source? If you read energy sites you’d realize that it’s common knowledge.

    Wind and solar needed subsidies in order to get themselves up to a large enough scale to allow them to be price competitive with fossil fuels. We’re at the point right now where wind and solar are cheaper than many fossil fuel plants.

    Your Hill article is simply wrong.

    Offshore wind is still expensive. It’s basically a new technology and will need help getting started. But costs are already starting to come down.

    Let me give you some subsidy data…

    Over the first 15 years of these energy sources’ subsidies, oil and gas received 5 times what renewables got (in 2010 dollars) and nuclear energy got 10 times as much. (Most of the renewable subsidies went to corn farms for ethanol, not wind, solar and other renewable electricity technologies.)

    Between 1918 and 2009 oil and gas received average annual subsidies of $4.86 billion. (92 x $4.86 billion = $447 billion)

    Between 1947 and 1999 nuclear received average annual subsidies of $3.50 billion. (53 x $3.50 billion = $185.6 billion)

    Between 1980 and 2009 biofuel received average annual subsidies of $1.08 billion. (29 x $1.08 billion = $31 billion)

    Between 1994 and 2009 wind and solar received average annual subsidies of $0.37 billion. (15 x $0.37 = $5.6 billion)

    Since the 2009 cutoff above wind and solar have been receiving subsidies in larger amounts. This is because many subsides are now based on new production. (If any new nuclear had come on line it would also received PTC subsidies.)

    Out of curiosity I made a rough stab at calculating the amount wind and solar have received since 2009.

    Based on EIA production numbers from the beginning of 2010 through 2013 solar produced 16,625,000,000 kWh. During the same period wind produced 762,483,520,000 kWh.

    Ignoring the fact that some wind/solar farms chose the 30% ITC rather than the $0.023/kWh PTC and doing the math as if all wind and solar chose the PTC, wind and solar subsidies would have received subsidies (had their taxes lowered) by $19.5 billion.

    Between 1994 and 2009 renewables received subsidies of $5.6 billion. Adding in the 2010 to 2013 (roughly calculated) subsidies the total comes to $25.1 billion.

    Between 1947 and 1999 nuclear received subsidies equaling $185.6 billion.

    Wind and solar received 11% as much as nuclear when we carry the numbers to the end of 2013. Of course there are subsidies for nuclear which are not included in the $185.6 billion.

    Here’s another interesting statistic.

    In 2013 nuclear produced 19.4% of all US electricity. Wind and solar produced 4.33%.

    Nuclear has received 7.4x as much subsidy over time and yet is producing only 4.5x as much electricity. We are currently getting 1.6x more electricity per dollar subsidy with wind and solar.

    Another indication that we seem to have wasted our money on nuclear.

    And let’s not forget the $140 billion to $242 billion taxpayers spend each year treating health problems caused by coal. That subsidy totally dwarfs everything. Between 1994 and 2009 wind and solar received average annual subsidies of $0.37 billion.

    $140 billion is 378x larger than $0.37 billion. $242 billion is 654x larger than $0.36 billion.

    And so often overlooked is the calculated value of taxpayer assumed liability for nuclear reactor disaster which runs $2.2 billion dollars per year per reactor. Roughly $200 billion per year to cover the current 99 reactors.

    • Thank you for being more cordial than some of the other posters on here. I think we agree more than we disagree. We want the same thing. We just see different ways of going about it. However you dont have me convinced that renewable energy producers want to do away with subsidies. Every time I see someone bring it up in the political arena they are accused of wanting to breathe dirty air and drink dirty water. Which is the silliest thing I have ever heard.

      • Let’s be honest. If you were in business and someone was willing to give you a subsidy wouldn’t it be tempting to take it?

        And if you could get a subsidy which would increase your profits wouldn’t you be tempted?

        Furthermore, if your competition was getting a subsidy wouldn’t you be tempted to say “Where’s mine?”?

        You may have a very strong “I don’t need help from anyone” attitude, but let’s be real. Free money? ;o)

        If the wind and solar industry can get subsidies I suspect they’ll take them. Especially as long as the competition get a handout.

        So, do wind and solar “want” to give up their subsidies? Probably not. —

        Now let’s go on to the next question. Do wind and solar really need subsidies any longer?

        I don’t think so and most of the people I read about in the field don’t think so either. Onshore wind is now our cheapest way to bring new generation to the grid at under 4c/kWh. Unsubsidized.

        PV solar is likely slipped under 6c/kWh. Unsubsidized. It’s probably under natural gas in terms of cost.

        That means that neither need subsidies. If they are the two lowest cost options then they don’t need subsidies.

        Now let’s play with one more question. Should we continue to subsidized wind and solar?

        I think it might be our best interest.

        There are two basic reasons for subsidies.

        1) To help a new product/service grow large enough to be competitive.

        2) To increase use of a product/service.

        As an example of #2 we subsidize nutrition for infants and small children. We know that if very young children have a reasonably healthy diet then they will likely cost us a lot less later on.

        OK, think back to that $140 billion to $242 billion we pay for coal-produced health problems. Take the median – $190 billion a year.
        Ten years of paying $190 billion a year = 1.9 trillion dollar. More than 10% of our national debt. 1.9 trillion is a heck of a lot of money. Money we could save by quickly installing a lot of wind and solar generation and leaving coal behind.

        I think it might be wise investing to use some public money to speed up installation of wind and solar, get coal behind us, and start saving about 2 trillion dollars every decade.

        • “Thank you for being more cordial than some of the other posters on here. I think we agree more than we disagree. We want the same thing. We just see different ways of going about it.”

          We get a lot of “conservative” people who show up here who simply act like the north end of a southbound horse. They don’t want to exchange ideas or learn anything new, they just want to call names.

          Regulars here get tired of that and if someone starts out giving those signals they’re probably going to get jumped.

          My experience is that every time I’ve had a calm, open minded discussion with anyone it turns out we have more in common than we disagree.

          So, let’s talk this out. I’ll spend some time with you (and I’ll hold off the wolves – I have “special powers” ;o).

          Let’s see where we agree and if we can learn something from where we disagree.

  • Here you can see what looks like the best mix of wind, solar, hydro, etc. for all 50 states and for most of the world’s countries.

    Don’t be mislead by that amount of steel and concrete stuff. It’s a red herring tossed out by the nuclear industry. What’s important is the installed cost of generation.

    Wind = $0.0235/kWh average 2014 PPA (subsidized).

    DOE “2014 Wind Technologies Market Report”

    Solar = $0.05/kWh PPAs (subsidized) being signed in the US Southwest. Working backwards through a LCOE calculation extrapolates a cost of about $0.02 higher for the less sunny Northeast.

    Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory entitled “Utility-Scale Solar 2013: An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States”

    PPA prices for wind and solar are lowered about 1.5 cents by PTC (Production Tax Credits). Both wind and solar are eligible for 2.3 cent/kWh tax credits for each kWh produced during their first ten years of operation. Half of 2.3 is 1.15, but getting one’s money early has value. That means that the non-subsidized costs of wind are a bit under 4 cents and solar is running 6.5 to 8.5 cents/kWh.

    An analysis of the Vogtle reactor costs by Citigroup in early 2014 found the LCOE for electricity from those reactors will cost 11 cents per kWh (subsidized). That is assuming no further cost/timeline overruns.

    They also stated that reactors built after the Vogtle units would likely produce more expensive electricity as they would not be able to receive the low financing rates as Vogtle has obtained.

    Following the Citigroup study it was announced that the Vogtle reactors would be delayed at least an 30 additional months. The cost of this delay will cost $2 million per day.. That additional cost will push the final cost well over 13 cents per kWh.

    The steel and copper in wind turbines? When a turbine is worn out that material can be recycled to make a new turbine. (It’s just the bearing surfaces that wear out. And technology improves over time.)

    The materials in nuclear reactors have to be left in place for about 60 years until they “cool off” enough to be hauled off to a radioactive waste dump.

    Most biomass plants are run with wood waste from timber/lumber operations. There are four not far from where I sit right now.

    If we need more biomass plants there are some plants like switchgrass which are American native prairie grasses and grow fine with no fertilization and water after they are established. They grow on very marginal land (like burned out cotton fields) and restore the soil.

    We have other options as well. Algae and duckweed are a couple. Both grown on municipal wastewater.

    The wood pellets we ship to Europe are not something that can be done long term unless we figure out low carbon shipping.

    Biomass is likely not something we would use for 24/365 power but as ‘deep backup’. Those times in the year (extreme heat waves and cold spells) when our normal renewable generation would be stretched. Since the fuel is so cheap to store we might fire up converted coal plants a few times a year and run them for a few days each time. Overall, maybe less than three weeks a year.

    Running electricity grids on fossil fuels is 20th Century technology. The first electric grid came online in 1889.

    Wind turbines and windmills are not the same thing. The first provides electricity and the latter provides mechanical energy (does direct work).

  • I was gonna explain this new thing we have now called technology, but you win Jim – you’re more 20th century than I could have imagined. Enjoy it while it’s over, and say what’s up to Rip Van Winkle while you’re there.

    • Thanks for adding something new to the mix.

      • It’s snide and rhetorical – but I’d rather play with the dogs now.

  • Biomass. Yes, burning biomass releases pollutants. Many environmentalist opposed it and I think it should be a ‘special case’ use only.

    Without getting deep into all the items listed on your linked page, let’s talk about CO2. The carbon in biomass is carbon that was already above the ground, turning it into CO2 doesn’t increase the carbon in the above surface carbon cycle. To the extent that biomass helps us avoid burning fossil fuels it keeps the amount of above-ground carbon from increasing.

    I think we should, as much as possible, reserve biomass burning for ‘deep backup’ use. For those few days a year when demand is high and wind and solar can’t keep up.

    But there’s another side to it.

    Last week I was listening to our local radio station and they interviewed the main guy at one of our local biomass plants. They burn forest waste from local lumber yards.

    His point was, they have to get rid of the waste somehow. As much as 60% of some trees are not usable for lumber/plywood. It’s either going to get burned or hauled off to a landfill. Hauling to a landfill here means a couple hundred miles or more to the middle of Oregon. Hauling would create more CO2 than burning.

    If we’re going to burn it, might as well get some electricity out of it.

    • I’m breaking your comment out in pieces. I find it difficult to discuss multiple topics in one comment. It can get really confusing after a while….

      “Nuclear energy is also not a FF. It has no emissions. It was also once seen as the new technology in the 1950s. Then people started to turn on it after events such as Three mile island and Chernobyl. My point about that is there are always unforeseen consequences to what is perceived as the next best thing.”

      Actually we quit building nuclear in the US due to cost, not public attitude. I’ll show you a graph below that shows that nuclear was dying away well before 1979 when Three Mile Island melted down. That was our first civilian nuclear disaster and the anti-nuclear movement didn’t get going until after TMI.

      And look at the rising cost of nuclear plants over the years. Nuclear sounded great. It just never got affordable, only more expensive.

      We kind of forgot that cost lesson. We’re now building two new reactors in Georgia. They’re on track to producing 13 cents per kWh electricity which is higher than the retail average price of electricity in the US.

      And we’re building two more in South Carolina. Customers are having their electricity rates raised in order to help pay for these new reactors. So far they’ve experienced six rate hikes and are paying 30% more than they otherwise would be paying.

      The CEOs of the two companies that own the largest number of reactors in the US have recently said that they don’t see any more nuclear being built in the US. They just are too expensive.


      • “I would imagine you cant just fire up a converted coal plant a few days a year. It would not be practical or financially feasible to maintain it just to run it for such a short period.”

        Actually you can. We shut down coal plants for months now. During the spring when demand is low, the dams are full, and wind is high there’s no need for coal’s contribution so plants are put to sleep until summer AC calls them back into service.

        We have gas turbines, “peakers”, that run very little of the time. In fact, in 2014 our peakers ran 5.2% of the time and 6.7% of the time in 2015.

        Now when we do run those turbines the power they charge a lot. They have to recoup a full year of costs and profit in a short period of time. But we pay for it. We need it.

        I’ve worked for the federal and state governments, for-profit and nonprofit businesses. My experience is that they all did about the same when it came to picking ‘winners and losers’.

        I think there are some things best done by governments and other things best done by businesses. But when it comes down to it, government does the really hard lifting. Business rarely gets involved until there’s a clear route to profits.

  • Most of the stuff on that list can eventually be put back underground. The carbon involved does not need to get into the atmosphere.

    The stuff we can’t sequester should probably be our main candidates for finding a sustainable, non-petroleum substitute.

  • So…..How do you charge all those lithium batteries to power those electric cars? Oh yeah, you burn LOTS and LOTS of coal.

    • Sorry, chris. People here know that coal is fade, fade, fading away.

      Coal peaked at 54% of America’s electricity generation. Late last year it dropped below 30% and it’s heading lower.

      You wanted to poke people with a sharp stick, but you came off as a dull bunny….

  • The US does not have rare earth mines because China has been the low cost provider. The US did have at least one REM mine earlier.

    The US is opening lithium mines now that demand is about to shoot through the roof.

  • Look at all of your up votes, your killing it Chad. Bwwwhahaha.

    • I’m Not looking for anyone’s approval and I think you have me confused with someone named Chad.

  • Amazing you have to resort to vulgar vernacular to try to get your point across. You apparently don’t like lies, misinformation, and insults. Why do you use any of those tactics yourself? If you want me, and many others, to take you seriously then write as if you have an intellect that can steer from insults and rely on and use/convey the data convincingly. These are the hallmarks of great orators. If you can’t do that the. You don’t deserve to be heard or read.

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