Big Tent Ideas

DAVID BLACKMON: Where Will All The Money And Metals Come From?

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David Blackmon David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.
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Those of us who follow the evolution of this largely imaginary energy transition driven by government subsidies and activist fantasies often bore audiences by asking where will all the money and metals required to make this grand plan a reality come from?

It’s a difficult question that pushers of the transition hate to be asked, mainly because there are no easy answers available. (RELATED: DAVID BLACKMON: Democrats’ Natural Gas Epiphany)

Still, the question and its ultimate answers are crucial since none of this can otherwise become reality. The question frequently arises following publication of a new report by one of the major analyst firms like Wood MacKenzie, Enverus, S&P Global, and Rystad Energy detailing projected costs of one of a thousand expensive aspects of this transition.

The folks at Rystad provided a great example this week with the publication of a study that finds that keeping the world on a path to limit global warming to no more than 1.8 degrees Celsius by 2050 will require new global power grid investments of $3.1 trillion. The catch is that the world’s governments must come up with that $3.1 trillion not by 2050, but by 2030, just six years from now.

And those trillions will have to be sourced at the same time many more trillions of dollars must be found to fund all the myriad other moving parts and needs of this fantasy plan.

To provide some context here, President Joe Biden loves to boast about the green energy subsidies and tax breaks provided in his Orwellian-named Inflation Reduction Act as the biggest spend of government dollars to push green energy in world history. The nominal price tag for those subsidies according to the Congressional Budget Office was over $350 billion, or roughly 1/8th of the $3.1 trillion Rystad says we must spend on the grid in just the next six years.

So, where will these eight additional IRAs come from? All the combined nations of Europe almost choked to death on the EU’s Green Deal plan that amounts to a small fraction of that number, so we probably shouldn’t count on them. We could normally anticipate a good deal of that monumental amount to come out of China, but with the media these days filled with fright stories about a looming collapse of the Chinese economy, that’s a bit of a crap shoot, too.

Rystad projects that global grid investments will reach $374 billion in 2024, with China accounting for a third of that.

What about the United States? Well, the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar has already been so devalued by the IRA-caused inflation in the past few years that Biden’s public approval numbers have largely been mired at sub-40 levels since last summer. That reality, plus the seemingly permanent state of gridlock in the U.S. Congress renders prospects of passing another IRA-type monstrosity feel like the stuff of science fiction novels.

Then there are the issues with sourcing all the metals required in any grid expansion. Most critical among these is copper, integral to any expansion of transmission lines.

Rystad sees the need for a global addition of 18 million kilometers — about 11.2 million miles — of needed expansion by 2030, which would require about 30 million additional tons of copper, a metal already in short supply. In a recent interview, S&P Global Chairman Daniel Yergin reminded me that it takes “about 15-20 years to permit and build a new copper mine,” so no one should count on new mining operations to fill in the additional volumes.

And what about the thousands, if not millions, of new transformers that would need to be sourced and installed as integral equipment to the 18 million km. of additional transmission? I’ve noted here previously the near-crisis situation that currently exists where transformers are concerned, with lead times to source new high capacity models currently sitting at up to four years.

So, where will all the money come from? Where will all the metals come from? Where will all the necessary equipment like transformers come from?

These are all hard questions the pushers of this subsidized energy transition hate to be asked, because there are no easy answers to be provided.

David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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