ESG is Fully Endorsed by Public Sector Pension Plans

The Beatles song “Revolution” lyrics should be required reading for all the “woke” generation pushing the “net-zero” concept. When discovering something recently it brought to mind the words of that classic!  Pre-chorus 3 even had the following words: “But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow“!  

The ESG Revolution

We often discover, after it happens and behind the scenes; bureaucrats (federal, provincial and municipal) support politicians advocating for what they perceive as beneficial to them and do so, without regard for taxpayers obligated to pay the price for their indulgence.

Such was the case when unbeknown to most of us taxpayers those bureaucrats got together via eight publicly supported pension plans  (PPP) and in a press release dated November 25, 2020 united for a cause advocated by the Federal Liberal Party. The cause was their undated agreement to push for ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors when investing our taxpayer dollars (federal and provincial) in any future investments for the benefit of their member’s pensions.

What the foregoing meant was; those “PPP” agreed to impose ESG standards on publicly traded and private companies.  The impact would be on those companies ability to attract PPP as either shareholders or lenders for debt raising via bond issues, etc.  Those public sector pension plans at the time of the signing of the agreement held $1.6 trillion in assets which was close to what Canada’s GDP (gross domestic product) was in 2020 at US $1.57 trillion. A reflection on the power they hold over us lowly taxpayers!  The agreement is not only undated and mind boggling but also not in tune with most taxpayers as to how they should allocate our tax dollars that created their $1.6 trillion value.

The full text of the short but “undated” and compelling agreement follows:

Companies and investors must put sustainability and inclusive growth at the centre of economic recovery

COVID-19 continues to impose a huge toll on our daily lives, impacting families, businesses, public institutions and civil society worldwide. The pandemic and other tragic events of 2020 have revealed pre-existing business strengths and shortcomings with respect to social inequity, including systemic racism and environmental threats.

It is imperative we rebuild our economies in ways that create greater systemic resiliency and inclusive growth. The time to act is now, and each of us has a role to play. We call on companies and investment partners to help drive lasting change by placing sustainability at the centre of their planning, operations and reporting.

As CEOs of Canada’s eight largest pension plan investment managers, representing $1.6 trillion in assets under management, we are committed to creating more sustainable and inclusive growth by integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into our strategies and investment decisions. It is not only the right thing to do, it is an integral part of our duty to contributors and beneficiaries. Doing this will unlock opportunities and mitigate risks, supporting our mandates to deliver long-term risk-adjusted returns.

To deliver on our mandates, we require increased transparency from companies. How companies identify and address issues such as diversity and inclusion, human capital, board effectiveness and climate change can significantly contribute to value creation or erosion. Companies have an obligation to disclose their material business risks and opportunities to financial markets and should provide financially relevant, comparable and decision-useful information. While we recognize companies face a myriad of disclosure frameworks and requests, it is vital that they report relevant ESG data in a standardized way.

We ask that companies measure and disclose their performance on material, industry-relevant ESG factors by leveraging the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) standards and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework to further standardize ESG-related reporting. While the SASB standards focus broadly on industry-relevant sustainability reporting, the TCFD framework calls for climate-specific disclosures across several reporting pillars (governance, strategy, risk, and metrics and targets). Both are useful to investors and informative to companies working to frame their ESG reporting.

We are confident the ability to successfully address and adapt to these 21st-century business risks and opportunities is a distinguishing feature of great companies. While for many this will require greater ambition than in the past, we believe companies demonstrating ESG-astute practices and disclosure will outperform over the long-term.

For our part, we continue to strengthen our own ESG disclosure and integration practices, and allocate capital to investments best placed to deliver long-term sustainable value creation.

Inspired by this historic opportunity to help confront the most urgent challenges facing our global community, we ask others committed to our vision to join us on this journey towards a more sustainable future.“   

The eight CEOs who signed the agreement represented the following public pension plans:

Alberta Investment Management Corporation, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, Ontario Teachers Pension Plan and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board!

The reference to SASB and TCFD in the agreement suggests these two UN inspired creations from a 2004 letter sent by Secretary General Koffi Annan to 50 CEOs of major financial institutions have completely revised the way we have been measuring financial performance over the centuries. It suggests 2 + 2 no longer equals 4!  To pretend companies will become “great” by adopting ESG factors flies in the face of all logic. The “E” (environmental) in ESG is what the Mark Carney, Michael Bloomberg political fans and eco-warriors have focused on and if the punishment of the middle and lower classes continues under their direction and the politicians they have influenced, we should expect:

As the Beatles opined “You say you want a revolution”!

NB: The Washington based “Institute for Pension Fund Integrity” in a report concluded: “Although there are over $20 trillion in ESG assets under management, it lacks a standardized definition under which all firms can unite and under which regulators can address legitimate concerns.“  

Ontarians Paid Up Big for Wind Generation while Swedes Paid Up Big for Less Wind Generation

Transmission connected IWT (industrial wind turbines) were busy throughout the province on Sunday, January 9, 2022 and generated 83,086 MWh (megawatt hours) and also had another 9,000 MWh curtailed as there wasn’t enough demand.  What the foregoing means is IWT could have operated at a level of 80.2% of their capacity versus their average generation over a full year of about 30%.

Before completing the foregoing calculation, I had read a short article from December 20, 2021 about Sweden’s recent experience which claimed their electricity prices had soared to an all time high.  The article started with what was obviously the cause stating: “Less wind power than normal, as well as the cost of gas and electricity being on an upward curve in Europe this winter, has had a knock-on effect”.  The article went on; “On Tuesday, the average daily spot price of electricity south of Mälardalen (the region around Stockholm) is set to hit 4.25 kronor ($0.46) per kilowatt hour.” Doing the calculation in Canadian dollars brings the cost to almost $0.59 cents/kWh! That suggests without natural gas plants and the fuel itself available to back up IWT the price of electricity will soar above almost everyone’s ability to pay for it. This results in “energy poverty” increasing in most European countries.

We have seen the same outcome in Ontario although not to the same extent and we should be thankful for our relatively cheap electricity generated by our natural gas plants for the many times our IWT fail!

January 9, 2022 wasn’t one of the times IWT were absent in Ontario as noted in the opening paragraph.  The wind was blowing briskly throughout the province meaning we wound up having to export 61,089 MW to our Michigan, New York and Quebec neighbours.  Presumably they were happy to take it as the average sale price over those 24 hours was $8.82/MWh or less than one cent a kWh (kilowatt hour) meaning we were paid a grand total of $538,800 for those MWh.

To put the foregoing into context the 83,086 MWh were more than sufficient to have supplied the exported MWs and we Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers were forced to pay the contracted price of $135/MWh meaning the cost was $11,216,600.  Adding the approximate 9,000 MWh curtailed at a cost of $120/MWh ($1,080,000) brings the full cost of wind generation to about $12,296,600.  If we rightly assume all of the surplus generation exported at those cheap prices was IWT generation it means the net cost of wind generation was $11,757,800 ($12,296,600 minus $538,800 = $11,757,800).  If we logically deduct the MWh exported (61,089 MWh) from IWT full generation of 83,086 MWh the IWT generation utilized by Ontarians was only 21,997 MWh. 

At a total cost to Ontarians of $11,757,800 those 21,997 MWh providing power to Ontario’s businesses and households cost $534.51/MWh ($11.757,800/21,997MW = $534.51/MWh) or 53.4 cents/kWh. The 53.4 cents/kWh it cost Ontarians is very close to what many Swedish businesses and households are now paying for “Less wind power”. 

Conclusion                        

Industrial Wind Turbines cost the Swedes and many other Europeans a lot of money when they don’t produce power and cost Ontarians a lot of money when they produce too much power. In other words, IWT are detrimental to our economic well-being due to their intermittent and unreliable behaviour!  

Scrap them all!

Wind Hammers Ontario Ratepayers and Taxpayers

Yesterday (January 5, 2022) Ontarians were once again battered by gusting winds approaching 90 km at times and those with ownership of industrial wind turbines (IWT) in the province were loving it!  Our neighbours in Michigan, New York and Quebec, etc. also were pleased as they collectively took 59,242 MWh (megawatt hours)) of the 90,146 MWh generated by those IWT and only had to pay an average of $17.33/MWh (1.7 cents/kWh).

The 90,146 MWh ($135/MWh) added to the 7,800 MWh ($120/MWh) of curtailed wind generation drove the total cost of wind generation for the day to $13,106,000 or $145.39/MWh (14.5 cents/kWh).

Those IWT generated an average of just over 85% of their rated capacity throughout the day (including the curtailed MW) and 58% of their generation was exported for those very cheap prices.  I’m confident the trading companies buying and selling our surplus generation for our neighbours also enjoy the benefits we bestow on them too by creating the trading revenue.  

So, we generated approximately $1,027,000 from the sale of those 59,242 MWh but they cost us Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers about $8,613,000. That means we subsidized the sale with $7,586,000 or $128.00/MWh of our after-tax dollars!  We hope our neighbouring states and provinces are very appreciative of our continuing generosity!

We Ontario taxpayers and ratepayers should appreciate the very recent “mea culpa” expressed by our former Premier, Kathleen Wynne, in her interview with MacLean’s magazine when asked about issues she didn’t feel good about stated: “Well, I score myself very low on the electricity price,” Wynne said.“

Hey, Kathleen, we ratepayers and taxpayers score you and your predecessor, Dalton McGuinty and those minions like Gerald Butts, Katie Telford and Ben Chin who pulled your strings very low too. Perhaps your handling of the electricity file is why the Ontario Liberal Party became the EV (electric vehicle) minivan party. 

The unfortunate part of your party’s demise is Butts, Telford and Chin now pull the strings of the Liberal Party of Canada and seem intent on perpetuating your low scores on all of Canada’s energy security!

Industrial Wind Turbines Once Again Demonstrate their Unreliability

The unreliability of those industrial wind turbines (IWT), touted as a key ingredient to save the world from “global warming” by eco-warriors and obtuse politicians, once again demonstrated their uselessness!

Here in Ontario on December 28, 2021 at 4 AM (the middle of the night) they were cranking out power (when demand was low) generating 69.4% (3,072 MWh) of their rated capacity but by 4 PM in the afternoon when demand was much higher their output was a miserly 1.5% (65 MWh) of their rated capacity.  To add further context to the foregoing at 4 AM IWT were generating about 22% of total Ontario demand but by 4 PM when demand was much higher those IWT were generating 0.004% of Ontario’s demand.

IWTs bad reliability habit means our grid operator, IESO, has a much more complex system to operate with a transmission grid connecting all of those IWT and requiring gas plants to remain “at the ready” when the wind dies down or picks up.  Those manipulations add costs to our electricity system thereby helping to create energy poverty by driving up the per kWh (kilowatt hour) costs for households.  It also serves to drive our manufacturing companies to other provinces and U.S.A. states with lower electricity prices meaning job losses are one of the outcomes.

As if the foregoing isn’t bad enough if one looks at just 9 hours starting at 10 PM (when Ontario demand falls) December 27th through to 7 AM (when electricity demand starts its daily increase) on December 28th we learn we exported 23,514 MWh to our neighbours in Michigan, NY, Quebec, etc. as that IWT generation was surplus to our needs.  We sold those 23,514 MWh for the average price of $17/MWh (1.7cents/kWh) during those 9 hours.  Co-incidently those IWT generated 22,617 MWh during the same timeframe and it also appears we curtailed another 1,100 MWh meaning Ontario’s ratepayers picked up the costs for 23,717 MWh of wind which highlights them as the cause of the exported power at the miserly price of 1.7cents/kWh.

The all-in costs (including curtailed) for the IWT generation over the 9 hours was approximately $3.2 million but we received only $400K in payment for selling a like amount of their generation to our neighbours so; Ontario’s ratepayers and taxpayers picked up the loss of $2.8 million ($311K per hour).  Please note the foregoing loss is from only 9 hours out of 8,760 hours in a full year.

Perhaps as a UK website “Net-Zero Watch” recently suggested to the UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, Ontario’s Minister of Energy, Todd Smith should take heed and do as they recommend and; “compel wind and solar generators to pay for their own balancing costs, thus incentivising them to self-dispatch only when economic.”

Ontario’s electricity sector needs to rid itself of the costs of IWT’s unreliable and intermittent supply so now is the time to bring in some new regulations to stop the bleeding!

The Ministry of Silly Wokeism should be the Mandated Name for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

Anyone who was a fan of British comedy in the last century will no doubt recall “Monty Python and the Flying Circus” which aired from 1969 to 1974 and they may even recall one of the funny sketches, called; “Ministry of Silly Walks”.

The memory associated with the foregoing sketch came roaring back after reading the Toronto Sun’s editorial titled: “Electric car sales quotas are a bad idea”. “The federal government wants half of all new passenger cars sold in Canada to be zero-emission vehicles by 2030, and reach 100% by 2035“. The article also claimed: “Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault is now saying the country needs a national mandate to force auto dealers to sell a certain number of electric vehicles.“

A visit to the Natural Resources Canada website reveals; “The transportation sector is responsible for 27 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada. Light-duty vehicles – the cars, vans and light-duty trucks we drive – are responsible for almost half of that total.”  If Minister Guilbeault had math skills and bothered to work out Canada’s emissions from ICE vehicles he would discover they represent 0.056% of global emissions which is less then China emits in one day! 

It is also humourous to find out Guilbeault doesn’t ride his bicycle back and forth from his Montreal riding to Ottawa and instead is apparently chauffeured in an EV.  This was disclosed when he was granting $9.5 million to Quebec to add fast-charging stations on a summer day when he was Heritage Minister. The short video in which he appears has him saying: “My ministerial vehicle is 100% electrical and I can tell you we need to charge when were between Montreal and Ottawa.“ The distance between Montreal and Ottawa is only 198.2 km.  The foregoing is an indication of what is worrying about replacing ICE vehicles with EVs particularly with Canada’s cold winters when EVs loose much of their range.  The winter’s effect on EVs was highlighted in a consumer report recommending, when purchasing an EV you should “Double Down on Range”! The article went on to say; “EV buyers who drive in colder climates should strongly consider getting a car with a range about double what their daily driving needs are, so they’re not left stranded in a cold snap.”

Guilbeault should note: “The record for coldest day in Ottawa history is minus 33.1C, set back in 1996“ so, perhaps he should consider dumping the EV and get chauffeured in a reliable ICE for those trips back and forth between Montreal and Ottawa or at some point he may find himself stranded.

Minister Guilbeault should also realize the costs associated with how much more will need to be spent on the charging infrastructure for EVs. A U.S. based study indicated what Canada’s expected costs would be noting: “this country’s equivalent required total investment in charging infrastructure works out to about $10.5 billion.“  The present budget for Canada’s “Zero Emissions Vehicle Infrastructure Program” is a miserly $280 million spread over 5 years so represents only 2.7% of the requirement. 

The facts noted above will hopefully spur Minister Guilbeault to drop his concept to mandate the push for EV sales!

Should he refuse to drop the proposed mandate we should all sincerely hope the Ministry be retitled as The Ministry of Silly Wokeism!

Hour 19 on December 8, 2021 Shows Why Ontario needs Gas Generation

Should one bother to look at the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) data for hour 19 on December 8th one would note Ontario’s natural gas plants thankfully produced 30.4% (6,399 MWh) of the entire hour’s generation which was just over 21,000 MWh. Without gas generation Ontarians would have experienced rolling backouts much like California does on high demand days.

While gas plants were thankfully, at the ready, our nuclear (8,510 MWh) and hydro (5,076 MWh) plants were reliant as always, generating 64.7% of the hour’s needs.  Collectively those three dependable sectors produced 95.1% of the entire hour’s generation. The balance of 4.9% (1,033 MWh), largely unneeded, came from wind, and biomass as the sun had set so no solar generation was produced.

Ontario demand during the hour was a shade over 20,000 MWh so IESO exported the unneeded generation to Quebec (556 MWh), NY ((369 MWh) and Michigan (452 MWh) and thankfully because demand was higher due to the colder weather the market driven HOEP (hourly Ontario energy price) averaged $94.44/MWh meaning the cost of the surplus generation had a minor impact on costs paid by the ratepayers and taxpayers of the province.

It seems strange Ontario’s ratepayers are much better off when the sun isn’t shining or the winds not blowing hard but that is what the GEEA (Green Energy and Economy Act) brought us.

On an unusually cold day like December 8th we should be thankful for the readily available gas plant generation we have. Those gas plants (contracted to backup intermittent and unreliable wind and solar generation) ensured we would not be hampered by rolling blackouts.

So, all you municipal politicians in Ottawa, Toronto and elsewhere in the province, PLEASE tell us why you are demanding those reliable gas plants should be shut down! 

Norway’s Virtue Signal is Shallow Whereas Canada’s is Harmful

A press release from the Ontario Ministry of Energy, Todd Smith on December 1, 2021 bragged about the province’s support for the “Ivy Charging Network” (a joint venture between OPG and Hydro One).  The press release stated: “The deployment of charging infrastructure will see ONroute locations along highways 401 and 400 equipped with at least two EV chargers at each site, with busier sites equipped with more.“ The press release went on to quote Minister Smith saying; “This deployment will reduce barriers to EV ownership, supporting Ontario’s growing EV manufacturing market.“ Hopefully, the message was simply meant to augment the agreement by the Ford and Trudeau led governments to provide Ford Automotive with $295 million each to save the 5,000 jobs at their Oakville plant by converting it to manufacture EV!

The announcement brought to mind a recent article, with a related video, about Norway and their claim to be “the world’s top market for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles by market share“!  The article was about testing 20 different models of EVs and hybrid vehicles to determine their loss of “performance” in cold weather (defined as from a high of 3°Cto -6°C). The short video in the article indicated the average loss of performance in that “cold weather” was in the order of about 20%.  Most Canadians would consider that to be classified as; mild winter weather! We should expect our colder winter temperatures would result in a much higher loss of performance should we push for more EVs to replace our dependable and winter reliable ICE automobiles.

Presently about 15% of all registered vehicles in Norway are EVs or hybrids and recent monthly sales of those are now over 80% of all vehicles.  That is seemingly causing some concern as EV and hybrid buyers receive lots of generous tax breaks (ie; the VAT of 25%, free parking, no toll road charges, etc. etc.) which led to a study which “estimated that the popularity of EVs was creating a 19.2 billion Norwegian krone ($2.32 billion) hole in the country’s annual revenue.“  They are suddenly noticing their tax revenues are falling.

Curiosity piqued, if one looks at Norway’s electricity generation one finds it is emissions free with 98% from hydro and 1.7% from other renewables and slightly better than Ontario’s. Annual consumption is 123 TWh (terawatt hours).  On a per capita basis (population of 5.4 million) that means each Norwegian consumes about 23 MWh (megawatt hours).  If one looks at Ontario with a population of 14.6 million, per capita consumption is only 9 MWh for the 132.2 TWh we consumed in 2020 which means the average Ontarian consumes only 39% of the average Norwegian!

I point out the foregoing merely to show if EV sales in Ontario achieve what they are in Norway, Ontario may need a lot more electricity generation at a time when the Pickering Nuclear Station is slated to be shutdown. The Energy Minister’s press release noted as of October 2021 “there are 66,757 EVs registered in Ontario. By 2030, one out of every three automobiles sold will be electric.“ Those current EV registrations are less than 1% of vehicle registrations in Ontario so let us all hope his forecast is wrong!

If we look at Norway and compare it to Canada, we should note they are a major generator of oil and gas with the bulk of it sold to other European countries. In respect to oil and gas production the similarities are striking but while Norway increases their generation of oil and gas to sell to other countries Canada’s current government hamstrings our fossil fuel sector in a variety of ways. Norway’s exports of oil and gas represent about one third of all exports and in Canada’s case it was just north of 14% in 2019.

Interestingly, Canada was among 20 countries that signed on to the COP26 agreement to no longer finance fossil fuel projects abroad but it’s not clear if Norway was one of those countries.  Another article does however note; Norway has lobbied the World Bank to “stop all financing of natural gas projects in Africa and elsewhere as soon as 2025 — and until then only in “exceptional circumstances “ The article’s summary highlights the hypocrisy of Norway by summing up with the closing sentence: “It is antithetical to say you support energy development abroad — but only when it is green — while admitting green energy cannot be the only source. Norway can’t have its cake and eat it too, not when it comes to energy development.”

While Norway’s position is shallow it protects their economic wellbeing as a benefit to their citizens whereas, Canada under PM Justin Trudeau, seems determined to destroy our economy to the detriment of all Canadians!

Wind Generation in the middle of the night wastes ratepayer and taxpayer dollars

Today, November 26, 2021 at 3 AM the wind was blowing and those IWT (industrial wind turbines) generated 3,677 MWh or 81.2% of their rated capacity of 4519 MW at that hour. Ontario’s demand was low though at 12,941 MW so IESO were busy selling our surplus as total generation was 15,361 MWh.

IESO exported 1,375 MWh to Michigan, 658 MWh to New York and 578 MWh to Quebec. Those 2,611 MWh we sold went for pennies on the dollar as the HOEP (hourly Ontario electricity price) was a miserly 1.33 cents/kWh.  At the same time, one should surmise IESO instructed OPG to also spill hydro.

It is obvious Ontario didn’t need the IWT generation at that hour but they have a bad habit of generating power when it’s unneeded and fail to deliver it when demand is high during hot summer days.

So, Ontario sold the 2,611 MWh to our neighbours for the princely sum of $13.30/MWh which generated $34,726 but paid those IWT generators $135/MWh so they received $352,485 for those unneeded 2,611 MWh meaning Ontario’s ratepayers and taxpayers picked up the loss of $312,759 for just that one hour.

The full night for the 7 hours from midnight to 7 AM had those IWT generating 28,460 MWh so the likely cost to Ontario’s ratepayers and taxpayers was over $2 million for just those seven hours. 

We should all assume those IWT were also busy chopping up birds and bats and causing rural residents sleeping problems in addition to adding to the costs of our electricity bills.

Sure, would-be good news if the Ford government actually did something to reduce the costs of generating electricity other than simply transferring the costs to taxpayers and increasing our provincial debt!

Some Naked Facts (?) on – Batteries, Solar and Wind

NB: I received this from a friend and felt it was worth posting as it is full of interesting facts!

When I saw the title of this lecture, especially with the picture of the scantily clad model, I couldn’t resist attending. The packed auditorium was abuzz with questions about the address; nobody seemed to know what to expect. The only hint was a large aluminum block sitting on a sturdy table on the stage.

When the crowd settled down, a scholarly-looking man walked out and put his hand on the shiny block, “Good evening,” he said, “I am here to introduce NMC532-X,” and he patted the block, “we call him NM for short,” and the man smiled proudly. “NM is a typical electric vehicle (EV) car battery in every way except one; we programmed him to send signals of the internal movements of his electrons when charging, discharging, and in several other conditions. We wanted to know what it feels like to be a battery. We don’t know how it happened, but NM began to talk after we downloaded the program.

Despite this ability, we put him in a car for a year and then asked him if he’d like to do presentations about batteries. He readily agreed on the condition he could say whatever he wanted. We thought that was fine, and so, without further ado, I’ll turn the floor over to NM,” the man turned and walked off the stage.

“Good evening,” NM said. He had a slightly affected accent, and when he spoke, he lit up in different colors. “That cheeky woman on the marquee was my idea,” he said. “Were she not there, along with ‘naked’ in the title, I’d likely be speaking to an empty auditorium! I also had them add ‘shocking’ because it’s a favorite word amongst us batteries.” He flashed a light blue color as he laughed.

“Sorry,” NM giggled then continued, “three days ago, at the start of my last lecture, three people walked out. I suppose they were disappointed there would be no dancing girls. But here is what I noticed about them. One was wearing a battery-powered hearing aid, one tapped on his battery- powered cell phone as he left, and a third got into his car, which would not start without a battery.

So I’d like you to think about your day for a moment; how many batteries do you rely on?” He paused for a full minute which gave us time to count our batteries. Then he went on, “Now, it is not elementary to ask, ‘what is a battery?’ I think Tesla said it best when they called us Energy Storage Systems. That’s important. We do not make electricity – we store electricity produced elsewhere, primarily by coal, uranium, natural gas-powered plants, or diesel-fueled generators. So, to say an EV is a zero-emission vehicle is not at all valid. Also, since forty percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. is from coal-fired plants, it follows that forty percent of the EVs on the road are coal-powered, n’est-ce pas? He flashed blue again. “Einstein’s formula, E=MC2, tells us it takes the same amount of energy to move a five-thousand-pound gasoline- driven automobile a mile as it does an electric one. The only question again is what produces the power? To reiterate, it does not come from the battery; the battery is only the storage device, like a gas tank in a car.” He lit up red when he said that, and I sensed he was smiling. Then he continued in blue and orange.

“Mr. Elkay introduced me as NMC532. If I were the battery from your computer mouse, Elkay would introduce me as double-A, if from your cell phone as CR2032, and so on. We batteries all have the same name depending on our design. By the way, the ‘X’ in my name stands for ‘experimental.’ There are two orders of batteries, rechargeable, and single- use. The most common single-use batteries are A, AA, AAA, C, D. 9V, and lantern types. Those dry-cell species use zinc, manganese, lithium, silver oxide, or zinc and carbon to store electricity chemically. Please note they all contain toxic, heavy metals.

Rechargeable batteries only differ in their internal materials, usually lithium-ion, nickel-metal oxide, and nickel-cadmium. The United States uses three billion of these two battery types a year, and most are not recycled; they end up in landfills. California is the only state which requires all batteries be recycled. If you throw your small, used batteries in the trash, here is what happens to them.

All batteries are self-discharging. That means even when not in use, they leak tiny amounts of energy. You have likely ruined a flashlight or two from an old ruptured battery. When a battery runs down and can no longer power a toy or light, you think of it as dead; well, it is not. It continues to leak small amounts of electricity. As the chemicals inside it run out, pressure builds inside the battery’s metal casing, and eventually, it cracks. The metals left inside then ooze out. The ooze in your ruined flashlight is toxic, and so is the ooze that will inevitably leak from every battery in a landfill. All batteries eventually rupture; it just takes rechargeable batteries longer to end up in the landfill. In addition to dry cell batteries, there are also wet cell ones used in automobiles, boats, and motorcycles. The good thing about those is, ninety percent of them are recycled. Unfortunately, we do not yet know how to recycle batteries like me or care to dispose of single-use ones properly. But that is not half of it.

For those of you excited about electric cars and a green revolution, I want you to take a closer look at batteries and also windmills, and solar panels. These three technologies share what we call “environmentally destructive embedded costs.” NM got redder as he spoke. “Everything manufactured has two costs associated with it, embedded costs and operating costs. I will explain embedded costs using a can of baked beans as my subject. In this scenario, baked beans are on sale, so you jump in your car and head for the grocery store. Sure enough, there they are on the shelf for $1.75 a can. As you head to the checkout, you begin to think about the embedded costs in the can of beans. The first cost is the diesel fuel the farmer used to plow the field, till the ground, harvest the beans, and transport them to the food processor. Not only is his diesel fuel an embedded cost, so are the costs to build the tractors, combines, and trucks. In addition, the farmer might use a nitrogen fertilizer made from natural gas. Next is the energy costs of cooking the beans, heating the building, transporting the workers, and paying for the vast amounts of electricity used to run the plant. The steel can holding the beans is also an embedded cost. Making the steel can requires mining taconite, shipping it by boat, extracting the iron, placing it in a coal-fired blast furnace, and adding carbon. Then it’s back on another truck to take the beans to the grocery store. Finally, add in the cost of the gasoline for your car. But wait – can you guess one of the highest but rarely acknowledged embedded costs?” NM said, then gave us about thirty seconds to make our guesses. Then he flashed his lights and said, “It’s the depreciation on the 5000 pound car you used to transport one pound of canned beans!” NM took on a golden glow, and I thought he might have winked. He said, “But that can of beans is nothing compared to me! I am hundreds of times more complicated. My embedded costs not only come in the form of energy use; they come as environmental destruction, pollution, disease, child labor, and the inability to be recycled.”

He paused, “I weigh one thousand pounds, and as you see, I am about the size of a travel trunk.” NM’s lights showed he was serious. “I contain twenty-five pounds of lithium, sixty pounds of nickel, 44 pounds of manganese, 30 pounds cobalt, 200 pounds of copper, and 400 pounds of aluminum, steel, and plastic. Inside me are 6,831 individual lithium-ion cells. It should concern you that all those toxic components come from mining. For instance, to manufacture each auto battery like me, you must process 25,000 pounds of brine for the lithium, 30,000 pounds of ore for the cobalt, 5,000 pounds of ore for the nickel, and 25,000 pounds of ore for copper. All told, you dig up 500,000 pounds of the earth’s crust for just – one – battery.” He let that one sink in, then added, “I mentioned disease and child labor a moment ago. Here’s why. Sixty-eight percent of the world’s cobalt, a significant part of a battery, comes from the Congo. Their mines have no pollution controls and they employ children who die from handling this toxic material. Should we factor in these diseased kids as part of the cost of driving an electric car?” NM’s red and orange light made it look like he was on fire.

“Finally,” he said, “I’d like to leave you with these thoughts. California is building the largest battery in the world near San Francisco, and they intend to power it from solar panels and windmills. They claim this is the ultimate in being ‘green,’ but it is not! This construction project is creating an environmental disaster. Let me tell you why.

The main problem with solar arrays is the chemicals needed to process silicate into the silicon used in the panels. To make pure enough silicon requires processing it with hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, trichloroethane, and acetone. In addition, they also need gallium, arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, and cadmium-telluride, which also are highly toxic. Silicon dust is a hazard to the workers, and the panels cannot be recycled.

Windmills are the ultimate in embedded costs and environmental destruction. Each weighs 1688 tons (the equivalent of 23 houses) and contains 1300 tons of concrete, 295 tons of steel, 48 tons of iron, 24 tons of fiberglass, and the hard to extract rare earths neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium. Each blade weighs 81,000 pounds and will last 15 to 20 years, at which time it must be replaced. We cannot recycle used blades. Sadly, both solar arrays and windmills kill birds, bats, sea life, and migratory insects.

NM lights dimmed, and he quietly said, “There may be a place for these technologies, but you must look beyond the myth of zero emissions. I predict EVs and windmills will be abandoned once the embedded environmental costs of making and replacing them become apparent. I’m trying to do my part with these lectures. Thank you for your attention, good night, and good luck.” NM’s lights went out, and he was quiet, like a regular battery.

Marc Patrone podcast: COP26 attendees, PM Trudeau’s commitments, oil sands emissions, etc.

I was on the Marc Patrone show on SAUGA 960 AM today (November 23, 2021) starting at 1:26:35 of the podcast. We covered a lot of ground about COP26 and what the approximately 39,000 attendees accomplished (sarcasm intended) and a wide degree of other related topics including emissions, inflation, etc. You can listen to our conversation starting at 1:26:35 of the Marc Patrone podcast here: