Climate Change Mitigation Catastrophes.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order on 1 November to “prepare the nation” for the dire consequences of global warming . . . prepare for climate change-caused catastrophes.

I wonder how communities will prepare for the dire consequences of global warming mandated mitigations that are causing environmental catastrophes?

California renewable energy mandates depend on both wind and solar to provide renewable energy. The wind industry promotes itself as better for the environment rather than energy sources such as coal and natural gas, claiming that wind energy reduces carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. They never mention the hundreds of thousands of birds, including bald and golden eagles, that are killed or maimed each year by wind turbines in clear violation of federal law.

The environmentalists who are pushing for climate change preparation are ignoring the environmental damage created in the manufacturing of the wind turbines.  Manufacturing wind turbines is a resource-intensive process. A typical wind turbine contains more than 8,000 different components One such component are magnets made from neodymium and dysprosium, rare earth minerals mined almost exclusively in China. The damage to the environment and the people doing the mining and processing is truly haunting according to an article by Simon Parry in the Daily Mail.

The wind industry requires an astounding amount of rare earth minerals, primarily neodymium and dysprosium, which are key components of the magnets used in modern wind turbines. Developed by GE in 1982, neodymium magnets are manufactured in many shapes and sizes for numerous purposes. One of their most common uses is in the generators of wind turbines.

Estimates of the exact amount of rare earth minerals in wind turbines vary, but in any case the numbers are staggering. According to the Bulletin of Atomic Sciences, a 2 megawatt (MW) wind turbine contains about 800 pounds of neodymium and 130 pounds of dysprosium. The MIT study cited above estimates that a 2 MW wind turbine contains about 752 pounds of rare earth minerals.

To quantify this in terms of environmental damages, consider that mining one ton of rare earth minerals produces about one ton of radioactive waste, according to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. In 2012, the U.S. added a record 13,131 MW of wind generating capacity. That means that between 4.9 million pounds (using MIT’s estimate) and 6.1 million pounds (using the Bulletin of Atomic Science’s estimate) of rare earths were used in wind turbines installed in 2012. It also means that between 4.9 million and 6.1 million pounds of radioactive waste were created to make these wind turbines.

All this extraction produces mine dumps generated toxic dusts, lakes of toxic sludge creating high rates of cancer, along with high rates of osteoporosis and skin and respiratory diseases in the communities surrounding the mines and processing plants. The lakes radiation levels are ten times higher than in the surrounding countryside, according to studies.

The article concludes:

Wind energy is not nearly as “clean” and “good for the environment” as the wind lobbyists want you to believe. The wind industry is dependent on rare earth minerals imported from China, the procurement of which results in staggering environmental damages. As one environmentalist told the Daily Mail, “There’s not one step of the rare earth mining process that is not disastrous for the environment.” That the destruction is mostly unseen and far-flung does not make it any less damaging.

All forms of energy production have some environmental impact. However, it is disingenuous for wind lobbyists to hide the impacts of their industry while highlighting the impacts of others. From illegal bird deaths to radioactive waste, wind energy poses serious environmental risks that the wind lobby would prefer you never know about. This makes it easier for them when arguing for more subsidies, tax credits, mandates and government supports.

When the environmental wackos turn on the renewable energy lights do they hear the screams of wounded eagles, do they hear the hacking cough of rare earth miners, or the sobs of a mother with a baby dying of cancer from radiation poisoning?

About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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1 Response to Climate Change Mitigation Catastrophes.

  1. Dena says:

    It turns out that rare earths are not that rare. In the United States there large deposits of them in the Rockies. The problem is the areas where they are located have been put out of bounds for mining operations by the government. Therefore we get our rare earths from countries that are not always friendly with the United State or willing to run a clean mining operation. Already solar cell production in China has been an environmental disaster so expect rare earths to follow.
    Not only are these metals used in wind generation, but they are also used in electric car motors and flat screen displays. Lack of a secure supply could be very dangerous to us.


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