“Electrify everything”

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” – Lawrence J. Peter

In 1987, geologist Phil St. George discovered the largest undeveloped copper ore mine in the world. Located in Southwest Alaska and additionally rich in gold, silver, and molybdenum, the Pebble deposit is estimated to have a gross value of contained metals measuring over half a trillion dollars.

A problem

There was, of course, a problem. The Pebble prospect sits upstream of Bristol Bay, home to one of the most sensitive and important ecological treasures in Alaska and probably worldwide.

All five Eastern Pacific salmon species spawn in Bristol Bay’s freshwater tributaries. The bay from Kvichak River has the world’s single largest sockeye run and largest commercial sockeye salmon fishery. The Kvichak drains from Lake Iliamna, which is downstream of the deposit.

Over the ensuing 35 years, a pitched battle unfolded between those who sought to develop the mine and virtually every major environmental organization in the world. Resistance was vehement and well-funded, on par with the fierce clash over the Keystone and Mountain Valley pipeline projects.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency terminated the controversial Pebble mine project under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act after a decades-long battle over a region that is not only home to one of the world’s largest deposits of copper and gold, but also the world’s largest wild salmon run.

“Electrify everything”?

“Bristol Bay “is no place for a mine” begs an important question in light of the simultaneous “electrify-everything” movement—a movement that will necessitate developing dozens of world-scale copper deposits in incredibly short order.

Just where, exactly, is the right place for a mine? Somewhere else, presumably, but where? And how do the proponents of the green energy transition propose to square their opposition to virtually every mining project in the developed world with the demand they are knowingly creating for mined metals?

Rather troubling reality check

A global tour of the copper mining sector unveils some rather troubling reality checks that must inevitably be faced. If we want to “electrify everything” we are likely to face ecological disasters in a number of countries- endangering species at risk and much more.

Energy sources

Another consequence of electrifying everything is power sources. China permitted more coal power plants last year than any time in the last seven years, according to a new report released this week by energy data organizations Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean. It’s the equivalent of about two new coal power plants per week.

The report finds the country quadrupled the amount of new coal power approvals in 2022 compared to 2021. That’s despite the fact that much of the world is getting off coal.Where to from here?

Do “electrifying everything” initiatives make for a greener and more environmently friendly planet?

Governments need to take a close look at their energy policies and consider the ecological impact of the race to electrify everything. There needs to be a balance between different green technologies to ensure that one doesn’t impact the environment more than another.

One such technology is hydrogen fuel. The more expensive your electric vehicle is, the longer range you get. But with hydrogen cars, you will get a better driving range along with a quick refueling time. The driving range for EVs can range from 150 to 375 miles, while for hydrogen cars, it ranges from 400 to 600 miles depending on the tank size.

But the lack of a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, the challenges around transporting the fuel and the fact that you need a lot more energy to make a hydrogen vehicle move than a battery electric vehicle means for now, the future is battery electric and many troubling reality check in many ecologically sensitive regions of the world.

Contact Arcus for a presentation of energy policies worldwide and their impact on business strategy.

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