In his first week in office, President Joe Biden cancelled the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline and banned oil and gas leases on federal lands all in the name of climate change. Emboldened by these efforts and campaign promises, environmental activists have called on Biden to expedite the transition to an entirely renewable grid – which has been estimated to take decades even with current commitments.
But perhaps “green energy” isn’t as green as those activists might want you to think. As Deseret News reveals, many pro-renewable countries and the industry itself have yet to fully tackle the long-term consequences of how to dispose of these systems when they retire, which have their own environmental hazards like toxic metals, oil, fiberglass and other material. For example, the US EPA predicts these startling numbers for countries by 2050 just for solar waste:
- United States, 10 million tons.
- Germany, 3 million tons.
- China, 20 million tons.
- Japan, 7.5 million tons.
- India, 7.5 million tons.
The EPA goes on to point out that “the growth of solar waste is already straining recycling and disposal capabilities, with some panels improperly ending up in municipal landfills or stacking up in warehouses while the wait continues for more inexpensive routes to recycling.
“Research underscores there are few incentives to recycle solar panels, as the cost of recovering the materials outweighs the costs of extracting what can be recycled — even without adding in transportation expenses.
“The issue foreshadows the potential for the creation of a new class of hazardous waste sites under EPA Superfund designations as clean energy operators walk away from a large volume of materials that contaminate the soil and groundwater.”
Turns out windmills aren’t perfect, either. They are the least energy producing and most physically difficult renewable energy waste stream to address. As Deseret News notes:
“The sheer size of the windmills and the difficulty of disposing of them at recycling stations led the agency to conclude that each new wind farm is a ‘towering promise of future wreckage.’ While there is a market for second-hand windmills in Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America, the tactic of shifting used windmill components to other countries simply delays the waste disposal problem and puts it on the shoulders of countries less equipped to deal with the challenge, it noted.”
Before implementing knee-jerk policies intended to curb emissions and promote “green energy,” it is important to consider the big picture and long-term impacts.