How Many Issues Should One Analyst Get Incorrect In Order To Proclaim A Handy Decarbonization Minerals Scarcity?

No, Minerals Scarcity Is Not A Decarbonization Drawback

Yesterday, as I’m penning this, Dave Borlace of Simply Have a Suppose dropped a brand new video. This one was debunking the considerably notorious Simon Michaux un-peer reviewed doc which presupposed to show that there weren’t sufficient minerals on this planet to allow us to get off of fossil fuels.

Why am I writing about this video? Properly, the primary information level that Borlace throws on his desk to begin refuting Michaux’ arguments is an article of mine in CleanTechnica about vitality movement diagrams. It’s at all times an excellent day when Borlace leverages my materials to help his nice explainers, one thing I believe has occurred 3 times up to now. The final time, he and I spent three hours chatting about HVDC. The time earlier than that, we didn’t know each other and he leaned on my airborne wind vitality materials to make his level, if reminiscence serves (and it might not, as I can’t discover that video). He dropped me a close-to-final model of this video a few weeks in the past to get suggestions (little or no of notice as Borlace does a extremely good job on analysis and writing).

So, Michaux. He’s a mining man. His post-secondary training was in Australia, one of many two huge mining nations on this planet, the opposite being Canada. He has a PhD in mining-related topics, principally in regards to the rock mud ensuing from blowing up and grinding rock. He had some European roles and is at the moment an affiliate professor on the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK).

What’s GTK?

“Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) is an internationally oriented geoscience analysis company working beneath the Ministry of Financial Affairs and Employment. We’re a number one European competence heart on the evaluation and sustainable use of geological assets. We consider that geological experience can be utilized in tackling main world challenges, equivalent to questions associated to sustainable manufacturing, round financial system, clear water, low-carbon vitality and local weather change. For our clients and companions we offer geological experience to create options for extra sustainable progress. We provide numerous professional and analysis providers, digital providers and a broad vary of laboratory providers in addition to mineral processing providers. We make use of over 400 professionals. For Earth and For Us!”

So, GTK is attempting to do the fitting factor. Their coronary heart is in the fitting place. Possibly Michaux’ is simply too. Exhausting to say. However, having your coronary heart possibly on the fitting aspect of your chest doesn’t imply a lot in case your mind is within the unsuitable place.

By way of GTK, Michaux printed a paper in 2021. Let’s be clear. This was printed beneath the auspices of the GTK. They amplified it. They leant it their authority. But it surely wasn’t peer reviewed. This was extra of a serviette math paper by Michaux than the rest.

I’m going to be clear otherwise. I do serviette math on a regular basis. My work is never peer reviewed. I’m in just a few peer-reviewed journals and texts, however principally as a result of sometimes my work rises to that stage and somebody asks me to allow them to embody it. I’m not an instructional. I don’t publish or perish in that mannequin. I reside with post-publication professional evaluation, which is sometimes humiliating, however I work exhausting to be taught from that and repair my errors. I’m not criticizing Michaux from the attitude of somebody who’s a rigorous educational.

However Michaux is an instructional. He’s related to an instructional establishment. He did lean on GTK’s credentials in publishing an un-peer reviewed paper. So is Michaux an superior educational? Errr, probably not. H-index is without doubt one of the fundamental educational metrics. It’s a measure of how a lot an instructional’s work is cited by others. Over 40 is nice. Michaux has an h-index of 8. This isn’t to say that he’s a slouch, but it surely’s not an excellent signal. He’s not a spring hen educational originally of his profession. He’s in his 50s. I’m privileged to know just a few educational rock stars. He’s not an instructional rock star.

Is Michaux an vitality professional? Umm, no. He’s a mining professional. Wish to know what occurs in a mine when the explosives go growth? He’s an excellent man for that apparently, at the least from an instructional perspective. From his background, I don’t think about anybody has him inserting explosives. Extra an evaluation and solutions man. And, as soon as once more, it’s not like anybody asks me to put explosives.

However he’s not an electrical energy and vitality man. He’s not a batteries man. He’s not an EV man. He’s not a decarbonization man. He’s not a methods pondering man. He’s not a grid man. He’s not a fuels man. He’s not a transportation man. He’s not a minerals recycling man. He’s a mining and minerals professional, inside a subset of that discipline. And as soon as once more, not an instructional rock star.

So why are we speaking about this not-so-hot educational whose experience is within the effective rock particles that end result from blowing up and grinding rock throughout mining?

As a result of he wrote a paper with the implicit or possibly express GTK stamp of approval which states that there weren’t almost sufficient minerals on earth to help decarbonizing by means of electrification. Yeah, we are able to’t construct sufficient batteries or transmission or storage to go away fossil fuels behind. In accordance with Michaux. Who doesn’t have something remotely just like the background to make this declare.

Utterly understandably, lots of the standard suspects thought Michaux’ paper was simply what they wanted. Did they want it to speed up decarbonization? Ummm, no. Did they want it to level to really higher options? Ummm, no. Did they want it to keep off economically and societally optimistic motion. Ummm, no.

Did they want it to forestall optimistic motion on local weather motion? Sure. Did they want it to advertise unhealthy options like hydrogen? Sure. Did they want it to advertise minutely extra environment friendly inside combustion engines? Sure.

Okay, in order that’s Michaux, mediocre educational and unintentional celebrity within the local weather inaction lithosphere. Clearly I’ve lined the advert hominem aspect of this. A distinct means of claiming it’s that I’ve made it clear that folks counting on his paper are struggling beneath the auspices of the enchantment to false authority fallacy. He’s not an authority. He’s a man who could also be attempting to determine decarbonization, however he’s not remotely an authority on the themes he’s printed a non-peer reviewed piece on. The affirmation bias amongst those that love his paper is thick on the bottom.

However what in regards to the deserves of his paper? Properly, there aren’t any to talk of.

Michaux first commits the first vitality fallacy, multiplying the longer term requirement for vitality by a big proportion. As I famous just lately, with warmth pumps, electrified floor transportation and a few extra environment friendly industrial electrical warmth, the USA’s main vitality demand drops by 50%, even accounting for continued inefficiencies. Fossil fuels are deeply wasteful types of vitality.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) Sankey diagram of US energy flows for 2021

Lawrence Livermore Nationwide Laboratory (LLNL) Sankey diagram of US vitality flows for 2021

See that huge grey field of rejected vitality on the higher left? That’s vitality thats wasted resulting from inefficiencies, and people inefficiencies are nearly completely resulting from burning fossil fuels which ends up in lots of excessive entropy waste warmth of no worth to us. The vitality providers field on the decrease proper, a 3rd of the first vitality, is what we really want to interchange. However we don’t even want to interchange all of that. Warmth pumps use one unit of electrical energy to maneuver three models of warmth round, on common. That’s all residential and business warmth, and 45% of commercial warmth. A really giant proportion of that warmth comes from burning fossil fuels right now, and with warmth pumps, two thirds of that goes away.

Michaux simply assumes that we have to exchange all the first vitality on the left hand aspect with precisely the identical quantity of vitality. That’s the first vitality fallacy. Electrifying every little thing, the purported level of his evaluation, means so much much less main vitality even when we continued to make use of fossil fuels. However we gained’t. We’ll use wind, photo voltaic and water, which don’t waste any assets to generate electrical energy. See the electrical energy technology field within the center prime of this diagram? See the massive grey bar of rejected vitality popping out of it? Properly, all that waste goes away too. However not in Michaux’ world.

Subsequent Michaux overstates the requirement for batteries by at the least an order of magnitude by ignoring just a few issues. First, he ignores the huge HVDC interconnects being constructed all over the world that deflate grid storage necessities. HVDC is the brand new pipeline (and LNG tanker and oil tanker) in spite of everything.

Locations of current, planned and in construction HVDC projects globally from Open Street Maps

Areas of present, deliberate, and in building HVDC tasks globally from Open Avenue Maps.

That is an incomplete map of HVDC places I pulled from Open Avenue Maps. It’s not unreasonable, however I get month-to-month HVDC newsletters — sure, I do know I’m a whole and utter vitality nerd — from RTE Worldwide. Their information set, included each month, has about 300 put in or dedicated HVDC electron pipelines globally, and like most issues of its type, might be lacking a bunch in China as China doesn’t trouble to inform everyone every little thing on a regular basis in excruciating element, not like a sure nation in North America. (As a notice, it’s very helpful that the USA is so dedicated to TMI, because it offers folks like me information just like the LLNL charts to base analyses on, after which make knowledgeable guesses about the way it applies in different nations that aren’t over-sharers.)

Broadening the grid with HVDC basically drops grid storage necessities by permitting electrons to movement from the place they’re generated to the place they’re wanted, and from low demand areas to excessive demand areas. However not in Michaux’ world.

Michaux then assumes that the one type of vitality storage is lithium ion batteries brimming with cobalt and nickel. He bases his evaluation of mineral necessities on a single type of vitality storage, one the place there are some cheap considerations. This implies he ignores the dominant type of grid storage in operation and beneath building globally right now, pumped hydro, as a substitute assuming as incorrectly as the remainder of his efforts, that cell-based lithium ion batteries can be each type of storage.

Grid storage alternatives

Radar diagram of main determination components which help a mixture of pumped hydro, redox movement and lithium-ion grid storage by writer.

I don’t even fee cell-based batteries because the dominant type of grid storage, by no means thoughts the one one. In my grid storage projection by means of 2060, one which does account for transmission interconnects, renewables and electrifying every little thing, pumped hydro stays the dominant type of storage for energy and vitality on grids, simply because it has been since 1907. Redox movement batteries, which share pumped hydro’s very helpful decoupling of energy and vitality, are available in second. Cell-based battery chemistries, with their tight coupling of energy and vitality, are third, adopted by about 100 GW of additionally rans together with hydrogen, compressed air and the like.

We are going to want lots of cell-based batteries. We’ll want them in gentle automobiles, vans, buses, lots of ships, a bunch of airplanes and a few for trains to get them previous areas too costly to place overhead traces in like tunnels. All floor transportation goes to affect, and apart from trains and a few routes for lengthy haul vans, that’s going to be batteries. All inland transport and two-thirds of brief sea transport will electrify. All aviation is more likely to electrify finally, however even in my 2100 projection of the area, there’s nonetheless some SAF biofuel being burned.

Why do I’ve the flexibility to claim this stuff? As a result of I’ve accomplished the work to know vitality necessities for all of these domains, labored by means of the necessities and labored by means of the options. Has Michaux? No, he’s apparently unaware of the questions he ought to be asking, by no means thoughts good solutions to the questions.

There might be numerous totally different cell-based battery chemistries for various use instances. However not in Michaux’ world. Lithium-ion is it. He ignores battery chemistry innovation that has radically dropped or eradicated cobalt completely. He ignores lithium phosphate batteries. He ignores the rising sodium-ion batteries. Redox movement batteries? What are these? No, there might be just one in his world it appears, and he bases all his projections on stale ratios of key metals.

Is that this the top of challenges with Michaux’ paper? No, no it isn’t. Subsequent up is copper. Michaux doesn’t understand that aluminum is a generally used conductor and nearly completely utilized in transmission, so vastly misstates copper necessities on prime of his different large errors. Aluminum is so much lighter than copper, and when speccing out options, industrial engineers make decisions about what to make use of. Additional, as we proceed to affect every little thing, lots of present heavy customers of copper, mechanical options, turn out to be gentle customers of copper, digital options. In electrical vehicles, huge quantities of innovation goes into lowering copper use, just because copper is heavy and many complicated wiring is a ache to fabricate and a costly to repair if one thing goes unsuitable. EV OEMs are pretty commonly taking 30% of copper out of latest variations of EVs.

Sure, we’ll want extra copper. However not the absurd quantities Michaux tasks. There’s greater than sufficient.

What else? Properly, Michaux lives and works in exhausting rock mining. That’s a giant and necessary sector, however he has no sense of the magnitude of different supplies we mine.  Even the plenty of minerals he grossly inflates are so much lower than a single yr’s extraction of coal, oil and gasoline, and a good smaller proportion of the mass of CO2 from burning them.

Anything? Anybody? Bueller? Anybody?

Why, sure there may be. The entire minerals he’s so involved about are recyclable. Oil, gasoline and coal aren’t. Battery packs for EVs might be become battery backs for brand new EVs, though they may undergo an intermediate life as grid or behind the meter storage. Copper might be stripped from EVs, to not point out all the fossil gasoline infrastructure which makes use of a lot of it, and be put into new EVs. Aluminum might be melted down and become extra HVDC transmission or plane our bodies. We’re shifting towards a maximal recycling world. It’s so much simpler to recycle the metals in an EV or grid storage answer than it’s to recycle the batteries in an Apple Watch, in spite of everything, and a relatively absurd recycling trade already exists and is rising quickly. However not in Michaux’ world. All EVs eternally will want newly mined minerals it appears.

The paper got here out two years in the past. I didn’t trouble to jot down about it till triggered by Borlace’s video. Others had accomplished a terrific job at debunking, so I didn’t must. However with Borlace quoting me, I figured I’d put my oar within the water too.

Auke Hoekstra, Program Director NEON analysis at Eindhoven College of Expertise, and an precise professional on decarbonization and electrification, did an excellent debunk on Twitter and factors to an much more detailed debunk by one other truly credible analyst within the thread. Value skimming by means of, if Twitter is your most well-liked type of ingesting information. For an truly helpful paper on minerals necessities, I’d advocate this peer-reviewed one (one among many) which attain the other conclusions from Michaux. Or go learn the Worldwide Power Company’s report.

Michaux makes so many compounding errors that it’s outstanding anybody takes him remotely severely. However, in fact, he’s telling a narrative lots of people need to hear, and so is being amplified by the standard suspects. He’s undoubtedly taking their reward as indication that he’s proper, versus merely helpful quickly and shortly to be discarded. Affirmation bias doesn’t overcome actuality. He’s a daily on podcasts. He will get cited in remark threads and on Twitter and in LinkedIn by individuals who generally even get his identify proper. Somebody defending his evaluation on a LinkedIn thread yesterday stated he was submitting his paper for peer evaluation, which is at all times a little bit of a crap shoot. It’s doable he’ll get it accepted. It gained’t be in Nature Power, that’s for certain.

A bunch of various teams have adopted him as their go-to man for his or her notably perverse view of the world. The degrowth varieties, a variant of the pastoralist utopians, who seemingly need everybody to reside in ecovillages with 50 km diets, assume he’s the bee’s knees, as a result of there isn’t any answer in any respect with out radical elimination of individuals and the financial system, and a whole transformation of each enterprise and political course of. The hydrogen varieties assume it proves that hydrogen is the reply for all vitality. The fossil gasoline varieties amplify it to gradual the inevitable decline of their revenues and income. The interior combustion varieties amplify it as a result of their total enterprise mannequin is dealing with a cliff. These are all motivated thinkers.

I make no statements about what motivated Michaux, however the variety of unforced errors in his materials makes it clear he wasn’t approaching this in something remotely like an truly data-centric, solution-centric and empirical method. And I’ve seen no indications that regardless of all of the fairly clear debunkings of his materials that he’s even acknowledged, not to mention addressed any of his multitude of errors.

Watch Borlace’s video. Simply have a assume. When messaging like Michaux’ crosses your display, ask who advantages and who’s amplifying it.


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