(Twenty minute read) 

There is not a day that goes bye when we are presented with the rhetoric of replacing fossil fuel energy with green energy in order to reduce carbon emissions.  renew effective enviro


But here is now a developing problem –  Called Green Energy. 

There is a difference between green, clean and renewable energy. Renewable energy is often seen as being the same, but there is still some debate around this. For example, can a hydroelectric dam which may divert waterways and impact the local environment really be called ‘green?’ This is slightly confused by people often using these terms interchangeably, but while a resource can be all of these things at once, it may also be, for example, renewable but not green or clean (such as with some forms of biomass energy).

At the forefront of this rhetoric we have the  three big contenders –  Wind – Sun – Water and  now Electric Cars.

What is green Energy? What is Green Energy


Green energy is any energy type that is generated from natural resources, such as sunlight, wind or water. It often comes from renewable energy sources although there are some differences between renewable and green energy, which we will explore, below.

Renewable energy technologies such as solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy, biomass and hydroelectric power all

work differently, whether that is by taking power from the sun, as with solar panels, or using wind turbines or the flow of water to

generate energy.

All of the above require rare metals to transform them into energy products. 


In order to be deemed green energy, a resource cannot produce pollution, such as is found with fossil fuels.

This means that not all sources used by the renewable energy industry are green. For example, power generation that burns organic

material from sustainable forests may be renewable, but it is not necessarily green, due to the CO2 produced by the burning

process itself. 

Green energy sources are usually naturally replenished, as opposed to fossil fuel sources like natural gas or coal, which can take

millions of years to develop.

Green sources also often avoid mining or drilling operations that can be damaging to eco-systems.

This is not true.

Green energy has many a dark holes. 

Above: Lithium carbonate mine in Argentina.



Below:  The Escondida surface mine situated in Antofagasta, Chile. Owned by BHP, the greenfield mine produced an estimated 1,011 thousand tonnes of copper in 2021. The mine will operate until 2078. 

Below: Copper and coal mines in China. 

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Below: The Chequicamata Copper mine – Chile

Below: Bingham Cannon Mine -copper USA

The world’s demand for copper could be catastrophic for communities and environments.


Because, Copper is critical for solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and battery storage.

The world will need 10 Million tons more Copper to meet demand.

New copper mines will likely be located in politically and ecologically sensitive areas

This will add to the devastating impacts existing mines have already caused.


Because sacrificing the interests of local people in the interests of a greater good would not be considered responsible, as it does

not align with the concepts of equity and fairness that underpin the Paris Agreement.


We must start to ask:

What kind of justice are we seeking in the “just transition”, and for whom?

This includes assessing the energy used to create the green energy resource, working out how much energy can be translated into

electricity and any environmental clearing that was required to create the energy solution. Of course, environmental damage

would prevent a source truly being ‘green,’ but when all of these factors are combined it creates what is known as a ‘Levelised

Energy Cost’ (LEC).


The good news.

Creating energy with a zero carbon footprint is a great stride to a more environmentally friendly future. If we can use it to meet our

power, industrial and transportation needs, we will be able to greatly reduce our impact on the environment.

Even when the full life cycle of a green energy source is taken into consideration, they release far less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels.

Renewable energy saw the creation of 11 million jobs worldwide

There are plenty of examples of green energy in use today, from energy production through to thermal heating for

buildings, renewable heat for industrial processes.

Green energy has the capacity to replace fossil fuels in the future. However we are still some years away from this happening.

Efficiency in green energy is slightly dependent on location.

The fact is that fossil fuels need to become a thing of the past as they do not provide a sustainable solution to our energy needs.

The copper gold rush by now – well-known for causing many socio-environmental conflicts in different countries,

This post is to raise awareness for the harmful and ruthless practices of such big multinational corporations.

While we know a great deal about how they might impact our daily lives, we don’t yet understand the entirety of their impact upon

the already damaged environment. Climate change remains one of the most serious threats to the integrity of life on earth.

Still, the question of how to source metals and minerals ethically remains a legitimate and urgent one.


Because renewable technologies create ethical issues at both ends of their life cycle.

Corporate sustainability is not enough to address all the ethical issues in the mining supply chain. There is a limit to what corporate

social responsibility can achieve.

For Example.

The sheer size of solar panels, which often contain lead, cadmium, and other toxic metals, makes them one the largest global

contributors of electronic waste. By 2050, which is the rough expiration date of solar panels manufactured today, the technology

is estimated to produce 78 million metric tons of waste—some 80 percent more than the total annual waste from all combined

technologies today.


Building a car – or any moderately complex mechanical or electrical machine – will naturally require a lot of different materials, which are then put together using a variety of manufacturing methods. This places two different burdens on the environment:

Carbon emissions from the manufacturing process and the harvesting (and depleting) rare metals.

Every type of car (whether it’s ‘green’ or not) has an environmental impact. 

When looking at the overall environmental footprint of cars, there are two main components which need to be considered:

  1. Emissions from building the car (and its components)
  2. Emissions from powering the car.

The massive 300-550 kg lithium-ion battery packs that go into electric cars is the most important component by far.

Electric cars emit 8.8 tonnes (8,800 kg!) of CO2, compared to 5.6 tonnes (5,600 kg) of CO2 for gasoline cars.

Neither of which make for great reading!

However, the journey that these lithium-ion batteries make when being produced is a very interesting one: 

The short answer is that a number of rare metals need to be dug out of the earth from various mines.

These are then packaged into small individual battery cells (alongside other materials such as plastic, aluminum, and steel),

before themselves being packed into battery modules. The end result is a battery pack which is made up of multiple battery

modules, a cooling system/mechanism and a small electrical power management system.

Many of these rare earth mining processes also unleashes plumes of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, and can harm aquatic

life in nearby rivers and streams too. Finally, 50-60% of cobalt comes from the Congo, which unfortunately has a poor human

rights record with 40,000 children working in cobalt mines for $1-2 per day.

.How Rare Metals Are Mined.

The process of mining the rare metals varies depending on the mine, however our ‘Electric Cars Aren’t Green?’ sums up how some of the mines operate:

At a mine in Jiangxi, China, workers use ammonium sulfate poured into big holes to dissolve the clay.

What’s left is hauled out of the ever-expanding hole, before being run through multiple acid baths to dissolve other unwanted

compounds. The resulting compounds are baked in a kiln, finally revealing the rare metals required in electric car batteries.

Just 0.2% of the result is the rare metals; the other 99.8% is waste. This 99.8% waste earth (and other compounds) – which is now

contaminated with toxic material – is dumped back into the originally-created holes.

Catch 22 they have to be plugged in to charge.

So all-in-all, the summary here is that building an electric car is not good for the environment.

It’s certainly worse than building a gas-guzzling car, unfortunately.

Hence the main thing to consider is how the electricity is generated. Naturally, electricity from wind or solar power will be a

lot more eco-friendly than generating electricity from oil or burning coal. Indeed, generating electric from oil leads to 91g of

CO2 per 1 kilometre travelled (which is close to the overall 125g of CO2 emissions that a gas car has). Whereas electrical power

generated entirely from wind energy will naturally have 0g of CO2 emissions.

Electric vehicles are not emissions-free they obviously run on electricity, and that electricity typically

comes from a mix of emissions-intensive fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and power from renewables.

It is very unlikely that we are going to go back the horse and cart.

 A different set of solutions is needed to tackle the growing pile of e-waste at the end of the green energy supply chain.

The problem can only be solved through cooperation across the green energy supply chain that incorporates technological and

social strategies. In this way, green energy could be truly sustainable.

To summarise whether the oft-stated “electric cars aren’t green” is fact or fiction… it’s a little bit of both!

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