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Is the Energy Transition Taking Off—or Hitting a Wall?

By: 
Richard Heinberg

Many environmentalists are thrilled with the IRA; others less so. Those in the more critical camp have pointed disapprovingly to the bill’s promotion of nuclear, and note that, in order to gain Senator Joe Manchin’s vote, Democrats agreed to streamline oil and gas pipeline approvals in a separate bill. In effect, the government will be encouraging the increasing use of fossil fuels… in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. It will take a tremendous amount of energy to mine materials; transport and transform them through industrial processes like smelting; turn them into solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, vehicles, infrastructure, and industrial machinery; The result will surely be a pulse of emissions; however, as far as I know, nobody has tried to calculate its magnit install all of the above; and do this at a sufficient scale to replace our current fossil-fuel-based industrial system. In the early stages of the process.  It may also turn out to be an enormous geopolitical challenge, if nations end up fighting over access to the minerals and metals that will be the enablers of the energy transition.