CV NEWS FEED // Journalist Michael Shellenberger has uncovered new data showing that solar energy is not as “clean” as the politicians pushing “green” policies claim.
“People say solar panels don’t produce carbon emissions, but they do,” Shellenberger at the beginning of a series of tweets. He cited a new study that found Chinese-made panels produce at least three times more emissions than claimed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In just over a week, Shellenberger’s first tweet alone received 7.5 million views and nearly 20,000 “likes.”
Shellenberger is a longtime environmentalist and the founder of Environmental Progress, which describes its mission as “achieving nature, peace and prosperity for all.” He also founded the popular Substack newsletter “Public.” In 2008, Time Magazine declared him a “Hero of the Environment” under the “leaders and visionaries” category.
The findings about solar energy come amid renewed calls for President Joe Biden to declare a “climate emergency,” which would effectively give the government powers similar to those exercised under the three-year COVID-19 national emergency.
In the past few months, many political figures have tied recent natural disasters across the country to “climate change.” In June, some Democratic members of Congress called on Biden to declare a climate emergency in response to wildfires in Canada.
The cries for an emergency declaration were even louder during the middle of last year. On July 20, 2022, Politico reported that “declaring a climate emergency could unlock potent tools for Biden.” That same day, the president stated that the climate is “an emergency,” and he “will look at it that way,” despite stopping short of declaring it as such.
In addition, Democrat-controlled state governments are increasingly passing “green” legislation. The manufacturing powerhouse of Michigan is considering a bill that seeks to make the state’s energy “carbon-free” in 12 years. California has already passed a similar law.
A key component of the “green,” “net-zero,” and “carbon-free” movements is their embrace of solar energy. “Green” activists bill solar power as a “clean” source of energy that is “carbon neutral.” They allege that compared to so-called “fossil fuels” such as oil and natural gas, solar panels do not produce carbon emissions.
However, as a researcher determined, this is far from the truth – and China may be to blame.
In his bombshell series of tweets, Shellenberger posted an article by C.P. Colum and Lea Booth in collaboration with The Blind Spot, published by Shellenberger’s organization on July 3.
In it, the authors state that the Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed into law in August 2022, “gifted the renewables industry with billions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded subsidies.”
The administration’s stated intention was to make the American energy supply “cleaner.” Colum and Booth pointed out, however, that new data proves solar or photovoltaic (PV) power is “dirtier than appreciated.”
Information unearthed by Environmental Progress points to a gaping oversight in how the figures influencing government net zero policy and investments in solar worldwide are compiled and collated due to the difficulty of collecting accurate information out of China, especially for the purification processes used to create silicon wafers.
Colum, Booth, and Shellenberger name Ecoinvent as a major driver of this oversight. The little-known Swiss nonprofit database was founded by Dr. Rolf Frischknecht. According to Environmental Progress, Ecoinvent is “funded at least in part by the Swiss government and the photovoltaic industry.”
The authors called Ecoinvent “perhaps the world’s largest database on the environmental impact of renewables.” Its “data is relied on by institutions worldwide” such as the IPCC and the International Energy Agency (IEA) to “calculate their carbon footprint projections.”
These calculations are in turn cited by the Biden administration and other governments around the world as “evidence” to simultaneously push the “net-zero” agenda and investment in so-called “renewables.”
According to Colum and Booth, much information from Ecoinvent and similar databases originates from a “small number of data compilers, many if not all of them working in collaboration with the IEA.” The solar industry voluntarily submits this information “in response to academic surveys,” while “the nature and profile of the respondents is never publicy [sic] revealed, so that there is the potential for conflicts of interest to develop.”
Ecoinvent’s founder, Dr. Frischknecht, left the organization in 2021. He attributed his decision to his disagreement with how the database obtained its information.
Speaking with Environmental Progress, Frischknecht stated: “During my career I tried, and try, to be independent of direct, indirect and subtle attempts to influence the modeling or the data.”
Shellenberger highlighted that Ecoinvent’s data on solar panels conspicuously leaves out the country that produces more than 80% of the world’s solar panels: China.
Ecoinvent having no solar data on the country that accounts for over one-sixth of the world’s population, over a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions, and over three quarters of the world’s solar panel production, creates what Colum and Booth term a “China-sized black hole at the heart of the world’s photovoltaic data.”
But why is this the case? The authors state that “how China amassed” its current near-monopoly on solar energy “remains an inconvenient truth, all too readily swept under the rug by those pushing for net zero policies.”
“What we know for sure is that up until the mid-2000s the market was dominated by Japanese, US and German manufacturers,” the authors wrote,
many of whom were in the midst of automating their production lines, when Chinese manufacturers swooped in to take their market share. The disruption happened in under a decade, with China’s global share of PV production surging from 14 percent in 2006 to 60 percent by 2013.
The sudden Chinese domination of the solar industry is not without grave ethical concerns. On the morning of August 3, one month after his organization’s article was published, Shellenberger tweeted a report by The New York Times that connected the production of solar panels in China to the “forced labor” of minority groups in Chinese-occupied East Turkestan (what the Chinese Communist Party calls China’s Xinjiang province).
Notably, East Turkestan is also the location of the ongoing genocide of the Uyghurs and other Muslim Turkic minorities by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“People say that what reduced the cost of solar panels was tech innovation, but it wasn’t,” Shellenberger wrote. “It was Chinese government subsidies, coal, and forced labor. This issue should transcend politics. It’s immoral to import products made in such horrific conditions.”
Some say, “Well, iPhones are made in bad conditions, too,” but there’s a huge difference. The workers who make iPhones aren’t compelled to work there and have seen conditions & salaries improve. Not so with the forced solar labor in the Uyghur region.
Enrico Mariutti is the man Environmental Progress credits for almost single-handedly determining that solar energy is not the “clean” source the “green” movement deems it to be.
Colum and Booth described Mariutti as “a lone and obstinate Italian data crusader.”
“Like Greta Thunberg, Mariutti comes to the tale as an environmental obsessive passionate about facilitating the world’s transition from fossil fuels to cleaner forms of energy,” the authors wrote:
Unlike Greta, Mariutti finished school and knows how to crunch through a data set. He holds a degree in geopolitics and global security, which, while unrelated to the field, has equipped him with enough quantitative skills to ensure he can recognize the difference between good and bad data.
Mariutti “first noticed something wasn’t quite right with” the prevailing data on solar panels while getting ready for a debate with a fellow environmentalist two years ago. “Being a data junkie he decided to pour over the source material to try and figure out why. What he discovered unnerved him. The data didn’t reconcile.”
As Environmental Progress recounts, the young Italian determined that the
carbon intensity of solar panels manufactured in China and installed in European countries like Italy was off by an order of magnitude. An initial back-of-the-envelope calculation put it at between 170 and 250g of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour (kWh), as opposed to the official estimate from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of 20-40g per kWh. Way off.