In 1958, Leonard E. Read wrote the book I, Pencil.
As the book’s title suggests, this is the story about a pencil, told from the pencil’s perspective.
The pencil traces his beginnings – from the cedar forests of Northern California and Oregon – to the mill in San Leandro, California, where specialized equipment cuts the logs into pencil-length slats.
Next, the newly-cut slats move to the pencil factory, where machinery cuts eight grooves into each slat and inserts graphite.
Read goes on to further describe each part of the pencil manufacturing process.
His point: Even something as simple as manufacturing a pencil is a highly complex process. Yet left to the free market, profit incentives allow individuals and companies to efficiently combine raw materials and produce any in-demand product.
No committee of central planners is required anytime during the manufacturing process.
So, if central planning cannot produce something as simple as a pencil, how can governments expect to coordinate and control a product as critical and vital as energy – whose production is exponentially more complex than a pencil?
They can’t. But they’ll still try.
To be fair, although the current administration in Washington has enacted plenty of anti-energy policies, they aren’t solely responsible for the world’s dire energy predicament. In fact there’s plenty of blame to go around.
In recent years, “woke capitalism” has gained a serious foothold in western financial markets.
Led by the movement’s high priests, like Larry Fink (who manages $10 TRILLION at Blackrock), and Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum, one of their key tenets is replacing fossil fuels with green energy solutions.
Sadly, many of the world’s largest energy companies have bent the knee to the Holy Climate Warriors. Now, at Sovereign Man, we like a clean and pristine environment as much as anyone, and we have a strong desire to leave a better world for our children.
But inefficient green energy solutions like solar and wind simply aren’t the way forward. Here’s why:
Let’s suspend reality for a moment and pretend that Klaus Schwab and Greta Thunberg are right… and that global energy should be 100% renewable.
What would it actually take to do this? Remember, solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries require lots of raw materials.
According to estimates by Professor Simon Michaux of the Geological Survey of Finland, achieving the Schwab-Thunberg-Fink dream world require:
- 218 million tons of cobalt
- 899 million tons of lithium
- 4.3 billion tons of copper.
Let’s tackle copper first.
In 2019, the world produced 22 million tons of copper. So, a full transition to renewable energy would require 100% of the world’s annual copper production for the next 195 years.
That means that, for the next two centuries, there would be ZERO copper left over for anything else. Only renewable energy. Also bear in mind that solar panels wear out after a few decades… So, after 195 years, the world will have had to replace all of its panels at least 5 times.
Now, if you think that’s a daunting challenge, lithium and cobalt are even more interesting…
Global lithium and cobalt production in 2022 were approximately 130,000 tons each. Therefore, based on Prof. Michaux’s estimates, the transition to renewable energy requires 1,676 years of annual cobalt production, and a whopping 6,915 years of lithium production.
No, those are not misprints.
In short, the climate fanatics don’t realize that their renewable energy dream requires so many raw materials that it would take nearly 7,000 years to mine all the necessary resources.
But reality has never been their area of expertise. Instead, they fly around on their private jets to luxurious climate conferences, to complain about fossil fuel companies. They pass legislation and resolutions. They put out hit jobs in the media.
But just like the humble pencil at the beginning of this article, the fanatics and central planners don’t contribute a single thing. They don’t mine an ounce of lithium, manufacture any solar panels, nor produce even 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity.
Does this sound a bit ridiculous? We think so too. And this is why, no matter how fanatical the climate cult becomes, fossil fuels aren’t going anywhere for a long, long time… not without most of the world’s population sitting in the dark. And we don’t think people will stand for that.
From an investor perspective, this is a critical point to understand, because fossil fuel companies have become some of the most hated in the world.
Large funds and woke investors have sold their shares of fossil fuel businesses, pushing valuations down to absurd levels. We’ve written about this before – highly profitable oil and gas companies sell for as little as TWO times earnings… simply because no one wants to own them.
We think that sentiment will eventually change… and even Team Green Dream will realize that oil and gas companies are vital to the global economy, and even vital to a green transition.
(They’ll also eventually realize that nuclear power absolutely MUST be part of the solution, hence why we think uranium has such substantial upside potential.)
When that day comes, and the renewable energy fantasy starts to collapse, many of today’s most hated energy companies will soar in value. And investors who are savvy enough to buy shares today, while they’re still absurdly cheap, stand to do extremely well.
Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur and permanent traveler. His daily letter is both educational and entertaining, and we suggest that those who want unbiased, actionable information about global opportunities sign up for Sovereign Man’s free, actionable newsletter at http://www.SovereignMan.com.
From Simon Black of SovereignMan.com
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