Energy Climate, Geopolitics
May 13th, 2021 3 Minute Read Testimony by Mark P. Mills

Testimony Before Canada's House of Commons on Economic Recovery from Covid-19

Mark P. Mills testified before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in Canada’s House of Commons on economic recovery from Covid-19.

Watch the full testimony here 

Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before this Committee. I’m a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute where I focus on science, technology, and energy issues. I am also a Faculty Fellow at the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University, and I’m also a physics graduate, albeit more than a few years ago, of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Also, for the record, I’m a strategic partner in a venture fund focused on energy-tech software.

As the Committee knows, the world is recovering from the ravages of the global Covid-19 pandemic. That recovery inevitably means that as activities return to normal, energy use is rising again. As a baseline, it is relevant to note that over 80% of the world’s energy comes from hydrocarbons, and internal combustion engines account for 99% of all global transportation miles. Meanwhile, wind and solar—the two sources of energy favored in many policy proposals—supply less than 3% of global energy, and electric cars under 0.5% of global road-miles. Given the scale of global economies, changing the status quo presents some daunting economic, environmental and geopolitical challenges.

Permit me to note three basic realities, each with implications for considerations about technologies and policies for altering how the world, and Canada, obtains its energy. These are realities that help explain why global carbon dioxide emissions continued to increase prior to the pandemic lockdowns, despite massive investments in non-hydrocarbon energy production in both Europe and North America.

First, it is indisputable, and it’s a good thing, that the world will use more wind and solar machines, and more electric cars. The reason for that, aside from policies encouraging all three, is anchored in the fact those technologies are all profoundly better than they were a decade or two ago. And, given the magnitude of future global energy needs, more options are always better.

Second, it is equally indisputable that all energy machines are, necessarily, built from materials that must be first extracted from the earth. Replacing hydrocarbons with wind, solar and battery-powered machines constitutes a major shift in both the nature, and the quantities of those “energy materials.” It is a switch from using mainly liquids and gases to using solids. And it’s a switch

that, on average, results in a ten-fold increase in the quantity of materials mined and processed per unit of energy service delivered to society.

Third, Canada and the United States combined, today, are and will be for the foreseeable future net importers of wind, solar and battery machines, or key components for them, as well as for most of the critical “energy minerals” needed to build them. And, as the International Energy Agency has noted, the realities of scale mean that even the most aggressive forecasts for alternative energy sources see the world continuing, for many decades, requiring roughly as much hydrocarbon energy as is used today.

Read the full testimony here.


Mark P. Mills is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of several reports including Mines, Minerals, and "Green" Energy: A Reality Check and The "New Energy Economy": An Exercise in Magical Thinking. For a review of his policy recommendations for the new administration, visit the memo he contributed to the Manhattan Institute's Transition 2021 series.  


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