LETTER: Net Zero goal is laudable, but transition demands more time

Letter to the editor

To the editor:

A column entitled “Local actions have global consequences” in the Nov. 23 issue of the Marblehead Current sets out goals for the town to reach Net Zero by 2040. These goals, while ambitious are also risky.

The energy supplied by fossil fuels has supported an ever-increasing standard of living and life expectancy since the late 1800s. Alternatives must be affordable and reliable if we move away from fossil fuels. Otherwise, our standard of living will be degraded.

Acting locally makes sense, but we are dependent on resources outside the town and even the country. A battery can contain three to eight minerals depending on the type of battery. Just like fossil fuels, these are not in unlimited supply. According to a study by Prof. of Geometallurgy Simon Michaux (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBVmnKuBocc&t=193s) the world has only 19% of the copper needed for alternatives to replace fossil fuels. And at the highest production rate, it would take 189 years to produce it. For lithium, the figures are worse: 2.3% and 9,920 years. What happens when something in high demand is short in supply? Prices go up. According to the Wall Street Journal, lithium has already gone up 240% this year.

And where does most of this production occur? China. See Europe for what can happen when you are dependent on an adversary for a critical resource.

Resource shortages aside, what does Marblehead Municipal Light Department need to do to support electric vehicles? What will it cost and how high will electricity rates go? What if there were 2,500 or 5,000 EVs in Marblehead? What if people don’t have off-street parking to charge an EV? Lots of people in Marblehead do not have a place where they can charge a car overnight. EVs also present a fire hazard that is quite different from gas-powered cars. What must the fire department do to in case there’s an EV on fire in Old Town?

Energy transitions take decades. And we’ve gone to something new because it’s better, cheaper, and more reliable. Now we are being rushed into something that requires a complex supply chain to deliver affordable and reliable energy. Net Zero by 2040 is a laudable goal but if can’t provide affordable and reliable energy, then we need more time and Plan B. – Richard Smith, Washington Street

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