Green energy initiatives often generate bright, hopeful narratives of a cleaner, more sustainable future. They also give rise to a dark, tragic side when unintended consequences appear.
One such case is the creation of great demand for metals and special materials that leads to surges in ‘green’ crime. Theft of these materials is driving costs up and reducing reliability and security.
Wherever eco-friendly solutions appear, there has been a correspondingly unexpected and sharp increase in criminal activity.
One big factor is copper, a primary component powering electric cars, wind turbines and solar panels. The quest for the metal has escalated to the point where entire charging stations have been vandalized, leaving taxpayers, not just EV owners, footing the bill for damages.
In addition, some thefts occur not only under the cover of night but increasingly during the day. Government officials advise users to stay with their cars during the hours it can take to get charges. These stations, which represent the future of vehicles, are now places of insecurity and crime.
In Seattle, Washington, brazen thieves cut charging cables for their raw copper value, leaving a trail of inoperative and vandalized chargers. The devastating impact beyond the immediate cost of repairs was a dramatic decline in EV usage.
In response to the insecurity and erosion of charging infrastructure, the Department of Energy’s Advisory Board suggested that EV owners charge their cars at home. Such a solution limits the range of users.
However, thieves have also adapted to home charging by perceiving such stations in open garages and carports. They have become adept at stealing the home cables. Some officials estimate it takes them an average of 13 seconds to snatch away the cables, giving life to EVs. Government officials now recommend EV owners lock garages while charging.
The green dreams-turned nightmares do not stop at the charging stations. Green energy generation also finds criminal schemes to ruin everything.
Thieves are also hitting remote wind farms with turbines that house substantial amounts of copper that attract them.
The increased supply of copper finds its way into the recycling markets that send much of these materials to China, which manufactures and exports green products and generators for EVs.
This criminal enterprise puts in motion a never-ending cycle of stealing, recycling, exporting and green equipment buying.
The most tragic part of this cycle is the human element. Many drug addicts find stolen copper to be the ideal material to supply their habits and use it to fuel their descent into hopelessness and despair.
This wave of green infrastructure-related crime poses several challenges. First is the immediate monetary costs, with losses from costly insurance claims and replacements. The second is the loss of public confidence in green energy as it fails to deliver a safe environment and infrastructure for consumers. The third tragic consequence is the damage to those caught in this web of despair.
While acknowledging the threat to EV development, the government’s response falls short by simply calling for more and more electric cars. The irony is hard to miss: The green energy movement drives the need to mine large quantities of copper and, indirectly, the opportunity for theft. Each EV and windmill consumes a significant amount of copper, and this is just the beginning. The shift towards sustainable technologies is an environmental calamity layered with complex obstacles—mining overload, international trade, theft and all the unintended consequences.
Pursuing a “greener” future is not without moral and social challenges. This uncomfortable reality needs to be addressed honestly. In practical terms, the current approach of overlooking the underground economy’s grip on the green movement is not serious.
Understanding the narrative around green energy and copper theft shines a light on the underbelly of the green dream. This is not just a tale of the theft of copper wire but an inconvenient exposure of ethical discrepancies and systemic flaws within the Green Revolution.
Alas, this kind of green policy is unsustainable.
Photo Credit: © Tricky Shark – stock.adobe.com