Statements – Energy, 3 August 2022

Senator BABET (Victoria) (13:47): I note this is not my first speech. I rise here today to speak of the negative environmental consequences of moving towards so-called green energy, namely solar panels and batteries. Many have been sold a narrative that these technologies are somehow better for the environment. This could not be further from the truth.

Solar panels have a typical performance warranty life of approximately 25 years, after which these panels will surely end up in landfills where they could potentially contaminate groundwater with toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium. Although around 80 per cent of a solar panel is technically recyclable it is not economically viable to do so, and a widespread use of solar panels is setting us up for a future environmental catastrophe. Batteries have a short service life and are extremely resource intensive to manufacture. Manufacturing a battery for an electric car requires digging up hundreds of tonnes of earth and processing it, with a disastrous effect to our natural world.

To meet demand of the rare earth minerals using batteries and solar panels, we will need to massively ramp up mining operations all around the world. One rich source of these rare earth minerals is pristine and undisturbed habitat, such as the seabed of the Indo-Pacific. The International Seabed Authority believes China is set to become the first nation to begin exploitation of the seabed. China currently manufactures 80 per cent of all solar panels produced globally and dominates in battery production.

We all want to protect our environment but current green technology is doing the environment more harm than good, and their manufacture requires us to harvest more from the natural world, not less—not to mention all the fossil fuels used in their manufacture. We are, in effect, transitioning from digging up fossil fuels to digging up rare-earth metals. None of this solves any of the issues that we are facing, while at the same time placing us at the mercy of the CCP. We need genuine, well-balanced solutions— (Time expired)