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Mark Mills: Daring to tread new ground

21 December 2022

Leading researcher, former White House adviser and energy expert. Mark Mills' credentials are in no doubt, and he likes to share his opinions – even if it means interfering in government work and geopolitical disputes:  

"Naïveté about energy realities and Russian ambitions (or ambitions of other unfriendly nations) has robbed Europe and the US of important “soft power” options, i.e., precisely the kind of geopolitical leverage that Russia has now," he is quoted as saying in the National Review

You can't exactly accuse Mills of burying his head in the sand. But what exactly is it that Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a member of Notre Dame Reilly's advisory board, means by "energy realities"?  In short, Mills does not believe that the safeguards against an energy crisis that the EU, the US and the European governments have put in place are sufficient.  Not least because a green transition will require far more minerals than it is possible for us to obtain, he explains.  According to Mills, the green transition cannot come about if you only rely on the toolbox containing renewable forms of energy. He believes a new look at the green construction market is needed. 

If you try to push the green transition through on the above premises, there will be consequences, he believes.  If you choose to use all the minerals that can be obtained on solar cells, wind turbines and batteries that can store the energy, Mills believes that the price of other mineral-intensive everyday necessities, such as computers and phones, will rise inappropriately.   

In addition, Mills envisions that the geopolitical balance will shift if the green transition is implemented on these terms. It can have geopolitical consequences if a country like the United States becomes dependent on other countries to obtain the necessary minerals to produce energy. This is the same scenario that many European states are experiencing now, with their dependence on Russian gas. He also warns that we risk destroying eco and biodiversity systems if we choose to take part in what he refers to as "The Global Gold Rush for Minerals". 

But what can we learn from Mills? Isn't he just another pessimist who hasn't understood the seriousness of the climate crisis? 

No. Mark Mills is well aware that a change is needed. In fact, he is calling for a revolution, which he believes must arise through basic research.  Mills would rather use the energy and public investment to find new energy sources, and work on optimising the sources that have the greatest development potential, rather than refining energy types that will never be able to bear the entire green transition anyway:  

"To be blunt: there is simply no possibility that more government funding for wind turbines, silicon solar cells or lithium batteries will lead to a “disruptive” 10-fold gain. All those technologies are approaching physics limits, just as aviation engines have," he told Forbes in 2019

Recognised by many for his insight in the field and with his degree in physics from Queen's University in Canada, he is passionate in his fight to save the climate. But there is no self-conscious rhetoric, fancy slogans and other PR initiatives; for Mills, the road to the sustainable transition is paved with hard rationale. He likes to quote the Nobel Prize winner, and co-inventor of the atomic bomb, Richard Feynman:

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” 

Prepare for a tough reality check when Mark Mills speaks at the SKAGEN Foundations' New Year's Conference 2023.  

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