Steve Goreham: Green energy — the greatest wealth transfer to the rich in history



We are in the midst of history’s greatest wealth transfer. Government subsidized support for wind systems, solar arrays, and electric vehicles overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy members of society and rich nations. The poor and middle class pay for green energy programs with higher taxes and higher electricity and energy costs. Developing nations suffer environmental damage to deliver mined materials needed for renewables in rich nations.

Since 2000, the world has spent more than $5 trillion on green energy. More than 300,000 wind turbines have been erected, millions of solar arrays were installed, more than 25 million electric vehicles (EVs) have been sold, hundreds of thousands of acres of forest were cut down to produce biomass fuel, and about three percent of agricultural land is now used to produce biofuel for vehicles. The world spends about $1 trillion per year on green energy. Government subsidies run about $200 billion annually, with more than $1 trillion in subsidies spent over the last 20 years.

World leaders obsess over the need for a renewable energy transition to save the planet from human-caused global warming. Governments deliver an endless river of cash to promote adoption of green energy. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provided $370 billion in subsidies and loans for renewables and EVs. But renewable subsidies and mandates overwhelmingly favor the rich members of society at the expense of the poor.

Wind systems receive production tax credits, property tax exemptions, and sometimes receive payments even when not generating electricity. Landowners receive as much as $8,000 per turbine each year from leases for wind systems on their land. Lease income can be quite high for a landowner with many turbines. In England, ordinary taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of pounds per year in taxes that are funneled as subsidies to wind companies and wealthy land owners.

In the US, 39 states currently have net metering laws. Net metering provides a credit for electricity generated by rooftop solar systems that is fed back into the grid. Solar generators typically get credits at the retail electricity rate, about 14 cents per kilowatt-hour. This is a subsidized rate, which is more than double the roughly five cents per kilowatt-hour earned by power plants. Apartment residents and homeowners that cannot afford to install rooftop solar pay higher electricity bills to subsidize homes that receive net metering credits. Rooftop solar owners also receive federal and state tax incentives, another wealth transfer from ordinary citizens.

US federal subsidies of up to $7,500 for each electric car purchased, along additional state subsidies, directly benefit EV buyers. The average price of an EV in the US last year was $66,000, which is out of reach for most drivers. A 2021 University of Chicago study found that California EV owners only drive 5,300 miles per year, less than half the mileage for a typical car. Most electric cars in the US are second cars for the rich.

A mid-size electric car needs a battery that weighs about a 1,000 pounds to provide acceptable driving range. Because of battery weight, EVs tend to be about 50 percent heavier than gasoline cars, which causes increased road damage. But EVs don’t pay the road tax included in the price of every gallon of gasoline. EVs should pay higher road taxes than traditional cars, but today this cost is borne by everyday gasoline car drivers.

Renewable systems require huge amounts of special metals. Electric car batteries need cobalt, nickel, and lithium to achieve high energy density and performance. Magnets in wind turbines require rare earth metals, such as neodymium and dysprosium. Large quantities of copper are essential for EV engines, batteries, wind and solar arrays, and electricity transmission systems to connect to remote wind and solar sites.

According to the International Energy Agency, an EV requires about six times the special metals of a gasoline or diesel car. A wind array requires more than ten times the metals of a natural gas power plant on a delivered-electricity basis. The majority of these metals are mined in developing countries.

Almost 70 percent of cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Indonesia produces more than 30 percent of the world’s nickel. Chile produces 28 percent of the copper. China produces 60 percent of the rare earth metals. These nations struggle with serious air and water pollution from mining operations. Workers in mines also suffer from poor working conditions and the use of forced labor and child labor practices. But apparently no cost is too great so that rich people in developed nations can drive a Tesla.

To top it off, the European Union recently approved a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). The CBAM will tax goods coming from poor nations which aren’t manufactured using low-carbon processes. CBAM revenues will be a great source of funds for Europe’s green energy programs that benefit the wealthy.

In January, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Washington proposed a wealth tax on billionaires. It’s interesting to note that all seven of these states mandate and heavily subsidize wind and solar arrays and electric vehicles, which transfer wealth from poor and middle-class residents to those same billionaires.

Steve Goreham, a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, is a speaker, author, and researcher on environmental issues as well as an engineer and business executive. This column first ran at his own blog, Master Resource.


  1. Ummmmm, Libby Libby ain’t gonna like this.
    Actually no one will except for the Biden apologists that think us in the middle class deserve to be punished for taking jobs away from illegals. Buying the bulk of Americas goods and services. Paying the bulk of Americas Taxes. Being the bulk of Americas military. Generating the bulk of Americas GDP.
    Hmmmm it’s kind of like we’re the glue holding the whole thing together. Well most of us….not Greg or Frank because they’re retired. Not whidbey, “ they” don’t seem to be employed anymore. Lucinda I believe is actually Felix Rivera who works for grub-dash and gets most of ”their” income from untaxed tips and free fries from your order.
    It’s truly a leftist idea to hate petroleum companies and love “green” companies as if oil out of the ground is worse than nickel, copper, cobalt, cadmium, zinc, etc etc etc out of the ground.

  2. Excellent summary of all the short comings of the green energy sector. In all the rabid fanboy coverage that the media showers on this industry, very few ever point out the very real costs

  3. The elite have had it with this quaint experiment in personal responsibility and self improvement by the serfs.

    Covid gave them the opening they wanted for years. Give them credit, they are making Bush 41s “new world order” a reality.

  4. Well, if the author is truly interested in human health, here’s a shocker. Starting in 1921 TEL- tetraethyl lead- which is highly toxic was added to gasoline to reduce engine knock.

    Lead then spewed from the tailpipes of every car, along every road, in every town in the USA, and many other parts of the world.

    170 million Americans have been exposed to high amounts of lead, which leads to cognitive impairment, and a population wide drop in IQ. We also have an epidemic of dementia which for many, may have been caused by their exposure to toxic lead.

    Here’s a fun fact. Leaded gas was a known poison the day it was invented.

    So, the petroleum industry and our government allowed this mass poisoning to occur.

    Oh, and one more fun fact: Lead can also trigger heart disease, cancer and stroke, and many, many people die early deaths because of this.

    And, here’s the best part. The average IQ may have been lowered by 5- 10 points. This caused many people to become Democrats. (Or maybe I made the thing about Democrats up…)

    • M, nobody has been burning leaded gasoline in their vehicles for the last 40 to fifty years. Lead is also passed out of your body unlike Mercury or Fluoride, which accumulates.
      As for an IQ across society as a whole, one might look at the effects of Fluoride, you know the poison that they medicate your drinking water with.

      • Children that have been exposed to lead poisoning do not recover their lost brain power Robert. Why would you try to poo-poo such an issue and do you think deflecting towards Flouride is smart here?

      • Puk, lead was not outlawed in gasoline until 1996.

        Lead causes damage that is permanent- like lowered IQ.

        And here’s a fun fact. Because so much lead has been spread around, it is not unusual to find baby food with lead. Woo Hoo. Now we can lower the IQ of another generation- of future socialists.

    • And strangely enough, once there was an understanding about the dangers of lead, it was steadily removed from consumer products.

      Don’t overthink this.

      • Maybe billy sucked in some lead that would explain a lot about his way of thinking wrong all the time. Sorry billy

      • Avenger. Tell us how to get the lead out of the baby food I want to feed my kids? The lead is there because of the great amount of contamination of leaded gasoline…

        Don’t worry about overthinking things. As the IQ gets lower, people think a lot less.

  5. Many utility companies no longer buy solar-generated electricity from homeowners at a full retail price. Georgia, for example, only pays at the “avoided generation cost” rate, which may be as little as 40% of the retail rate.

    • Utility companies pay for the poles and wires. This is part and parcel of an electrical distribution system. Thus the reason utility companies literally cannot buy home owner solar at retail price.

  6. Lost year, in mild catatonia, the Alaskan legislature passed “green legislation” unknown to themselves or any alleged “constituents” unpublished by the equally catatonic “establishment media” deering the languid summer days just prior to first run of reds but deering cruise ship days ask they magestically and prominantly rule. Does anyone besides the Anchorage Assembly understand what I’m attempting to talk about? Lora Rhinegold (sp) will know what I’m talking about. For confirmation, please call “your’ alleged Alaska representative and ask about it specifically. Then report back here for congruent confirmation. One reason to shut her down in 90 days is that they have no idea of what the one world lobbyists are writing for them and catatonia sets in smartly and promptly within the idyll of Juneau within 90 days.

  7. According to M’s comment the older generation should have the highest exposure to lead emission from the tailpipe. M could be spot on considering the leftist “green energy” installed president just loves to cruise his 60’s vette convertible (with an engine that was designed to perform best on leaded 92 octane fuel) chasing the ice cream truck. Highly likely those early years of sucking in tailpipe lead played a role in his cognitive impairment including dimentia, speech impairment, stuttering etc. Unleaded fuel regulation came a little late for the old codgers. Joe shoulda stuck to the train instead of the HP Vette convertible but Hunter wouldnt a had near the fun. (Hard to impress the gals when the train is your “ride”!)

  8. The North American Energy Reliability Council (NERC) has already warned that there will likely be large widespread and long lasting power outages due to the removal of reliable energy sources in favor of these proven unreliable energy sources. This isn’t a wealth or poverty tax, this is a stupid tax. If and when the power goes out because we as a people decided that we wanted the power to go out then our entire economy comes to a screetching hault. When our entire economy comes to a screetching hault then our GDP drops to zero, tax revenues correspondingly drop to zero, everything stops until power is restored. While the wealthy might gain in the day to day due to all of the causes listed in the article above, we all suffer in the long run because as a society we’ve allowed stupidity to rule the day. A rich person can make it a day or two or five without a paycheck, how long can a middle class or poor person make it?

    • I see the same thing you’re talking about. Maybe there is room for some environmental friendly technologies, but the fact remains petroleum still the king. We don’t need to change overnight. We need to look at all the facts and take steps forward for the betterment of mankind. This is death by stupidity.

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