Dark Side of Green Technology

There are often unintended consequences of environmentalism and this article from New Geography explores a couple of them surrounding the production of electric vehicle batteries.

An excerpt.

“The hype these days is to stop using those dirty fossil fuel driven cars and trucks and convert everyone to those clean electric vehicles. But wait!

“Before you jump onto the EV train, those EV’s have a very dark side of environmental atrocities and a non-existing transparency of human rights abuses associated with mining for the exotic minerals that power the EV’s.

“The key minerals used in today’s batteries are cobalt, of which 60% is sourced from one country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and lithium, of which more than 50% is sourced from the Lithium Triangle in South America, which covers parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. Today 20% of cobalt is mined by hand. Amnesty International has documented children and adults mining cobalt in narrow man-made tunnels, at risk of fatal accidents and serious lung disease.

“The exotic minerals of lithium and cobalt are both extremely limited in their supply and available locations, compared to crude oil that can be found in almost every country and ocean and at various depths. The limitations of supply and the minable locations for these in-demand commodities present a very serious challenge as to how to continue the EV revolution when those supplies begin to diminish.

“The mere extraction of the exotic minerals cobalt and lithium used in the batteries of EVs presents social challenges, human rights abuse challenges, and environmental challenges. Not only are working conditions hazardous, but living conditions are abysmal, with workers making such meager wages that they are forced to live in abject poverty; and, whether on-duty or off, regularly exposed to out-of-control pollution and many other environmental issues that cannot be ignored.

“The cobalt mined by children and adults in these horrendous conditions in the DRC in Africa then enters the supply chains of some of the world’s biggest brands. There are no known “clean” supply chains for lithium and cobalt, yet the richest and most powerful companies in the world continue to offer up the most complex and implausible excuses for not investigating their own supply chains.

“Tesla Motors’ “dirty little secret” is turning into a major problem for the EV industry—and perhaps mankind. If you think Tesla’s Model S is the green car of the future, think again. The promises of energy independence, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and lower fuel costs, are all factors behind the rise in the popularity of electric vehicles. Unfortunately, under scrutiny, all these promises prove to be more fiction than fact.

“Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy undertook a study to look at the environmental impact of lithium-ion batteries for EVs. The study showed that batteries that use cathodes with nickel and cobalt, as well as solvent-based electrode processing, have the highest potential for environmental impacts, including resource depletion, global warming, ecological toxicity, and adverse effects on human health. The largest contributing processes include those associated with the production, processing, and use of cobalt and nickel metal compounds, which may cause adverse respiratory, pulmonary, and neurological effects in those exposed.”

Retrieved September 12, 2019 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/006406-green-technologys-dark-side

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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