[Feature Photo: Deforestation in the Philippines by mining for nickel for EVs]
The push to phase out fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energy sources is more about politics, than saving the planet. The electric vehicles currently sold, are not green, they cause more harm to the environment, than conventional gas fueled cars. Let’s see what the public is not being told:
“Zero Tailpipe Emission” is a misleading term, that is used to market electric vehicles. It suggests, that the vehicle has no negative impact on the environment. EVs inded do not have tailpipe emissions, but the production, recharge and the disposal of the large EV batteries are resource intensive and is harmful for the planet.
The production of EV batteries require minerals and rare earth elements, such as cobalt, lithium, nickel, manganese and copper.
The typical EV battery weighs 1000 pounds. It contains 25 pounds of lithium, 60 pounds of nickel, 45 pounds of manganese, 30 pounds of cobalt, 200 pounds of copper and 400 pounds of aluminum and plastic.
Lithium is mined out of the earth in huge pits, or extracted by pumping a brine solution into a bore hole and evaporating the solution in sprawling, above ground ponds. Toxic chemicals, like hydrochloric acid can leak from these evaporation pools and contaminate surrounding areas.
25,000 pounds of brine must processed for one EV battery, which is also treated with highly toxic sulphuric acid.
Cobalt is another essential element, needed for EV batteries and just like lithium, is also not environmentally friendly. 80% of the world’s cobalt is processed by China, a country, considered to be the greatest threat to U.S. economic and national security.
70% of cobalt worldwide is mined in the Republic of Congo, a country with a history of poor labor and environmental practices. Of the 255,000 Congolese mining for cobalt, 40,000 are children, as young as 6 year old.
25,000 pounds of ore must be processed to extract enough copper for one EV battery. Electric vehicles require much more copper, than conventional cars.
As a rule of thumb, each pound of ore yields 1/1000th pounds of cobalt, nickel, lithium, etc. In all, suppliers must dig up 500,000 pounds of earth for one average size EV battery. But many are much larger, the Hummer EV battery weighs 3000 pounds, 3 times the average size.
Mining has heavy impact on ecosystems and local communities, it creates immense amounts of waste, that can pollute local water supply, the air, the soil and the health of workers.
It leads to massive deforestation and environmental damage, destroying huge areas of pristine wilderness. By comparison, the land required to extract crude oil is vary small.
Mining also consumes gigantic amounts of energy, accounting for 10% of the world’s energy consumption. That corresponds with 80% of the world’s electricity use. The energy used for mining doesn’t come from renewable sources, but from burning fossil fuels!
Heavy mining machinery burns up to 50 gallons of diesel fuel per hour. The industry is one of the largest sources of CO2 emissions. And the whole point of switching to electric vehicles is to reduce CO2 emissions!
At present, only 1% of the vehicles on the road in the United States are fully electric (43% of them are in California) and the damage to the environment from to mining is already significant. What will be the human and environmental impact, if all of us were driving EVs, including the electrification of the entire transportation sector?
The harm, brought about by the battery production alone exceeds the gains, achieved by EVs, but let’s talk about recharging electric vehicles.
Electricity comes from the plug in the wall, right? Actually, most of it, over 60% comes from power plants, burning fossil fuels.
Renewable energy sources represent 20% of total energy use in the United States, of that, 12% is wind and solar. But renewable energy also isn’t as green as it seems.
Wind and solar farms occupy huge areas, permanently altering landscapes. Both are emission free, but their construction is resource heavy and have a detrimental effect on the environment.
Photovoltaic (solar) panels require rare metals, like silver, whose extraction is energy intensive and causes pollution.
An average wind turbine blade (one on a three blade propeller), is 100 foot long and weighs 6000 pounds. The blades can not be recycled, the materials are very durable, because they are designed to withstand 20+ years of harsh weather. They are cut into smaller pieces and buried.
The disposal of solar panels also creates huge amounts unrecyclable waste. In the European Union, by 2050, there will be an estimated 60 million tons of PV waste.
Published in two papers – Environmental Research Letters and Joule – Harvard scientists found, that the transition to wind and solar power in the U.S. would require 20 times more land, than previously thought and if enough solar and wind farms were built, to meet the United States energy need, it would contribute to global warming – exactly what renewable energy is supposed to prevent.
Discoveries like these aren’t reported in the mainstream media, because they don’t fit the narrative, the media’s favorite experts love to refer to science, when it’s politically expedient though.
Also important to note, that, wind and solar only generate energy part of the time, after all the wind isn’t always blowing and the sun isn’t always shining.
The Tehachapi Pass Windfarm in the California desert is the second largest in the state and is home to 4731 windmills. The winds can be ferocious in the desert, but even so, the propellers are seen standing still most of the time.
But at least they are not harming wildlife that way. An estimated 2.5 Million birds – 500 golden eagles – are killed by windmills annually.
So how about the disposal of EV batteries?
Recycling lithium batteries is dangerous, because they are highly flammable. This is the cause of EV fires. CT transit pulled their electric bus fleet out of circulation, after fire spontaneously erupted in one of the buses.
In Paris 149 electric buses were pulled out of circulation due to an EV fire.
Only 5% of EV batteries are recycled. In California, 15% of new cars sales are electric, yet the state doesn’t have any EV battery recycling plants and there are only five nationwide.
Tesla claims that 100% of their used batteries are recycled, but the 1000 pound batteries appear to be stockpiled, in hopes of recycling and could end up in hazardous waste landfills, where toxic chemicals can leach out of them.
It is estimated, that EVs, that were purchased in 2019 alone will generate 500,000 metric tons of waste. Many EVs will simply be crushed, especially in countries with few environmental regulations, or they’ll just be left to rust away somewhere.
But the case against EVs gets even worse. Electric vehicles are 1000 -1500 pounds heavier, than conventional vehicles on the average, (the Hummer EV tips the scales at a whopping 9000 pounds) and this increases tire wear.
Tire wear causes particulate pollution, that goes into the air and the soil. Some of it are microplastics, that are now found in human lungs.
Scientists have found, that the microparticles, created by tire wear are even worse for the environment than tailpipe emissions. Electric vehicles take pollution to a whole new level, instead of reducing it.
And these, “green” and “sustainable” EVs are supposed to replace conventional internal combustion (ICE) engines, that have been perfected in the last 50 years? The engine management and emission systems of modern vehicles are so advanced, that tailpipe emissions are near zero.
Already in the mid – 2000’s, many vehicles in the United States were sold as “ULEV”, Ultra Low Emission Vehicle”. Today we have “SULEV”, Super Ultra Low Emission and “PZEV”, Partially Zero Emission Vehicles.
If and when the technology is in place to recycle EV batteries, the pollution by the EV industries are curtailed, the environmental and human cost of production is addressed, when the EV’s range are increased and the infrastructure with adequate charging stations nationwide are built, electric vehicles could be a viable alternative to fossil fuel powered vehicles, but not now.