From: Gene Thiele
A battery powered vehicle (EV) cruising down the road is quiet and produces no greenhouse gases … while it’s cruising down the road. As consumers we don’t always understand or investigate the products and services we use. So before we mandate the production and use of EVs, let’s take a look behind the curtain.
In the U.S. about 60 percent of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels (gas, coal, petroleum). The byproducts of this process include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and heavy metals such as mercury. Only about 20 percent of our electricity comes from nuclear plants.
Using these processes we generate approximately the same amount of electricity as we use. Sometimes we export and import electricity to and from Canada and Mexico (they share our grid). By adding 500,000 charging stations and plugging in 1 million EVs at home (currently, projected 1.4 million by 2025) we could be faced with two scenarios.
We could buy electricity from Canada and Mexico. Or to avoid energy dependence on our neighbors, we build more coal or nuclear electric power stations. The U.S. currently has the world’s largest coal reserves. Maybe Winona could get its own Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant.
Added electrical usage may not be the most egregious impact of transitioning to EVs. EV batteries are composed of plastic (petroleum based PVC/PET) and metals such as steel, copper, and aluminum. These materials are plentiful. But some of the rarer metals that make up an EV battery cell (like lithium and cobalt) are not as easy to source.
At a rare earth mine in Jiangxi, China, workers use ammonium sulfate poured into large holes to dissolve the clay. The residue is extracted and run through multiple acid baths to dissolve unwanted compounds. The remaining material is baked in a kiln revealing the rare metals required in EV batteries. Just 0.2 percent of the resulting material is the rare metal; the other 99.8 percent is waste. This waste soil (now contaminated with toxic material) is dumped back into the original holes. And many rare earth mining processes release plumes of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere.
In addition 50-60 percent of cobalt used in EV batteries comes from the Congo, which has a poor human rights record with 40,000 children working in cobalt mines for $1-2 per day. An EV can have hundreds or even thousands of battery cells inside one or more battery packs. And EV batteries only last between 4 and 8 years.
Anything increasing our consumption of electricity has an environmental, financial and ecological impact. So let’s “pump the brakes” a little on the EV mandates. I have been to a hog butchering. I have seen how sausage is made. I don’t eat sausage anymore.
Note: Sources include U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S Energy Information Administration.