President Joe Biden has an ambitious plan to make half the cars sold in America electric vehicles in less than 10 years — a big win for environmentalists, you might think.
It might be, at least on paper. It’s also a big win for Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates.
As for the environment — particularly in Greenland — it could be a major loss.
According to Reuters, KoBold Metals, a mineral exploration firm that’s backed by all three of those aforementioned billionaires, signed a contract with Bluejay Mining on Monday to explore the Denmark-held island for materials used in EVs.
Reuters reported that “KoBold, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to hunt for raw materials, will pay $15 million in exploration funding for the Disko-Nuussuaq project on Greenland’s west coast in exchange for a 51% stake in the project, Bluejay said in a statement.”
“BlueJay said previous studies found the area in western Greenland has similarities to the geology of Russia’s Norilsk region, a main producer of nickel and palladium.”
“This agreement is transformative for Bluejay,” Bo Steensgaard, Bluejay’s CEO, said in a statement.
“We are delighted to have a partner at the pinnacle of technical innovation for new exploration methods, backed by some of the most successful investors in the world.”
“The Disko region has seen the rare convergence of events in earth’s history that could have resulted in forming world-class battery metal deposit,” Kurt House, CEO of KoBold, said in a news release reported on by The Hill.
“We are excited to invest in Greenland’s emerging mineral sector and to partner with Bluejay in light of their strong track record in Greenland and the outstanding potential of the Disko project.”
The Biden administration’s executive order on the matter isn’t a mandatory target. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said it “doesn’t function as a mandate, but it does create the conditions for us to meet that goal.”
“We have got to act, the transportation sector is the biggest part of our economy emitting greenhouse gases, and cars and trucks are one of the biggest parts of that,” he told CNBC.
In addition, representatives from Detroit automakers appeared at the White House on Aug. 5 and pledged they’ll sell at least between 40 and 50 percent electric vehicles by 2030.
Furthermore, as CNET noted, the administration’s bipartisan infrastructure bill includes $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations and $7.5 billion for zero-emission public transportation options that could include electric buses.
For some Democrats, that’s not nearly enough.
Reuters reported late last month that a group of left-wing Democrats wanted a great deal more for electric vehicles in the $3.5 trillion spending bill the Dems plan to pass without Republican support in the Senate via budget reconciliation.
On Monday, 28 House Democrats demanded $85 trillion for EV charging infrastructure alone, the wire service reported, including charging stations for “disadvantaged communities, including on-street and public parking, multi-unit dwellings, public and affordable housing, public parks, public buildings, places of work, (and) commuter transit hubs.”
However, some on the left are suddenly discovering the sudden switchover to electric vehicles might not be as environmentally friendly as they originally thought.
Take the Bezos/Bloomberg/Gates-backed mining expedition. The companies involved say the technology involved is ecologically sound, but researchers aren’t convinced.
“Essentially, they’re right on top of the ocean,” Jeffrey Welker, a University of Alaska, Anchorage professor who’s spent two decades studying the ecosystem of western Greenland, told The Daily Beast.
“That creates potentially some environmentally or ecologically dangerous situations with any contamination of that fjord. … Any disturbance to that marine system through any activity could be catastrophic for that community.”
“Carbon dioxide emissions are a global impact,” said Kevin Krajick, senior editor of science news for the Earth Institute.
“When you open these mines in these really remote places, it’s arguably a more local impact. … On the other hand, you are going into these pristine areas that are not going to be the same.”
It reported on “a fundamental tension surfacing around the world: Electric cars and renewable energy may not be as green as they appear. Production of raw materials like lithium, cobalt and nickel that are essential to these technologies are often ruinous to land, water, wildlife and people.”
Furthermore, winning the race for lithium and other battery components against China may mean that environmental issues take a back seat under the current administration.
The Times cited a recent interview with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in which she said of China: “They want to be the go-to place for the guts of the batteries, yet we have these minerals in the United States. We have not taken advantage of them, to mine them.”
A few months earlier, she announced that this kind of mining was “a race to the future that America is going to win.”
That, however, comes at an expense: “So far, the Biden administration has not moved to help push more environmentally friendly options — like lithium brine extraction, instead of open pit mines,” the Times reported.
Meanwhile, you may not be surprised to learn China doesn’t hold itself to particularly high standards when it comes to mining renewables, either. And moving outside of the United States and China, we’ve got Messrs. Bezos, Bloomberg and Gates doing it in the Arctic, potentially despoiling Greenland in the process.
This isn’t to go full-on Greta Thunberg. All energy involves tradeoffs. Those tradeoffs have to be managed, whether they come from the use of fossil fuels, nuclear energy or renewable resources.
The conservative merely asks: What promotes the greatest level of human flourishing and comfort without inflicting unacceptable levels of damage to our natural habitat?
The liberal, meanwhile, comes from a presupposition that anything that isn’t renewable energy is by default inflicting unacceptable damage upon mother nature. Human flourishing and comfort are either irrelevant or secondary to a whiplash-speed shift toward renewables. The only question becomes how to get there in the most expeditious fashion.
In this case, along the way to answering the question, the liberal will eventually bump into quite a few irksome tradeoffs involved in Tesla-fying our American highways. If the liberal can, he or she will choose to ignore them.
That’s why the Biden administration is zooming ahead with a 50 percent EV pledge without a plan in place to source the materials in an environmentally friendly manner.
But it sure sounded nice when President Biden signed the executive order, didn’t it?
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