By 2050, one the world’s goals, we are told, is to be emission free.
One of the components of those future emission-free days is the staple of wonderful electric cars, like Tesla is giving us. But Tesla is facing stern technical and economic realities and, as a result, is considering going into the lithium mining business.
Which means that despite the high praise Tesla has received for its clean electric cars, the company may be getting into the rough-and-tumble world of open-pit mining.
Because behind the sweet hum of an emission-free Tesla is a very dirty supply chain.
Ever seen a lithium mine? Think of it as a jagged moonscape, but without the charm.
Nothing against open-pit mining, mind you. Sometimes you have to have it.
But it’s ironic that the biggest advocates of environmental purity are moving to increased consumption of products dependent upon lithium, including smart phones, other electronics, and, of course, electric cars.
And environmentalists want us all to go that way. The Biden administration basically admits the unconscionable hardships we face regarding costs for fossil fuels are a means to pressure us to switch to the electric cars it wants us to all drive by, oh, next week.
Elon Musk has done some incredible things from private space launches to introduction of the Tesla line of automobiles. Teslas have their limitations, of course, such as range and charging issues, but they have moved beyond the glorified golf carts brought to the public over the past four decades to some truly stylish designs.
But a Tesla is as dependent upon lithium as an old 1978 11-mile-per-gallon Ford LTD was on gasoline. And that’s why Tesla is looking at becoming a miner, according to electric vehicle advocate Electrek.
“It’s not out of the question,” Musk said. “We will address whatever limitations are on accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
“It’s not that we wish to buy mining companies, but if that’s the only way to accelerate the transition, then we will do that.”
The electric battery driving a Tesla needs a lot of lithium, 22 pounds, according to Samanth Subramanian, writing in Quartz. And over 117 pounds of lithium ore have to be dug to get that amount of lithium. And, according to Subramanian, current lithium ore mining can’t produce 90 to 95 percent what will be needed.
So Tesla has joined other world automakers in investing in lithium. It has rights to 10,000 acres of claim deposits in Nevada, according to Subramanian. And last month, Musk said his company may begin direct mining operations itself.
To date, lithium mining is dirty, and efforts at environmentally-friendly extraction of the commodity have not achieved economies of scale, according to Time. The industry also suffers from up-and-down pricing, and because 81 percent of the mining is in Australia and Chile, there are concerns about supply chain disruption.
Examples of environmental concerns about lithium mining include toxicity apparently resulting in deaths of fish, cows and yaks near a mine in China, draining of the water supply in the Lithium Triangle covering sections of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile and contamination of streams in Argentina, according to Wired.
“Like any mining process, it is invasive, it scars the landscape, it destroys the water table and it pollutes the earth and the local wells,” Guillermo Gonzalez, a lithium battery expert from the University of Chile, told Wired in 2009 “This isn’t a green solution — it’s not a solution at all.”
An editorial last year in Nature was critical of the large amount of water and energy needed for lithium mining, coupled with working conditions for miners, some as young as seven.
So technology — even simple human processes of ironmaking dating back millennia — comes with a cost. That’s a given. Again, there’s a place for things like open-pit mines.
But there is a lie that we are moving to a pristine environment if we will just follow the dictates of the elites. Give up your old pickup or your newer SUV and go electric, they tell us.
Right. As though we can afford it. Which may be the whole reason for the lie: The elites hate our mobility.
As thousands of dead birds give witness to the environmental folly of the eyesores that are wind generators, must we watch more destruction of our earth through needless expansion of lithium mining?
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