Wednesday, February 23, 2022

There is no such thing as a free lunch, part 549

Recently, on Zach Weinersmith's SMBC:
The embedded comment in the original comic (you'll have to click the link above to see for yourself) is, "The front part of my gas powered car is also emission free."

It's not quite as bleak as Mr. Weinersmith portrays it. Yet, if you consult the Wikipedia entry for Lithium-Ion battery, you will find (as of 2/23/22, internal links and footnotes removed):
Extraction of lithium, nickel, and cobalt, manufacture of solvents, and mining byproducts present significant environmental and health hazards. Lithium extraction can be fatal to aquatic life due to water pollution. It is known to cause surface water contamination, drinking water contamination, respiratory problems, ecosystem degradation and landscape damage. It also leads to unsustainable water consumption in arid regions (1.9 million liters per ton of lithium). Massive byproduct generation of lithium extraction also presents unsolved problems, such as large amounts of magnesium and lime waste.

Lithium mining takes place in North and South America, Asia, South Africa, Australia, and China.

Cobalt for Li-ion batteries is largely mined in the Congo....
The linked Wikipedia article also notes, "Cobalt sourced from the Democratic Republic of the Congo is often mined by workers using hand tools with few safety precautions, resulting in frequent injuries and deaths. Pollution from these mines has exposed people to toxic chemicals that health officials believe to cause birth defects and breathing difficulties. Human rights activists have alleged, and investigative journalism reported confirmation, that child labor is used in these mines" (internal links and footnotes omitted).

I'm not suggesting that you ditch your Tesla, if you have one, or don sackcloth and ashes for the sin of driving a Prius.

EVs provide still another illustration, if one were really still needed, that there is nothing perfect in this very imperfect human world. The issue is whether EVs are better, on balance, for the world generally, and for the environment in particular, than gasoline-guzzling vehicles. I suspect that the scales tip, at least slightly, in favor of EVs, particularly when one considers the horrors that pertrodollars (or petroeuros) have unleashed on the world.

Kids in the Congo may balance the scales differently, I understand.

Which is why the search for 'clean' energy no more ends with EVs than it did with swapping coal for wood.

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