Commentary

EV’s awful, embedded environmental costs

EVs charging at UVM – Stephen Mease/UnSplash photo

by Kathi Tarrant

I oppose H552, the Legislature’s aggressive push to subsidize and market electronic vehicles (EV). 

Tesla said it best in referring to batteries as an Energy Storage System. They do NOT make electricity – they store electricity produced elsewhere, primarily by coal, uranium, natural gas-powered plants, or diesel-fueled generators. So, to say an electric vehicle (EV) is a zero-emission vehicle…not. Also, since forty percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. is from coal-fired plants, it follows that forty percent of the EVs on the road are in fact coal-powered…let that sink in.

Kathi Tarrant

Einstein’s formula, E=MC2, tells us it takes the same amount of energy to move a five-thousand-pound gasoline-driven automobile a mile as it does an electric one. The only question again is what produces the power? To reiterate, it does not come from the battery; the battery is only the storage device, like a gas tank in a car.

There are two orders of batteries, rechargeable, and single use. The most common single use batteries are A, AA, AAA, C, D. 9V, and lantern types. Those dry-cell species use zinc, manganese, lithium, silver oxide, or zinc and carbon to store electricity chemically. Please note they all contain toxic, heavy metals. Rechargeable batteries only differ in their internal materials, usually lithium-ion, nickel-metal oxide, and nickel-cadmium. The United States uses three billion of these two battery types a year, and most are not recycled; they end up in landfills. If you throw your small, used batteries in the trash, they will continue to leak like the ooze in a ruined flashlight. All batteries eventually rupture; it just takes rechargeable batteries longer to end up in the landfill.

In addition to dry cell batteries, there are also wet cell ones used in automobiles, boats, and motorcycles. The good thing about these is that ninety percent of them are recycled. Unfortunately, we do not yet know how to recycle single-use ones properly.

But that is not the half of it. For those excited about EV, a closer look at batteries along with windmills and solar panels is highly recommended. These three technologies share environmentally destructive embedded costs.

Everything manufactured has two costs associated with it: embedded costs and operating costs. Embedded costs are those that happen before point of sale such as fuel costs, equipment, labor, transportation, etc. For example, a typical EV battery weighs one thousand pounds, about the size of a travel trunk. It contains twenty-five pounds of lithium, sixty pounds of nickel, 44 pounds of manganese, 30 pounds cobalt, 200 pounds of copper, and 400 pounds of aluminum, steel, and plastic. 

Inside are over 6,000 individual lithium-ion cells. This should concern you. All those toxic components come from mining. For instance, to manufacture each EV auto battery, you must process 25,000 pounds of brine for the lithium, 30,000 pounds of ore for the cobalt, 5,000 pounds of ore for the nickel, and 25,000 pounds of ore for copper. 

All told, it would take 500,000 pounds of the earth’s crust for just one battery. Sixty-eight percent of the world’s cobalt, a significant part of a battery, comes from the Congo. Their mines have no pollution controls, and they employ children who die from handling this toxic material.

Despite the fact California is the only state which requires batteries be recycled, they are building the largest battery in the world near San Francisco which they intend to power from solar panels and windmills. This construction project is creating an environmental disaster. 

The main problem with solar arrays is the chemicals needed to process silicate into the silicon used in the panels. To make pure enough silicon requires processing it with hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, trichloroethane, and acetone. In addition, they also need gallium, arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, and cadmium-telluride which are highly toxic. Also, silicone dust is a hazard to the workers, and the panels cannot be recycled.

Windmills are the ultimate in embedded costs and environmental destruction. Each weigh 1688 tons (the equivalent of 23 houses) and contains 1300 tons of concrete, 295 tons of steel, 48 tons of iron, 24 tons of fiberglass, and the hard to extract rare earths neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium. Each blade weighs 81,000 pounds and will last only 15 to 20 years. The used blades cannot be recycled. And sadly, both solar arrays and windmills kill birds, bats, sea life, and migratory insects.

There may be a place for these technologies, but looking beyond the myth of zero emissions, it is predicted EVs, solar panels and windmills will be abandoned once the embedded environmental costs of making and replacing them become more apparent. 

Say NO to Bill H552. 

Kathi Tarrant is a pro musician and music instructor based out of Waterbury

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10 replies »

  1. And where do a lot if not most of these materials come from ? China. Where the mining of them is allowed to take place with little or no consideration for the environmental consequences. Once again, whatever we do here to mitigate our impact on the environment is negated by China by many fold. In the mean time Americans are expected to pony up, and take the hit “for the good of man kind.” When John Kerry moves to an environmentally neutral cave, which he heats with wood, lights only with the sun, flies on a solar powered plane, sails, or rows his yacht without a gas powered back up motor for “motor sailing, and farts roses, then I’ll think about doing likewise. Until then they can kiss where the sun don’t shine !

  2. Thank you, Kathi, for voicing my own questions and concerns. You have apparently done a great deal of research on this subject, something I have not been able to find the time to do, but have given some logical thought to, arriving at your conclusions.

    What I would like to see is solar and possibly wind technology efforts to basically start over from scratch, using the Precautionary Principle in order to craft TRULY environmentally friendly products. I believe that human ingenuity is clever enough to figure it out IF there is the will and moral incentive to do that.

    The problem is that there is generally ONLY the profit motive and that leads to the premature marketing of inferior, destructive products that pretend to be environmentally friendly. And investors, the public, and governments perceive only what they want to perceive of these products, while wearing blinders about the destruction that is created in their wake.

    • Well done, Kathi, for articulating so well what those of us with a few shreds of common sense have known all along. I’m glad you wrote this article and we can all hope that it cuts through the shrillness of the present hysteria.

      As an earlier commenter stated, instead of this headlong rush to renewables that presently leaves more scars and waste in its wake, damn the consequences, it must all be taken apart and thought through in practical, rational terms, minus all the hysteria around a fictional climate apocalypse. Let’s all hope that calmer heads prevail, before it’s too late for our livelihoods, our economy and our state.

  3. Fantastic article Kathi.! Far too many people base their opinions on superficial information. You have presented a very thoughtful deep-dive into the REAL cost of EV’s . I hope this information gets shared widely.

  4. Would someone pass this on to the governor who is in the process of spending money on charging stations. The people dreaming this EV stuff up are the most dangerous to the environment. Sense is not common anymore. People are brain dead because they aren’t taught how to think through problems. People are now taught ideology, climate religion and what to think. We are living in the idiot apocalypes. Intelligence has been replaced by virtue signaling because it’s easier to feel good about yourself than actually thinking about something. This is a great article that will get no mileage in the liberal brain dead media. How could you possibly feel good about yourself if you couldn’t drive your EV? This should be required reading in schools but it’s easier to create brain dead little children who will grow up to be brain dead liberal adults. God help us, please!

  5. Coal isn’t 40% and hasn’t been since 2014. It is between 20%-25% – https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/report/electricity.php

    Your logic that EVs are powered by 40% coal (which should actually be 20%-25%) is wrong too. States don’t have equivalent generation nor are EVs equally distributed across the country by state – https://www.nei.org/resources/statistics/state-electricity-generation-fuel-shares

    The easiest way to fool your typical VDC commenter is to use made up statistics that aren’t cited to confirm their inaccurate biases because they won’t ever bother to look them up.

    In addition, the hand-wringing over EV rare earth metals comes across as disenguine. Please just give me one article or quote from any of you in the past doing the same critique for catalytic converters, phones, or any other rare earth metal product.

    • Christian, I agree that I would have liked to see some citations, that it’s always a good idea to provide when citing numbers. But, even IF some of Kathi’s numbers are off, the premise of what she is saying is valid, and is simply never aired in MSM. It’s yet another topic that deserves a great deal more attention and robust and civil and science-based discussion, but has simply become more industry-driven hype and politics than adequately vetted and decided-on public policy.

  6. Too bad today you are labeled as a bad person if you don’t go along with the EV lemmings. We are only hearing one side now and I am so glad that this article got published. This is supposed to be a democracy but it is turning into a “if you don’t agree with me, let me educate you (I mean indoctrinate).” We have lost a lot of civility where people used to listen to one another and debate issues. Too bad we have lost that.

  7. It’s really interesting that you are claiming authorship of this piece when it was widely available all over the Internet several days before it was published here. I believe in the biz that’s called plagiarism.

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