Is the Electric Vehicle for you?

Slave labor, environmental degradation go into many shiny new EVs

by John McClaughry 

For the past decade the most popular idea for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight the Menace of Climate Change has been subsidizing the purchase of electric vehicles so that even low income and disadvantaged people can get one. Vermont has gone even further, signing on the dictates of the California Air Resources Board that will make it impossible for dealers to buy or sell an internal combustion car or light truck by 2035. 

From a political standpoint, the most attractive feature of boosting EVs, like the Clean Heat Standard advanced by the House last week (H.715), is that neither involves a visible carbon tax. The EV relies on government subsidies. The Clean Heat Standard – the crown jewel of Vermont’s climate change movement – will ingeniously tax heating oil customers to subsidize switchovers to heat pumps and pellet stoves, and more home weatherization. Heating fuel customers will blame their fuel distributor, not their legislators, for driving up prices. 

EV drivers must deal with range anxiety and charging time trauma. The former is diminishing with better battery technology (over 300 miles on a charge, so long as it’s not too far below freezing). The latter is being addressed by a costly profusion of charging stations paid for by the infrastructure grants from Washington. An added EV incentive is exemption from the motor fuel taxes that bring in about 30% of the VTrans highway budget. Paying the motorists’ share of the upkeep of the state’s roads and bridges is left to the owners of disfavored internal combustion cars and trucks. 

To be fair about it, EVs do offer stylish looks, jackrabbit starts, comfortable rides, juicy Federal and state subsidies, and the motor fuel tax exemption. Their vulnerable point is the thousand-pound battery. Repeated discharging and recharging cycles degrade it, and operation in cold climates diminishes performance and battery life, reasonably estimated to be fifteen years. 

The Climate Council’s Climate Action Plan has adopted the utterly unachievable goal of increasing the present 4,360 Vermont EVs to an astounding 170,000 in the coming nine years. Perhaps with that in mind, VELCO says it will need $2.2 billion in upgraded grid capacity to service the electrification surge. 

An EV owner should plan on spending $12,000 for the replacement battery, installed. If something goes wrong with the battery or its electronic control system, can you find a skilled technician readily available to get you back on the road? Would you put a new battery in an EV driven on Vermont roads for fifteen – or even eight – years? Would your car and its tired old battery have any trade in value on a new one? Worth thinking about. 

Also worth thinking about, especially if you are a devotee of “environmental justice”, is the provenance of the crucial components of the battery, notably lithium, cobalt, and nickel. 

In a widely read essay, Tom Harris, executive director of the Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, wrote that the 1,000 pound Lithium-ion EV battery contains 25 pounds of lithium, extracted from 25,000 pounds of ore from mines mainly in Tibet and Argentina-Chile-Bolivia. He reports that the Tibetan (China) mine “resulted in dead, toxic fish and carcasses of cows and yaks floating down the thoroughly poisoned River”. 

Harris quotes a UN report that “indigenous communities that have lived in the lithium-rich Andean [desert] region of Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia for centuries must contend with miners for access to communal land and water…Some estimates show that approximately 1.9 million litres of water is needed to produce a ton of lithium.” 

Harris reports that the 30 pounds of cobalt in an EV battery requires processing 30,000 pounds of ore. Two thirds of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Congo has at least 40,000 children – some as young as four years old – working with their parents for less than $2 a day”, beset with cave-ins, toxic, radioactive water, dust, and dangerous air loaded with cobalt, lead and uranium. Much of the ore is sent to China for refining by the Chinese-owned Dongfang International Mining Company. 

As for nickel, the Washington Post reports (3/16/22) that Russia supplies about twenty percent of the high-grade “Class 1” nickel used in most electric car batteries. Most of it is produced at Norilsk in Siberia, created as a slave labor camp far above the Arctic Circle, now one of the most egregiously polluted cities in the world. 

So, enviros, keep enjoying your taxpayer subsidized EV that reduces CO2 from gasoline and diesel fuel emissions that may contribute to holding the increase in global average temperature to one degree C by the end of this century. It’s important to feel good about your virtuous selves. 

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute ( 

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9 replies »

  1. Good read.Thank you, Question though. Once a lithium ion battery has reached the end of it’s life, are the components (lithium, cobalt, nickel) recyclable, or are they hazardous waste ? If they are hazardous, how are they dealt with safely ? Are they as dangerous after they are of no use anymore as they are to mine and refine ? Just looking down the road…..

  2. Isn’t the push to stop burning fossil fuel to reduce carbon emissions? You noted the shift to pellet stoves. How are pellets produced, what energy is required to produce them and aren’t they carbon based so burning them releases carbon into the atmosphere.

  3. We forgot to mention that EVs are one more layer of attachment to the government. Once this doesn’t fix “climate change” how do we know our EVs won’t be turned off for three or four days a week in lieu of reducing our emissions further? How can we be sure social credit scores won’t be tied to how often we can use our EVs or used as a means for compliance? I say “our,” but I never plan to get one of these pieces of virtue signaling garbage. Mandatory EVs would surely drive our family out of Vermont. There are countless problems with EVs, and Vermont, unfortunately, is leading the charge in their promotion.

  4. Excellent op ed.
    We are funding stoopid ideas of the rich and famous, who don’t really want to give up their rockets, jets, third and fourth homes, and their yachts. But want US to fund their virtue signalling that, looked at with open eyes (you don’t even need reading glasses), is ridiculous from the mining, slavery, environmental destruction at that source, the upstream costs of manufacturing in CHINA very likely, or perhaps the Ukraine – neither of which have a problem with destroying the planet to mine precious metals – and all points north of the EV battery.
    Plus… has anyone sat in a car for an hour with one of those batteries right beneath them?

    You DO know our WHOLE universe is electromagnetic, and that our bodies which live in it, are too.
    If a battery from a Leaf car makes people sick, what’s one of these EV batteries gonna do with the fam’s the buy these?

    Boondoggle in the making… ever the present fix it even though it doesn’t need fixing, the opposite of what real Vermonters do. No common sense, again Vermonter RELY on common sense to save money, and not be correcting mistakes made down the road.
    We are in for such cluster fekk – oh wait. We’re here.

    These legislators are actually turning into enemies of regular Vermonters whose incomes are 30k or less. That’s most of Vermont.
    We’re funding this boondoggle.
    Waste waste waste mounting up…thanks leadheads in leadgistslature.

  5. It takes 5 minutes to fill your tank with gas. It takes hours to charge an EV. Both cars go about the same distance on a full tank/charge. Imagine, as more EVs are on the road, the wait times at charging stations. This is madness, being unleashed on a well brainwashed public.

  6. Efficient gasoline is still less overall damaging to the environment than electric. Also, at Washington Elec Coop “green” rates, F You will I be charging an electric car, buddy.

  7. Before we set up a whole new standard for personal transportation and how we fuel it, I dont know that we have thoroughly investigated which way to go. Electric drive is a no-brainer, as it has been with diesel-electric locomotives since the end of the steam age. The question is: how do we store that energy on board the vehicle? The options are battery vs hydrogen fuel cell. NASA figured out back in the Gemini program that batteries were just not going to cut it for multiday missions and every spacecraft since then has carried hydrogen to “burn” in fuel cells to produce electricity.
    The advantage on Earth is that fueling with liquid hydrogen is as fast as our current liquid petrol fillup and the oxygen to complete the fuel-cell reaction is available in the air. Before we jump whole-hog into battery storage electric vehicles which require time and driving strategy to charge up, we had better answer this question. We have been spoiled for 100+ years with personal vehicles which take 5 minutes to fuel to take us 200-400 miles and going back to a system like horses which take extended time to feed/fuel will not be a good marketing feature.

  8. This is the question I asked earlier, from Principa Scientific International:
    Can EMFs from these cars cause cancer or worse, sterilization and infertilization?

    Hybrid & Electric Cars: Electromagnetic Radiation Risks
    Published on March 23, 2022

    “Hybrid and electric cars may be cancer-causing as they emit extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields (EMF).

    Recent studies of the EMF emitted by these automobiles have claimed either that they pose a cancer risk for the vehicles’ occupants or that they are safe.

    Unfortunately, much of the research conducted on this issue has been industry-funded by companies with vested interests on one side of the issue or the other which makes it difficult to know which studies are trustworthy.

    Meanwhile, numerous peer-reviewed laboratory studies conducted over several decades have found biologic effects from limited exposures to ELF EMF. These studies suggest that the EMF guidelines established by the self-appointed, International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) are inadequate to protect our health. Based upon the research, more than 240 EMF experts have signed the International EMF Scientist Appeal which calls on the World Health Organization to establish stronger guidelines for ELF and radio frequency EMF. Thus, even if EMF measurements comply with the ICNIRP guidelines, occupants of hybrid and electric cars may still be at increased risk for cancer and other health problems.”

    Wouldn’t it be nice if our legislators could read further than, YES or NO?

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