The climate debate centers around two primary issues, a) How much does man influence the climate, and b) what can be realistically done in those areas where man has adversely influenced the climate. The problem, and this is really the crux of the matter, is that deficiencies in both climate data and our understanding of climate science limit man’s ability to distinguish between human and natural influences.
Nonetheless, the apocalyptists continue to advocate for ‘society changing solutions’ before fully understanding the problems. Bumper-sticker climate slogans such as “Save the planet” or “Green is clean” may appeal to your average 9th grader but just like the paper or plastic debate of a few years ago, understanding all the ramifications of our decisions is required before rushing blindly into “fixes” that will do more harm than good.
A battery is a battery is a battery—or is it?
In its simplest terms batteries are “storage systems,” that is, they do not produce electricity, rather they store electricity that’s produced by coal fired power plants, nuclear energy, natural gas-powered plants, or diesel-fueled generators. So, to say an EV (electric vehicle) is a zero-emission vehicle is grossly inaccurate because only 10% of the electricity produced in this country comes from wind and solar, which means that 90% of the energy powering all those shiny, new, expensive, ‘zero emission’ Teslas comes from fossil fuels.
Still not convinced, ok, then let’s examine a few ‘storage systems.’ There, are two orders of batteries: single-use and rechargeable. The most common single-use batteries are A, AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, and lantern types. This first order of batteries, i.e., the dry-cell species use zinc, manganese, lithium, silver oxide, or zinc and carbon to store electricity chemically. We should note too that these batteries all contain toxic, heavy metals. Meanwhile, rechargeable batteries differ only in their use of internal materials, i.e., lithium-ion, nickel-metal oxide, and nickel-cadmium.
~ Clean Energy? Think again! ~
The United States uses three billion of these battery types every year with the vast majority ending up in landfills. Now keep in mind that all batteries are self-discharging, which means even when not in use, they leak. And I don’t know a single individual who hasn’t ruined a flashlight or two from an old, ruptured battery discharging in the flashlight’s tube.
When a battery runs down and can no longer power a toy or light, many think of the battery as dead; well, it is not. It continues to leak small amounts of electricity. And as the chemicals inside of it run out, pressure builds inside the battery’s metal casing, eventually cracking as the metals left inside ooze out. Now the ooze that your ruined flashlight is toxic, as is the ooze from the nearly 3 billion batteries in scattered in landfills across America. And in case you’re wondering, all batteries eventually rupture; even rechargeable batteries, it just takes them a little longer before they end up in the landfill.
In addition, there are also the wet cell batteries that are used in automobiles, boats, and motorcycles. Now the good news is that 90% of these batteries are recycled; however, the bad news is that there is no way yet discovered to recycle or safely dispose of either the single use or electric car batteries.
~ What the apocalyptists don’t want you to know ~
Now for those of you who are excited about electric cars and a green revolution, it would be wise to first examine the environmentally destructive aspects of EV batteries, windmills, and solar panels. The average EV battery weighs one thousand pounds is about the size of a standard suitcase and contains 25 pounds of lithium, 60 pounds of nickel, 44 pounds of manganese, 30 pounds cobalt, 200 pounds of copper, and 400 pounds of aluminum, steel, and plastic.
Every one of these toxic components come from mining, and to manufacture just one such battery the manufacturer 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, 500,000 pounds of the earth’s crust must be dug up for just one battery; yet somehow those detriments to the environment are almost never mentioned in the climate debate.
Taking this a step further, 70% of the world’s cobalt, which is a significant part of EV batteries, comes from the Congo, where the world’s largest cobalt mine is owned by China. Meanwhile, Congolese mines have few if any pollution controls and regularly employ children who are then put at extreme risk by handling many of these toxic materials. Interestingly, I have never once heard a climate activist mention these at-risk children, begging the question, are these inevitable victims of green technology simply, ‘out of sight, out of mind?’
~ What we create, we must also dispose of ~
Few people understand the dangers in creating green energy, i.e., what the artifacts and chemicals needed to process silicate into the silicon used in solar panel arrays do to the environment. Manufacturing these panels requires processing with hydrochloric, sulfuric, and nitric acids, hydrogen fluoride, trichloroethane, and acetone. In addition, gallium, arsenide, copper-indium-gallium- selenide, and cadmium-telluride are also used, all of which are highly toxic, not to mention that silicon dust is a health hazard to the workers. And by the way, did you know solar panels cannot be recycled?
Meanwhile, windmills are the ultimate in hidden costs and environmental destruction. Each one weighs 1,688 tons (the equivalent of 23 houses) and contains 1,300 tons of concrete, 295 tons of steel, 48 tons of iron, 24 tons of fiberglass, and the very difficult to extract rare- earth minerals, neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium. Each blade weighs roughly 81,000 pounds and will last 15 to 20 years, at which time it must be replaced. Unfortunately, these too cannot be recycled.
I’m not arrogant enough to say there’s no place for ‘green’ technologies in the 21st century, but we must look beyond the myth that going green means “renewable energy with zero emissions.” Will EVs and windmills be abandoned once the embedded environmental costs of making and replacing them becomes apparent? I have no idea, but I suspect there’s a reason the Chinese haven’t even begun the wholesale overhaul (or should I say dismantling) of its energy infrastructure. Begging another question, what do the Chinese know that we don’t?
Quote of the day: “It is better to know some of the questions than pretend to know all of the answers” – James Thurber