June 13, 2023: Why do environmentalists advocate for Green cars but oppose the foundations required to make them viable? It’s a question worth pondering, as their push for electric vehicles coincides with policies that could lead to power shortages. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s recent report warns of potential rolling blackouts this summer due to the closure of fossil and nuclear plants, while the replacement with renewable sources like wind and solar lags behind, failing to provide power when it’s most needed.
The issue lies in the demand for electricity to power these cars and the materials they require, such as batteries and motors. These components rely heavily on metals like copper and rare earth minerals, often sourced from countries like China and Africa, where extraction practices may involve a child or slave labor. In the past, the United States had its rare earth mining industry, but environmental concerns led to its decline, making it easier for companies to exploit resources in less regulated regions.
However, a potential solution has emerged. Norway has discovered vast deposits of metals and rare earth on the seabed off its coast, equivalent to an underwater area the size of Germany. These polymetallic nodules include valuable minerals like magnesium, cobalt, niobium, and rare earth, crucial for manufacturing batteries, motors, and windings for electric cars and turbines. One might expect environmentalists to embrace this development, heralding it as an opportunity to source materials ethically and reduce dependence on hostile nations. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Environmentalists are now calling for a pause in mining efforts due to perceived environmental risks. Their skepticism seems even to potentially sustainable and responsible mining practices. Organizations like the International Seabed Authority and the World Wildlife Foundation express concerns and advocate for stricter regulations before allowing deep-seabed mining. Yet, their opposition to such initiatives is different regarding mineral extraction in other parts of the world, where environmental and human rights violations are prevalent.
The irony lies in endorsing electric cars inherently supporting the extraction of resources needed for their production. To keep a policy while opposing its prerequisites is either naïve or disingenuous. A realistic approach to electric vehicles would involve supporting reliable and environmentally friendly power sources, such as nuclear energy and fracked gas. It would also entail endorsing the safe and responsible extraction of necessary minerals, potentially through deep-seabed mining.
When environmentalists oppose these measures, it raises questions about the realism and sensibility of their positions. If they reject every new resource extraction or power production method, it becomes suspiciously contrary to progress. While the planet’s needs deserve respect, we must also consider the needs of people. Environmentalists’ reflexive opposition to new ventures can be attributed to their fundraising tactics, as alarmist campaigns often attract financial support. However, when science takes a backseat to fundraise, it diminishes the credibility of their arguments.
It’s essential to strike a balance between protecting the planet and meeting the needs of society. Criticism with practical solutions is productive. Environmentalists may also raise objections when we explore the possibilities of obtaining affordable energy and metals from unconventional sources like the Moon or asteroids. While they have the right to express their concerns, it’s crucial to approach their views with a healthy dose of skepticism. Actual progress requires a nuanced understanding of the complex trade-offs and practical solutions that benefit the environment and humanity.