Politicians love to tout incentives for electric vehicles as a great climate initiative. Replacing gas- and diesel-powered vehicles, they say, will reduce emissions and help us meet our climate targets. It’s a very simple vision of sustainability, but it won’t actually deliver the benefits they promise.
The subsidies they fund for electric vehicles primarily benefit the upper class that need them least of all, and the minerals and metals required for their construction will hurt the poorest people on our planet to make decarbonization seem easy for Western consumers.
Electric vehicles require dirty mining
Visions of our eco-friendly future often feature autonomous electric vehicles as part of a “smart” city where urban systems are tracked by a series of sensors affixed to just about everything. But the people pushing such plans never talk about the other side of their big ideas; the minerals that will be necessary for those vehicles and all the other smart gadgets.
The University of Technology, Sydney recently did a report on mineral sourcing for Earthworks, and what they found should give us pause. Their estimates of the minerals necessary for renewable energy and storage — that includes electric vehicles — estimated the demand for key minerals. It obviously found increases for all of them, but demand for lithium and cobalt would be so high it would outstrip the known reserves on planet Earth.