electric cars and mining of rare minerals
Pixabay

Peter Dykstra: Forty years of “just around the corner”

And now that electric vehicles may really be ready, a few new things to think about.

We’re seeing some big signs that electric vehicles (EV) may be ending their decades-long tease.


Here in Georgia, Republican Governor Brian Kemp is on the verge of landing two blockbuster electric vehicle production plants. Yes, a Republican with a track record of indifference on climate and environment.

Kemp faces a tough reelection bid in November against Stacey Abrams, and EV’s might help win that race. He’s cut a deal with Hyundai to base the Korean automaker’s EV manufacturing near Savannah. Hyundai plans to drop $5.5 billion into a complex with 8,100 jobs. In late 2021, Kemp closed a deal with California-based Rivian to build a $5 billion electric truck plant 40 miles east of Atlanta, promising more than 7,000 jobs.

The accelerated push for EV’s is not a Georgia thing. It is happening across the country.

Last month, California announced it will outlaw the sale of new fossil-fuel-powered cars starting in 2035. As many as a dozen other states are expected to follow suit.

GM has announced a not-nearly-big-enough network of 5,000 fast-charging EV stations to be located at truck stops and along interstates.

And last month’s unprecedented federal climate-healthcare legislation is an unmistakable sign that, for now, Washington is taking climate action seriously.

But…

The electronics revolution needed to support the EV revolution will create its own industries, many keying on the rare elements capable of powering advanced batteries.

There’s bit of a problem with this, though. Most of the fifteen elements that are considered to be rare earths – lanthanum, cerium and their 13 neighbors who reside in a rarely-visited neighborhood on the Periodic Table – can often be found in nodules on the sea floor or beneath the melting landscape of Greenland.

Marine scientists, and the environmentalists that have waged a 40-year fight to block or limit seabed mining for not-so-rare elements like manganese, cobalt and copper, are concerned that disruptive activity on the sea floor could harm sea life throughout the water column, and from top to bottom on the food chain.

Exploration firms assure that their activity will cause no harm. Since seabed mining is still just a concept, neither side can offer proof for their claims.

Yet, in August, a U.N. effort to establish standards for any seabed mining for rare earths failed.

The Pacific island nation of Nauru has served notice that they may start mining next year, setting off twin competitions for environmental damage and security tensions. China, with its huge electronics industry, currently leads in rare earth use, but the U.S. and others would love to catch up.Of course, I’m being more than a tad whiny. The potential risks of accessing rare elements are in no way a reason to shun EV’s.

The need to wean ourselves from our oil habit is a life-or-death thing. There are other ways that EV’s aren’t ideal. Juicing up your clean car on power that comes from a coal plant isn’t helping anyone.

But the news is overly good for those who seek an end to humanity’s fossil fuel era.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

Food, feed and fuel: global seaweed industry could reduce land needed for farming by 110m hectares, study finds

Scientists identify parts of ocean suitable for seaweed cultivation and suggest it could constitute 10% of human diet to reduce impact of agriculture.

Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

When will we hit peak fossil fuels? Maybe we already have

Kingsmill Bond, energy analyst and author, describes the circumstances that hastened the transition of the electricity sector—plus four reasons he’s optimistic about our planet’s future.

Google empowered climate crisis deniers
Steve Rhodes/Flickr

Google let Daily Wire advertise to climate crisis deniers, research shows

Exclusive: Data shared by the Center for Countering Digital Hate shows that Ben Shapiro’s news site paid for climate crisis denial search term ads.

greenwashing in fashion
UK in Italy/Flickr

'Vegan,' 'sustainable': How to spot greenwashing in fashion

Virtuous proclamations and campaigns from clothing brands can often amount to greenwashing, or in some cases, “clearwashing,” where the information doesn’t tell consumers much.
heavy metals in baby food
pixydust8605/Flickr

How do heavy metals like lead get in baby food?

The problem begins at the farm where plants draw toxins from the soil. There’s no washing them away.

A copper mine could advance green energy but scar sacred land

Tribal groups are fighting an Arizona project whose backers say increasing the supply of copper, crucial to batteries, would reduce fossil-fuel use.

As the Colorado River shrinks, Washington prepares to spread the pain

The seven states that rely on the river for water are not expected to reach a deal on cuts. It appears the Biden administration will have to impose reductions.
From our Newsroom
oil and gas wells pollution

What happens if the largest owner of oil and gas wells in the US goes bankrupt?

Diversified Energy’s liabilities exceed its assets, according to a new report, sparking concerns about whether taxpayers will wind up paying to plug its 70,000 wells.

Paul Ehrlich

Paul Ehrlich: A journey through science and politics

In his new book, the famous scientist reflects on an unparalleled career on our fascinating, ever-changing planet.

oil and gas california environmental justice

Will California’s new oil and gas laws protect people from toxic pollution?

California will soon have the largest oil drilling setbacks in the U.S. Experts say other states can learn from this move.

popular stories 2022

Our 5 most popular reads from 2022

A corpse, woodworking dangers, plastic titans ... revisit the stories that stuck with our readers this past year.

Pittsburgh environmental

What I learned reporting on environmental health in Pittsburgh in 2022

For a lot of people, 2022 felt like the first “normal” year since 2020. It didn’t for me.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.