electric cars and mining of rare minerals
Pixabay

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

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.

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

puffin tern recovery climate change
Credit: Derrick Z. Jackson

Good news: A good year for puffins and terns, despite climate change

A visit to a remote Maine island finds puffins and terns rebounding despite climate change

The title of supervisory wildlife biologist for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service does little justice to Linda Welch (pictured above). In practice, she is the housing and unusual development secretary for seabirds on Maine’s Petit Manan Island.

Keep reading...Show less
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.

Mill Fire blazes around Weed in Northern California, as thousands flee

The fast-moving blaze, which began near the town of Weed, Calif., comes amid an intensely hot and dry summer in the state.

India’s electric vehicle push is riding on mopeds and rickshaws

The country’s success with two- and three-wheeled vehicles that sell for as little as $1,000 could be a template for other developing countries.

Arctic lakes are vanishing a century earlier than predicted

As warmer air and more abundant autumn rainfall melt permafrost around and beneath Arctic lakes, water is draining away, scientists say.

Liz Truss’ (net) zero sum game

Polls show the British public love action on climate change. Will the next prime minister dare change course?

Climate chief Gina McCarthy leaving White House as John Podesta returns

Her departure comes as the administration moves on to the next phase of Biden’s climate agenda.
From our Newsroom
Ruth Greenspan Bell: Wealth and the climate dilemma

Ruth Greenspan Bell: Wealth and the climate dilemma

Developing countries that increase their fossil fuel production are at a crossroads: securing their own long-term well-being or earning revenue to finance programs to support immediate economic growth.

Optimism in the climate change fight

Optimism in the climate change fight

So much is happening so quickly. With the climate bill now law, here's what you need to know.

Colorado fracking

How Colorado is preventing PFAS contamination from the oil and gas industry

And how other states, including Pennsylvania, could do the same.

fracking kids health

PFAS: The latest toxic concern for those near fracking

The “forever chemicals” are used by the oil and gas industry, but a lack of transparency and accountability makes it impossible to know how widespread contamination could be.

supreme court climate change

Op-ed: Reflections on the Supreme Court’s Decision in West Virginia v. EPA

Danger resides in the majority’s having invoked a sweeping “Major Questions Doctrine” to justify its decision in this relatively narrow case.

children health

Derrick Z. Jackson: Children will suffer the consequences of recent Supreme Court rulings

A rash of recent decisions by the high court will irreparably impact our children's health.

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