Cars, people and billionaires

Some disordered thoughts about the rush to electric cars:

• Electric vehicles may produce “zero emissions” at the tailpipe, but that “green” electricity doesn’t arrive by magic. The emissions take place at the generation plant. While coal is fading as the fuel for generation (in the U.S., not in  China and India), it’s been replaced mostly by natural gas – another fossil fuel.

• If instead we assume that all electricity can be generated by solar or wind energy, how do we sustainably produce the massive quantity of generation components, such as solar panels or wind turbine blades?

• Local solar power is unrealistic in places like ours in the northern Pennsylvania woods – we’ve looked into this.

• Similarly, what about the sourcing and production of the batteries, etc. necessary for electric cars?

• Current dependence on lithium-ion batteries requires quantities of lithium that may be beyond possible production if cars go all-electric.

• Lithium mining is already devastating the environments in countries such as Peru, Chile, China (and now Portugal!).

• Most lithium-ion batteries also require cobalt and manganese, which are in more limited supply than lithium.

• All these battery materials are difficult and expensive to recycle; recycling is not yet close to being sustainable.

• So basically, we need a new, more efficient battery design.

• Taken together, subsidies to support electric cars at this point could be as disastrous as the subsidies given to promote biofuels:

• Instead of sawgrass and weeds providing biofuels, as originally foreseen, corn has become the major biofuel source.

• Much if not most American corn now goes to feed cars rather than people or crop animals.

• The remaining native prairies in the U.S. are being devastated by expanded corn production.

• Activists at COP26 have called to move away from cars, and instead make cities and towns more amenable to walking, cycling and public transport. This is an encouraging approach but unlikely to take hold worldwide in the near future.

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We cannot approach the climate crisis realistically as long as we maintain a population of 8 billion humans. We’re animals – particularly dirty ones. Even if we eliminate meat from our diet, thus reducing methane and other feed-animal pollutants, we can’t sustainably feed our population without turning almost all arable land to food production, which is already destroying diversity and eliminating natural open land. Soo… we need to reduce our population – rapidly. How?

I can think of numerous ways, none pleasant or ethical.

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I don’t share complaints I’ve read about billionaires shooting themselves into space—as long as they stay there.

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