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Experts Say Biden’s Expanded Lithium Production as Bad for Environment as Fossil Fuels

Posted on Thursday, August 25, 2022
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by Outside Contributor
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Increased domestic lithium production plays a crucial role in President Joe Biden’s green energy plan, as 2021 marked the largest rollout of solar, wind, and electric batteries in the history of the United States.

Nevertheless, lithium mining has quietly revealed itself to be a significant contributor to environmental pollution in the frantic rush to abandon fossil fuels.

On May 2, the Biden administration announced the investment of more than $3 billion to make more lithium batteries and their components. It’s a pivotal part of the president’s goal to have at least half of all vehicle sales in the United States be electric by 2030.

Currently, there are two main ways to obtain the sought-after element: Hard rock ore mining and brine extraction.

While much of the carbon emitted from mining depends on the rock it’s extracted from, this technique still produces at least 15 tons of CO2 for every ton of lithium harvested.

Generally speaking, mining is a dirty business. Mineral extractions like lithium and coal—a fossil fuel—both fall under this umbrella. Collectively, the mining industry generates between 1.9 and 5.1 gigatons of carbon emissions annually.

The other approach to accessing lithium involves removing the metal from brine in areas with salt flats. However, this approach requires, on average, 500,000 gallons of water to procure a single ton of lithium. While it’s a less carbon-intensive process, brine extraction still results in tens of thousands of gallons of highly toxic wastewater needing proper storage or disposal.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of green energy manufacturing behind the scenes.

Elements like cobalt and nickel are also crucial for renewable technologies like electric car batteries, which is another pollution-heavy withdrawal.

Same Pollution, Better Marketing

Open pit hard rock mining is the method scheduled for use at Thacker Pass, the largest lithium reserve in the United States.

Wind, solar, and electric-car batteries are dependent on the world’s lightest metal to function.

In the meantime, some experts are sounding the alarm over the not so green reality of renewable energy.

“While lithium-ion batteries are light-weight and convenient for modern-day electronics, they not only emit a large amount of carbon dioxide to produce, but they also tap into precious water reserves,” chief operating officer of Greenly, Matthieu Vegreville, told The Epoch Times.

Vegreville explained the carbon footprint of lithium mining, in comparison to other fossil fuel extractions like coal and oil, typically produces more carbon emissions. That’s because lithium products such as batteries require a more material-intensive process.

“And as the demand for battery material increases, it doesn’t make the process any easier,” he added.

President of the National Mining Association, Rich Nolan, noted during a press statement that Biden’s push for ramped-up domestic lithium production will make America more energy independent as the country continues shifting away from fossil fuels.

Nolan added the United States needs to build on this green momentum and approve new hard rock mines or face the continuation of geopolitical mineral dependence that is “completely dominated by China.”

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said Biden’s historic investment in electric battery production and recycling would give the United States “the jolt it needs to become more secure and less reliant on other nations,” in a May 2 press release.

Though some environmental experts believe that when it comes to lithium extraction, the end doesn’t justify the means.

“Our position is: mining is very destructive to the environment and communities. It needs to be approached judiciously,” John Hadder, director of Great Basin Resource Watch, told The Epoch Times.

Hadder has fought for Nevada to address regulation oversights and environmental blowback from the controversial Thacker Pass project in that state. He also maintains that if politicians were really concerned about reducing greenhouse gasses quickly, there are cheaper, faster, and easier ways to do it.

“If you want to reduce greenhouse gasses quickly, we can do that by changing existing energy and public transportation usage,” he said before adding, “We already know it’s possible. We did it during COVID.”

The Thacker Pass project has been met with considerable resistance from environmentalists.

In March, Hadder’s organization filed an appeal with the Nevada State Environmental Commission, challenging the state’s water pollution control permit. The appeal was denied on June 28 after the State Environmental Commission affirmed the contested permit.

Though due to concerns over groundwater contamination, the Nevada government only approved drilling above the water table for Thacker Pass.

Hadder added that the lithium ore extraction will use what’s called an acid-leech process, which requires the use of sulfuric acid.

Ironically, the majority of the sulfur needed for this will be purchased from the oil and gas industry since it’s the cheapest way to acquire the chemical.

Compounding this is the absence of a leak analysis for the project, which Hadder believes creates an environmental powder keg.

“How long will it be seeping and what does the management look like down the road? This hasn’t been adequately addressed,” he said.

Vegreville added that the problem with lithium extraction is similar to the problem with plastic, “Once it’s created, it can’t be destroyed.”

In November 2021, United Nations  Secretary-General Antonio Guterres remarked, “We’re digging our own graves” with mining, drilling, and burning during a world leader’s summit on climate change.

Regardless, the data and impacts of lithium production have been ignored in favor of rebranding the same heavy polluting industries with the label “green energy.”

The Battery Problem

At the other end of the lithium debate are the spent electric batteries. Improperly disposed lithium batteries can be very unstable, causing landfill fires that can go on for years. The resultant toxic chemicals released into the air can also impact air quality and carbon emissions.

Vegreville explained batteries can be recycled, but lithium-ion units are especially dangerous due to fire hazards.

“One of the most ecologically friendly ways to dispose of a lithium-ion battery is to dismantle it,” he said.

Though the demand for lithium batteries is set to become a $116 billion industry by the year 2030, leaving some experts concerned that production may outstrip the industry’s ability to properly handle waste on the back end.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admits special recycling and hazardous waste facilities are needed to deal with the influx of electric batteries. One standard electric car battery on average weighs over 1,000 pounds.

In other words, the recycling end will need to be a highly regulated, multi-million dollar industry in its own right to reduce pollution and fire hazards.

Moreover, Hadder says the current political demand for lithium could end with a push for more toxic, unsustainable projects in the long run. And while he supports a transition to renewable energy overall, the current gold rush mentality for lithium is anything but green.

“What we’re seeing now is a repeat of patterns and practices of the past,” Hadder said.

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J. Farley
J. Farley
1 year ago

They tell you not to throw your, Itzy, Bitsy, hearing aid batteries in the trash, what do we do with these Monster electric car batteries, and who pays the disposal fee?
Another Boondoggle like, Bird killing Wind Turbines and I can’t go back to Horse and Buggy because Horse Farts will kill the Ozone!

Nick Murphy
Nick Murphy
1 year ago

When will people realize it is not about the environment. It is strictly about political control. They have been pushing this for almost 50 years. It’s all based on failed computer models there is not a single prediction they have made that has been right. It is only about control. Marx and Engles proposed this in the early 1900s that the population could be successfully controlled through environmentalism. Do you think is it working?

Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis
1 year ago

Electric Cars Are Not the Answer to Our Problems
nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/10/07/will-electric-cars-finally-succeed/electric-cars-are-not-the-answer-to-our-problems

The Contradictions of Battery Operated Vehicles | Graham Conway | TEDxSanAntonio
youtube.com/watch?v=S1E8SQde5rk

THE BIG EV LIE. Why They Won’t Save the Planet & All About Dirty Electricity | TheCarGuys.tv
youtube.com/watch?v=sytWLB4-W-M

Electric Vehicles’ Battery Problem
youtube.com/watch?v=9dnN82DsQ2k

Gravitas Plus: The dark side of Electric Vehicles
youtube.com/watch?v=RFHvq-8np1o

PaulE
PaulE
1 year ago

If anyone thinks the Biden administration or any Democrat administration is about to allow massive domestic mining in this country, then I have news for you. The EPA has been rountinely either outright denying or making ludicrous demands of any company that want to extract virtually anything out of the ground in this country for years. The average permiting time frame before President Trump changed the EPA rules to something more realistic was 5 to 12 years, depending on what you were looking to do. Trump scaled that down to literally just a couple of years, which infuriated the Enviro wackos (take nothing out of the ground ever) and the deep state. Biden has since reversed everything Trump did in the area of streamlining the EPA permiting process, so we’re back to “business as usual”. Meaning nothing will be approved anytime soon.

To date, the EPA has been either rescinding existing permits issued under the Trump administration or outright terminating the entire permiting process for any large scale mining operation in this country. As for lithium, the Biden administration is trying to get Canada to allow Canadian companies in Canda to mine the mineral, refine it and then ship it here under an antiquated agreement between the United States and Canada several decades ago. All while trying to classify the Canadian lithium as “domestically sourced” to meet the requirements in the climate bill signed into law last week.

Don’t be surprised if this administration doesn’t try to pull the same thing with Mexico and then claim the Mexican mined lithium is also “domestically sourced”. So don’t hold your breath waiting for large scale mining operations for lithium or anything else related to EV battery production to be annouced within the United States anytime soon. China will continue to be the largest beneficiary of this climate change scheme for decades to come. We are literally committing national suicide just like the Europeans have chosen to do. What a stupid people we are for just going along with this insanity, instead of stopping this nonsense before we run the nation completely into the ground. We are just a few years behind most of Europe in terms of the wide-spread electrical brown-outs, black-outs, and paying through the nose to keep either our homes heated or cooled.

James
James
1 year ago

CO2 is not a pollutant. Plants need it to produce oxygen which we need. Plants help cool the earth they increase humidity which produces rain which plants and people need. So get rid of those large solar panel farms that cover large areas and prevent plants from growing and raise the temperature of large areas of the earth. So produce CO2 to produce oxygen and rain and plants etc. etc.

RC100
RC100
1 year ago

“On some great and glorious day the plain folks 
of the land will reach their hearts’ desire at last
 and the White House will be adorned
 by a downright moron.”
  H.L. Mencken 1880-1956 AD
    
And to top it off:

“The urge to save humanity is almost 
always a mask for the urge to rule.”
 H.L. Mencken 1880-1956 AD

Michael J
Michael J
1 year ago

Another government stamped disaster. Never mind what’s behind the curtain, as Pelosi’s signature saying, “we have to pass it, to see what’s in it”. Or to paraphrase, “we won’t know, good or bad, how it will turn out but we have to try”. Despite what real experts say, the government will always screw things up because as always they are the duped idiots who just happened to have a say.

JEFFREY JONES
JEFFREY JONES
1 year ago

DEMONRATS ARE TOXIC TO THE U.S.A…..ERADICATE THEM!

Judy
Judy
1 year ago

The dangers of chemical burns from batteries is as it has always been. Therefore, handling them should be done with caution. Since when has CO2 hurt anyone?

Judy
Judy
1 year ago

CO2 can kill, if you let it. Trees & plants thrive on it to produce the oxygen humans inhale and thrive on.

As far as lithium batteries go, what most likely is at odds is destroying used batteries or reconstructing them to lessen the cost of space needed to store used electric car batteries. At this point in time, America hasn’t done the studies and analyses of electric cars to say that they are safe or not for the environment of the earth. Secondly, not all of the largest countries in the world are affiliated with environmental ideas to make the world a greener space, therefore, at this time electric cars should not be forced on the peoples of any country.

Bonnie
Bonnie
1 year ago

I think our sitting President, Vice President, Polosi, Shummer, AOC, Sanders and the rest of the Swamp, all need brain transplants! What a mess our Nation is in.

Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
1 year ago

E C’s. equals millions of charghing stations. How much power will be used at nite charhing batteries. Like Mead. And other dams, water gets to low during drought, they cant generate power. Then what. ??? Public trans. would be better if applied properly. As it is noboidy is gonna get off ,then walk na mile to their job. Kyle L.

Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
1 year ago

And another thing. You wanna g9 to the lake this weekend. Just hoiw far are you gonna get with a electric veh. What about the 18 wheelers oin the roads??? Also the more weight of the battery meens less milege.

johnh
johnh
1 year ago

The USA should not go to EV until they have a plan to recycle the batteries. And the lithium is produced in the USA & not imported foreign. Come on Man !!!!

phil smith
phil smith
1 year ago

It is a scam. The greenies really do believe that CO2 is good for the planet! It makes everything green!

Smike
Smike
1 year ago

It shouldn’t take a lot of imagination, look around at the giant auto junk yard industry. We’re still struggling with junk car, planes and trains and now we’re going to add another element that we don’t know what to do with. We will need the answer to battery disposal issues before we get too deep into demanding we change in that direction. I still believe EV is not going to be the answer. I believe there’s something out there much better just waiting to be discovered.

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