I’ve always avoided discussions about climate change. Science has long been one of my weakest areas, and it’s virtually impossible to gain an intelligent understanding about climate change because anyone who questions it is immediately censored and cancelled. That became apparent to me given the immediate fallout when an experienced reporter I admire years ago wrote an article for Forbes about an Israeli scientist who questioned climate change.
The well credentialed scientist struck me as credible, and the reporter was among the brightest lights in America’s journalism galaxy. But protests to the article were such that Forbes immediately took it down and apologized, and the reporter stopped writing for them. I lost respect for Forbes and became skeptical about a Green New Deal movement co-headed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who holds an undergraduate economics degree from Boston University and prior to her election to Congress worked as a bartender at a Mexican restaurant.
The New York Post exposed AOC for her climate fraudulency and Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore lambasted her ignorance and “blathering insanity.” It’s my expectation that Moore is considerably more knowledgeable than I am about all things green.
America’s accelerated conversion to electric vehicles is predicated on the basis that EVs don’t emit tailpipe emissions, so de facto they are better for the environment. To a climate simpleton like me that seems reasonable enough. No emissions – voila, cleaner air!
It’s become alarmingly obvious that not much, if any, thought was given to the materials needed to manufacture EVs and their batteries, and that mining these materials in aggregate was possibly more environmentally hazardous than gas engine vehicles, particularly given the progress Toyota and Honda have made improving the efficiency of their vehicles.
The latest warning was published in the New York Times, a news outlet those in America who fashion themselves as liberals and progressives revere as their bible. It was written by Dr. Diva Amon, a marine biologist who is the director of SpeSeas, an ocean conservation group based in Trinidad and Tobago, and a researcher and adviser at the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
When I think marine biologist, I instinctively think of George Costanza, who posed as one in this Seinfeld episode. Amon appears to be the real deal, given that her PhD was funded by the graduate school of the National Oceanography Centre scholarship. A review of Amon’s impressive website makes clear that she’s passionate about oceanic environments, which she warns are at risk of being destroyed to ensure sufficient materials to manufacture electric vehicles.
From Amon’s warning in the New York Times:
The ocean could be the next frontier for mining. An obscure but consequential organization formed under the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty is finalizing regulations for mining activities in over 40 percent of the planet’s surface. Approval of these rules, in the works since 2014, could come possibly as soon as July. After that, a scramble to mine the deep sea could commence. And once it begins, there will be little hope of reining it in.
Why the rush? In June 2021, the Pacific Island nation of Nauru, one of the 167 member nations plus the European Union of the regulatory organization, the International Seabed Authority, invoked a provision of the treaty that requires the authority to adopt rules for deep-sea mining within 24 months.
Nauru, one of the world’s smallest nations, with a population of around 11,000, is the sponsor of Nauru Ocean Resources Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, the Metals Company. That company wants to mine parts of a region known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, between Hawaii and Mexico, for polymetallic nodules. These nodules contain many of the base metals now required to make batteries, and the Metals Company says they offer “the cleanest path toward electric vehicles.” (Companies must be sponsored by a country under the treaty to engage in mining.)
Nauru’s action could open much of the high seas to deep-sea mining, permanently altering near-pristine and vast areas of the ocean.
Some deep-sea mining companies argue that extracting minerals such as copper, nickel and cobalt from the ocean floor is more sustainable than extracting them from land-based mines. But what little independent science there is to back their claims is contested.
Amon’s warning comes in wake of some other disturbing reports about how mining the materials required for EV manufacturing are causing serious harm to global environments, in regions inhabited by economically disadvantaged individuals whose often corrupt governments exploit them.
Bloomberg last month published a detailed report that traced much of the aluminum in Ford’s F-150 to a refinery in Brazil allegedly responsible for sickening thousands of people. Meanwhile, a reporter from Wired visited Indonesia and reported on the environmental devastation Chinese-owned companies are causing in that country mining nickel for electric batteries and other EV-related manufacturing activities. Some of the nickel used in Tesla’s batteries come from Indonesia, and Bloomberg reported the company is negotiating to build a plant there.
Other areas of the world are being destroyed in the holy name of electric vehicles. I’m not alone in my alarm that electric vehicles are increasing the disparity of wealth in America and globally.
“The dirty secret of the green revolution is its insatiable hunger for resources from Africa and elsewhere that are produced using some of the world’s dirtiest technologies,” Cobus van Staden, managing editor of the China Global South Project, wrote in a foreign policy publication last year. “What’s more, the accelerated shift to batteries now threatens to replicate one of the most destructive dynamics in global economic history: the systematic extraction of raw commodities from the global south in a way that made developed countries unimaginably rich while leaving a trail of environmental degradation, human rights violations, and semipermanent underdevelopment all across the developing world.”
I note that the company that wants to mine the ocean floor is Canadian-based and the Brazilian refinery causing environmental harm is Norwegian-owned and the government of Norway is the biggest shareholder. Yet another validation of the Starkman Approved theory that holds the loudest virtue signalers invariably prove to be the biggest hypocrites.
Ford to Michiganders: You’re Morons
Phoebe Wall Howard, who covers Ford for the Detroit Free Press, indicated that the automaker lied or perhaps inadvertently misled her in this February 14th story. Howard said that Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker told her a week earlier that some factories had shifts cut but no factories had production shut down. Howard later confirmed that Ford earlier had shut down production of its electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck after one vehicle caught fire in a holding lot awaiting an inspection and the fire spread to two more vehicles.
It’s possible that no one at Ford told Felker that Howard knew more than she did about what was going on at the company. Notably, Ford initially gave Howard assurances that no Lightnings with defective batteries had been delivered to dealers or their customers, but last week the company said it had “recently discovered” that 18 Lightnings had been delivered to customers.
The possibility that Ford deliberately lied or deliberately misled Howard wouldn’t come as a surprise. Ford last year paid $19.2 million to settle allegations that it knowingly lied in its advertising about the real-world economy of its hybrids and the payload capacity of its Super Duty pickup trucks. Ford is an ethically challenged company, which is why it had nearly 70 recalls last year and faces mounting lawsuits.
Ford recently struck a sweetheart deal with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer whereby the Great Lakes State will give the automaker at least $1.3 billion in subsidies to build an electric battery plant on farmland in a rural tourist area called Marshall. Ford says the plant will utilize licensed technology from a Chinese-based company called Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL), but a subsidiary will own and operate the plant. Ford claims the plant will generate 2,500 jobs paying on average about $45,136 a year — 15% less than the median household income in the county where Marshall is located.
Building the plant in Michigan will allow buyers of Ford’s electric vehicles to continue qualifying for $7,500 taxpayer subsidies, even Ford’s electric “made-in-Mexico” Mustang. Ford has repeatedly insisted that Michigan taxpayer money wouldn’t be diverted to CATL.
According to Senator Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Ford will pay CATL a 12% royalty on sales. I’d call that a diversion and so does Manchin.
“I’ll be damned if I’m going to give them $900 out of $7,500, to let it go to China for basically a product we started,” Manchin told an energy conference. “You’re telling me we don’t have the smart people and the technology, and we can’t get up to speed quick enough? That doesn’t make sense.”
Here’s some more stuff that doesn’t make sense. A newsletter about VW’s plans to build a Gigafactory plant in St. Thomas, Ontario, showed up in my email inbox this morning that included information provided by Brendan Sweeney, managing director of the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing.
According to Sweeney, the staff of a battery plant is expected to be about 20 per cent engineers, 20 per cent scientists or technologists (like chemists or college-level tech and science degrees,) and about 60 per cent manufacturing workers.
If Ford is licensing CATL technology, one must imagine the company is going to protect its intellectual property, something the Chinese no doubt excel at given they know every trick in the book how to steal the IP of U.S. companies. Perhaps they will be classified as Ford workers, but it seems reasonable to speculate that a significant number of the scientists and engineers at Ford’s Marshall plant will be CATL workers.
The deal has a very bad odor, but so far it appears that Manchin is all bluster. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio also opposes Ford’s CATL plant.
Marshall residents might want to visit St. Thomas, less than a four-hour drive, and talk to residents. Ford once had a plant there but abandoned the city and 1,200 workers more than a decade ago.
Honda and Toyota’s Environmental Efforts
While Ford and GM are struggling mightily to figure out EV manufacturing, Honda and Toyota continue to make their vehicles more energy efficient while taking a less hurried and slap dash approach to EV manufacturing and development.
Scotty Kilmer, a mechanic who deservedly has five million YouTube followers, posted videos on a new engine Honda has developed that reduces emissions by about 40 percent and a hybrid SUV Toyota is reintroducing. Kilmer isn’t a fan of Ford’s Lightning – he’s previously called it “unproven technology” – but he’s a big supporter of Honda’s and Toyota’s engineering and environmental efforts.