- The Washington Times
Monday, May 9, 2022

OPINION:

Revolutionizing the world by switching to “clean” energy takes a lot of dirt under the fingernails. It’s a sobering realization that is frequently glossed over in the rush for a seat in electric vehicles. Digging into the details shows powering emissions-free cars and trucks that clear the heavens means moving the earth in search of lithium, the pricey element vital for the future of trendy transportation. 

The Biden administration on Monday announced a $3.1 billion initiative to boost production of the lithium batteries required to meet the president’s goal of ensuring that EVs comprise 50 % of nationwide auto sales by 2030. “We need a lot of batteries,” said White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy. 


She isn’t kidding. The current production of lithium batteries adds up to less than 10% of global market requirements projected in a decade, EV automaker Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe tells The Wall Street Journal, “meaning, 90% to 95% of the supply chain does not exist.”

The supply chain for silvery lithium, the lightest metal found on Earth, traces back to its largest source: China. The United States possesses its own lithium but mines it in only one location, Nevada. It’s ironic that while Mr. Biden and official Washington punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine by banning purchases of its oil and gas, they are simultaneously rendering Americans more energy-dependent on another hostile adversary, China. How smart is that?

In recognition of the inconsistency, the administration has earmarked some of its battery production funds for speeding the opening of new domestic lithium mines. In addition to Nevada, projects are slated for California, Maine and North Carolina. 

There is a catch: The same environmentalist allies who have risen up to shut down domestic fossil fuel production are on the warpath over the likely ecological damage resulting from the president’s lithium excavations. The Sierra Club, among other opponents, has come out in opposition to exploratory drilling in search of the metal in California’s Mojave Desert. 

It turns out that taking bolt cutters to the nation’s fossil-fuel supply chain has its drawbacks because making “clean” energy is a dirty business, too.

The Biden plan to boost the EV fleet by investing in lithium battery infrastructure is meant to provide an affordable transportation alternative in an era when Americans are paying upward of $4 a gallon for fuel.

With the demand for lithium batteries soaring, though, the price tag on EVs may force all but the wealthiest to hang on to their four-wheeled gas-burners. The base price for a Tesla Model Y, for example, has climbed from just under $50,000 a year ago to $63,000 now. 

At $20,000 above the cost of a new, conventional-fuel car, it could take more than a decade for drivers to break even.

President Biden’s dirty little secret is that his love for lithium means lighter wallets for Americans.


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