How Do You Charge A Lithium Battery?
With Fossil Fuels, Of Course
The electric vehicle craze is just that … crazy. California legislators are leading the charge of insanity, having just recently voted in legislation that will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered automobiles by 2035.1 Other politicians around the country are poised to follow.
This push to turn the world electric is so absurd to me because it is a classic example of bad economics — the “unseen” is conveniently ignored. Electric vehicles (EVs) are clean and green, they say, because well, nothing comes out of the tailpipe, you see. But there is more than meets the eye.
The Seen and the Unseen
French economist Frédéric Bastiat eloquently distinguished between the good and bad economist: 2
“There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen. … Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.”
Those that have a PhD in “Bloody-Obvious Studies” realize the immediate red flag of the EV craze — that its success depends heavily on extreme subsidization and policy support. The need to strong-arm the world into an EV transformation is a strong indication that there are likely more resources, costs, and physical challenges required to make EVs happen compared to that of traditional fossil fuel vehicles. Using more resources usually means something is less environmentally friendly, by the way. A very convoluted regulatory landscape distorts reality and makes it an impossibility to understand the true cost and amount of resources consumed to generate EVs.
The Law of Conservation of Energy
EV batteries do not just magically appear fully charged and ready to go. There must be a transfer of energy to generate them. How do you make an EV battery? Well, you don’t just go buy a battery at the local organic, fair-trade farmer’s market, as if it just grows out of the ground like a clean gift from nature. No, you have to mine raw materials like lithium and cobalt from the Earth and then undergo a nasty process to fabricate a battery. There’s nothing “green” about it except the color of the toxic water that’s a by-product of the production process. And this requires energy … lots of it.
And how do you charge an EV battery? Well, you don’t just plug it into another EV battery, that’s for sure. The energy to create and charge an EV battery has to come from somewhere. The law of conservation of energy cannot be defied:
Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transferred.
To charge EV batteries, you have to plug into the power grid. And well, something has to power the grid. News flash: fossil fuels do this.
California certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to entertainment. In an episode of dark comedy, just weeks after California legislators decree the 2035 ban on gasoline-powered cars, they put out a warning to the people to avoid charging electric vehicles due to power grid issues and blackouts.3 What do they expect will happen when a large portion of the population is suddenly forced into powering transportation from the grid?
This artificial increase of EVs will likely have some unintended, negative consequences. The demand for power will be real and solar and wind power generation won’t be able to satisfy it.
Tilting At Windmills
Defenders of the EV-push don’t necessarily care about economic realities. They see carbon dioxide as an enemy that must be destroyed at any cost. “CO2 is bad … lithium is good,” is the unspoken mantra of the unquestioning hoi polloi programmed to accept whatever new thing the establishment drills into their heads.
The world is full of these Don Quixotes tilting at windmills. CO2 is Don Quixote’s windmill. It is the imaginary enemy. Treating CO2 as a toxic pollutant and lithium batteries as environmentally friendly is deranged, illogical, and pseudoscientific.
Note that China - the stalwart of environmental protection (ha!) - produces about 80% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries.4
Ignoring Economics Has Bad Consequences
You can’t ignore economics. Economics is not just simply about accounting for ‘money here’ or ‘money there.’ Economics is the science of how prosperity is created. To ignore economics is to ignore what is responsible for turning the natural state of poverty into a world of comfort and sustainability. To upend the market by completing transforming it through dictate has unforeseen consequences, potentially devastating to the general standard of living.
Economics is being ignored with respect to the EV craze (among other crazes). And if we don’t recognize the realities of economics, political Don Quixotes will destroy our standard of living.
When Leonardo DiCaprio thanked ol' Klaus Schwab for giving him a prestigious award for being a climate hero,5 he likely arrived at the Davos ceremony via private jet. I mean, you can't expect a climate hero like Leo to travel amongst the common plebes to reduce carbon emissions ... don't be silly. DiCaprio invoked "the science" in his speech to political leaders eager to capitalize power on another "crisis" (while obviously having no understanding of the science of economics):
“Last week President Obama told those who continue to deny the irrefutable science behind climate change that they will find themselves increasingly lonely in a swell of voices calling for action. But studies also show us that those who deny the reality of climate change will also find themselves less economically successful. We simply cannot afford to allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil, and gas industries to determine the future of humanity.
Those entities with a financial interest in preserving this destructive system have denied and even covered up the evidence of our changing climate. Enough is enough, you know better, the world knows better, history will place the blame for this devastation squarely at their feet. Our planet cannot be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground where they belong.”
The absurdity of it all is that DiCaprio is disparaging the "corporate greed of the coal, oil, and gas industries" as if corporate greed is nonexistent in the industries of "green" energy. Lithium miners work for free, you see. They don't seek out government subsidies, they don't care about profits, they are simply altruistic stewards of our environment and care only about saving California from falling into the ocean. Whatever.
The reality is this push for EVs simply favors one over another. But none should be politically favored at all. The market should be left unhampered to reveal what is complete waste and what is genuine value. Remove the subsidies, remove the mandates, remove the tax schemes so the true costs can be seen and let the chips fall where they may.