Warning: This is not an easy listen. There are lots of details. But sometimes that is where the blessing or the curse resides! We asked Tricia Clarkson, who has written about EV’s for the Greenzine several times, to reply. Congrats, if you hang in to the end and read Tricia’s answer!
TRICIA CLARKSON – Response: Special to Greenzine
Recently I listened to Peter Zeihan’s geopolitical “EV’s Not-so-little Dirty Secret(s)” rant on You-tube. His main two points were that:
(1) “From a carbon point of view, they are among the most energy consumptive products to date
(2) “EVs are not going to be an appreciable part of our transport future for at least the next decade; possibly closer to three…”
His first point is somewhat true. EVs are energy consumptive to produce, but not as energy consumptive as gas-fueled, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles once driven, because once ICE vehicles are produced, they just keep emitting more carbon once they go onto the road. ICE vehicles have a bigger total and long-term carbon footprint. Also, Zeihan does not elaborate on the extraction and resources needed to produce gas-fueled vehicles or their batteries. Right now, we are producing more of them than EVs so his analysis lacks a numerical comparison.
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), using the nationwide average of different energy sources, EVs create 3,932 lbs of CO2 equivalent per year compared to 5,772 lbs for plug-in hybrids; 6,258 lbs for typical hybrids and 11,435 lbs for gasoline vehicles. (www.climate.mit.edu) In other words, gas-fueled (ICE) vehicles produce more than three times the amount of CO2 emissions per year than EVs. This means that ICE vehicles have a carbon footprint three times larger than the carbon footprint from EVs.
Zeihan’s second point regarding the near future of EV production has some merit. It hinges on the availability of resources and is far from determined. He is basing this assumption on our current dependence on Russia for resources and China for EV production. If, though, but if we start ramping up production of these vehicles in Canada using Canadian resources then we may still be able to meet our 2030 deadlines. Lithium for EV-batteries is the key.
On Nov. 28th, 2022, The Government of Canada announced a $27M contribution to E3 Lithium Ltd. to support its $87M construction of a demonstration plant specializing in lithium production. This will enable the development of a sustainable, long-term source of lithium supply, which is critical to building electric vehicles and an anchor in the North American supply chain. By investing in Canadian lithium production, the government is not only ensuring that Canada is ready for the increasing demand for domestically produced batteries, but also continuing to support our critical minerals sector so that Canadians will have access to the resources needed to electrify our transportation ecosystem (www.canada.ca.). [Currently, according to “lithium facts” (nr.can.gc.ca) Canada does not produce lithium. There are large, hardrock spodumene deposits in several provinces. There are a number of projects for extracting lithium from it. Some of these projects are even at the advanced planning stage. The one lithium enterprise in Québec, 2014-2019, shut down. It was sending its ore to China for refining. — GEC]
Also, as Zeihan’s argument is from a U.S. perspective, it doesn’t take into account that Trudeau has mandated that 20% of all passenger cars, SUVs and trucks sold in Canada in 2026 will need to run on electricity under new regulations proposed by Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, it seems.
Is The Production Of Ev’s Harmful To The Environment
(Information provided by Tricia Clarkson)
Globally, air pollution caused an estimated nine million premature deaths. Over 300,000 lung cancer deaths in 2019 were attributed to exposure to a particulate matter in gas-powered vehicle exhaust fumes known as PM2.5. Yet no one is held accountable.
According to an article in The Guardian (Sept. 10, 2022 titled “Cancer breakthrough is a wake-up call on the Danger of Air Pollution”) scientists uncovered a link between car fumes and lung cancer that helps explain why so many non-smokers are developing the disease.
The finding outlines how fine particulates in car fumes “awaken” dormant mutations in lung cells and tip them into a cancerous state. So the health impact from gas-fuelled vehicles may even be greater than the environmental impact.
[Pre-owned gas –powered vehicles will remain on the road for years to come, presumably. — GEC]
By 2030, the mandate will require 60 percent of all [new] car sales to be EVs and by 2035, every passenger vehicle sold in Canada will need to be electric. These do seem like ambitious targets, considering the pace that we are moving at right now. However, that pace will rapidly increase when GM’s Ontario plant starts producing the $30,000 Chevy Equinox EV next year.
Trudeau’s plan is a broad road map toward Canada hitting its goal to reduce GHG emissions by 45% below what they were in 2005. However, as geopolitical theorists like Zeihan also like to take the “broad view”, we should take what he predicts seriously. This is that we will need double the amount of copper and zinc; four times the amount of chromium and lithium; and 10 times the amount of graphite currently available to meet these targets, and secure these resources now. Zeihan says we shouldn’t depend on Russia for resources or on China to produce EVs. We should instead start using our own resources to produce as many EVs in Canada as possible to try to reach annual targets not just future targets.
What Zeihan may not realize is that the International Energy Agency is already on this. “At the end of 2021, the number of electric cars on the road exceeded 16.5 million. The global electric car stock will expand to almost 350 million vehicles by 2030…Future growth will hinge on efforts to diversify battery manufacturing and critical mineral supplies to reduce the risks of supply bottlenecks and higher prices.” So hey Peter, I think we got this.
Innovative new technology will always require excavation and extraction, unfortunately. We can’t really get away from this. As long as we have resources, human beings will use them. When Zeihan says that we would be better off to invest in wind and solar, he doesn’t add up the abundance of resources, excavation and extraction that these technologies also require.
Better to prepare for Zeihan’s worst-case scenario, however, than to not have the resources and production plants necessary to produce enough EVs quickly enough to reduce emissions and reach our targets. So Let’s Go Trudeau! We have to start moving faster on the production of zero-emission vehicles so we can prove Zeihan wrong.
Tricia Clarkson is a climate change columnist and co-chair for the Peterborough Alliance for Climate Action
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