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Odds and Ends
A very snowy hill
1 3, 5:58pm
"electricity isn't clean in most countries" - EVs even on *average* grids are far cleaner than ICE vehicles. Furthermore, it's not the current mix that matters, but the average mix over the vehicle's ~
year lifespan. And grids are getting much cleaner, fast.
"They imply some particularly bad mining activities" - Not worse than anything else. Sun-drying lithium brine in a salar is certainly vastly cleaner than producing, say, phosphorus fertilizer from rock phosphate. You've probably seen some people share a "this is a lithium mine" picture. Next time you see that, reverse image search it - they're almost all mislabeled (usually copper mines). Here's what salar lithium production actually looks like.
Here's what rock phosphate production looks like:
(Also if you want to bring up cobalt, I'll point out that (A) half of EV batteries (LFP) don't use it at all, (B) nickel-based cells are heading in the direction of eliminating it altogether from them as well, (C) oil refining *does* use cobalt, for desulphirization, (D) most cobalt mines produce it as a byproduct of copper mining anyway, (E) the surge in artisanal mining (which at its peak was only about 10% of the world's supply) collapsed when the 2018 cobalt price spike collapsed, and (F) artisinal mined cobalt primarily found its way to China, where it was primarily used in the production of small consumer goods (such as smartphone and laptop batteries).
We'll ignore the fact that anything that goes into making a vehicle - electric or not - gets recycled. All EV makers have recycling partners. We'll also ignore the fact that 4/5ths of the energy of an average vehicle is in its *operation*, not its *production*.
I'll note that the above pictures really don't do justice to the impacts of ag, so let's add some. Here's a map of dead zones:
They're dead only to higher life, as the ag runoff creates bacterial blooms that consume all the oxygen.
Sometimes they cause red tides as a result, which are toxic to people as well.
The amount of water consumed is mind-boggling. Here's what used to be a rich forest environment, even hosting animals like jaguar, where the Colorado River emptied into the sea - something it no longer does *at all* most of the time.
Here's what an example of what Russia sacrificed in the name of getting water for ag:
Where I am, the overwhelming majority of our marshlands were drained for ag. Guess what's happening now? All that peat locked up at the bottom, no longer protected by anoxia, is rotting away, causing more greenhouse gas emissions than *every other source combined* in my country.
Your notion of "electricity is dirty and will stay that way, but agriculture will rapidly clean up its act" is precisely the opposite of reality. Electricity is rapidly becoming clean, while ag is only changing slowly. And it's already at devastating scales, and responsible for an even larger share of global greenhouse gas emissions than all mechanized transport. Again, I'll reiterate: literally half of the planet's arable surface has been converted to ag land, and the carbon stored therein lost, the soil therein eroding, and insane amounts of fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides washing into waterways. Eating more food to move yourself around *extremely* inefficiently is *not* helping the planet.