Letter: How green are electric vehicles?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

In response to the April 5 Mountain Xpress cover story, “All Charged Up: Is Western North Carolina Ready for the Coming Electric Vehicle Surge?” I’d like to offer some important context to this topic of the EV “revolution.”

The Biden administration has set a goal to make half of all cars sold in the U.S. by 2030 to be EV. To meet these goals, it should be noted that an extreme quantity of natural resources will need to be extracted from the Earth, immediately, with very little time for oversight or sustainable strategy.

The global mining industry is rapidly expanding, with tragic ecological and humanitarian consequences. Approximately half a million tons of earth must be exhumed to find the material for one car battery. The metals mining industry is the single largest source of toxic waste in the U.S. (and approximately 80% of all critical minerals mines in the U.S. are within 35 miles of Native lands). Literal tons of toxic fumes are released in the mining process, and millions of tons of groundwater are polluted in order to successfully extract minerals.

In Chile, Bolivia and Argentina, the “Lithium Triangle,” where 60% percent of the world’s lithium is stored, they are experiencing extreme water shortages because of the 2 million tons of water needed for every single ton of lithium. That’s only enough for about 100 EVs. Additionally, in terms of carbon, the amount of CO2 produced in the manufacturing of a typical EV requires that car to be used for eight years to make up for its initial production.

And what about the electricity that runs this “eco-friendly” vehicle? Sixty percent of our electricity comes from coal and natural gas. As India also switches to an EV culture, they are boosting China’s coal production.

At every turn, there is a major externality that needs to be reckoned with. Sixty-five percent of the global supply of solar panels are made at Uyghur slave labor camps in China. Currently, there are an estimated 35,000 children working in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are mining companies bypassing international bans on deep-sea mining and dredging up fragile seabeds.

So, by all means, we can do this EV thing, and perhaps we still should, but hopefully, we can be honest with ourselves about how green it really is.

— Matt McClure
Black Mountain


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

9 thoughts on “Letter: How green are electric vehicles?

  1. Keith Thomson

    Disinformation on the Internet is leaking out into “local” media, who could have possibly imagined that?

    Online lobbyists for oil, gas, coal, and legacy automotive vendors absolutely love it when we ignore the social, economic, national security, and environmental impacts of extraction, processing, transportation, distribution, and combustion, in one way, non-recyclable, trips to poisoning the Earth’s atmosphere by the inefficient and profligate use of their products.

    A broader, more honest conversation about innovative, economical solutions to real problems is overdue. It’s not too late to join the Coalition of the Willing to become prepared for the future.

    • indy499

      Nice attempted deflection. Clear miss however with that silly ” but what about this” argument.

      • Keith Thomson

        The argument that Electric Vehicles do not make sense is based on ignoring that even the current generation, that is rapidly continuing to improve, isn’t better than the costs and benefits of alternatives. Online lobbyists for legacy special interests are deflecting people from reaching that understanding. Some people are fooled, but not everyone.

  2. Keith Thomson

    The headline should read “How much greener (cleaner, more efficient,..) are Electric Vehicles than Fossil Fueled Vehicles?” or “How much greener are the next generation of Electric Vehicles?”

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.