Ecological & Environmental & Moral Cost of Converting to an EV Based Transportation System

First, the benefit from a transition is worth doing. But perhaps it should be done with government involvement with corporations as corporations have nearly zero ethical standards.

EVs require much more mineral content than an IC, perhaps as much as 6 times as much. That mineral content will double the global mineral demand over the next decades. Zeihan has pointed this out also. And yes mineral demand will decline as more progress is made toward battery development but a much increased mineral demand is in our future.

Environmentalists will fight mineral extraction in this nation.

in Alaska, where copper and cobalt rest beneath rolling tundra in the Ambler district south of the Brooks Range. Accessing it would require a 200-mile road through traditional Alaska Native lands, caribou habitat and Gates of the Arctic National Park, with gravel quarries dug every 10 miles. It’s something state leaders support but state and national environmental groups and several Indigenous communities oppose.

Twin Metals Mine near Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness as another example. Here the target is nickel, another important EV metal mined in only one U.S. location. In a political tug-of-war, the mine’s long-held leases were denied renewal by Obama, reinstated under Trump, and then canceled under Biden.

Adam Bronstein of Western Watersheds Project sees it in northern Nevada, where his group has joined a lawsuit against a proposed open-pit lithium mine in Thacker Pass, an area of remote desert that’s home to sage grouse, antelope, Lahontan cutthroat trout and other sensitive species, including some only found locally. It also holds hundreds of Native American heritage sites that remain important to Tribes today.

The above are just a few US situations. I can see corporations saying:“Fine let’s get the minerals from overseas where governments are willing to be bribed to avoid even the lesser environmental rules & regs.”

We can do it that way but should we just because it is done out of eye sight? What about the child labor involved in cobalt mining in the Congo. Perhaps those mining companies could be convinced to use adult labor at a higher cost that we would incur?

Counter arguments. What a minute tj, the Chinese and maybe even the Europeans aren’t likely to adhere to the ecological, environmental, moral code/standard you wish to impose on US manufacturers which leaves them at a competitive disadvantage. Well we could require all EVs sold in the USA adhere to such standards.

What think ye? Am I too much of a naive Pollyanna?


Good food for thought.
But with the latest requirements on battery minerals to get the IRA rebates haven’t we already tipped the scales in this direction?


Environmentalists have a problem, they want to transition to renewable energy but they don’t want to pay the price. They got all they need in mom’s basement for free and that’s how things should be.

The Captain


Not at all. You are asking the difficult questions, to which we must find an answer in the not too distant future.

We have one planet to live on. We have to find compromises between competing interests in order to assure our long-term survival as a species.

The hard part is negotiating those compromises. How do we extract the minerals while also respecting the land that is important to various groups of people? Or how do we get at the minerals without wiping out other species that share this planet? Or how do we ensure the land is restored to its previous state after the minerals are extracted?

I think the key is looking for partnership rather than picking winners and losers. How can the mineral extraction industry cooperate with native peoples, or endangered species? Picking one to win and one to lose ensures there will be ongoing conflict.

Unfortunately, humanity doesn’t have the best track record at finding compromise.



Not sure I necessarily agree with that. When I hear from people who don’t believe in climate change, or the dangers of fossil fuels for example, all I hear is how expensive the renewables are, or the problem with mining, etc. They seldom realize that those same problems exist with fossil fuels. Worse, the cost for renewables is direct, but the cost for fossil fuels is often not. A few examples:

  • The cost of the US Navy safe guarding multiple hot-spots in shipping lanes for oil is not factored into the cost per barrel.
  • Remember acid rain? The cost associated with ruin car paint / etc / etc was never factored into the cost of electricity (or whatever plant was polluting the air).
  • Polluting waterways costs someone money. Either in direct clean up, or inability to use that water and requiring alternate source, is seldom a direct cost to the polluter.
  • Sea levels rising will displace a lot of people and render a lot of real estate worthless. Who will pay?

Everything we do has a cost associated to it. Sometimes those costs are direct and calculable. Sometimes not. With renewables that cost is often direct and up-front. And that is why these comparisons are hard to make.

But how much is a habitable planet worth to us?


George Gilder had a good response, “The rich can afford to be environmentalists.” Do you think people like to live in slums or is it that they can’t afford better?

I moved to Portugal not because we had a dictatorship but because they ruined the economy to the point where I had no power or water at home. I lived through the dictatorship for over two decades. One day on the way home I even walked through a police line and they were most polite to me [There was no rioting at that time and place].

The question really is, “can all of us afford it?” Germany, a rich country, burns coal as does the US. Rich countries should lead the way but until everyone can afford it we won’t see global environmentalism.

The Captain


You point out a lot of the all-or-nothing or “single-lane” thinking in a lot of the entrenched opposite no-compromise possible positions out there.

It actually IS possible for two (or more) things to be true at the same time. Solar, wind and (modern nuclear) ARE much cleaner sources than fossil-fuels. Fossil-fuel-based and nuclear plants generate electricity much more reliably than solar and wind. EVs produce zero emissions but rely on (a lot of) reliable electricity and need a massive increase in mineral production and recycling.

Someday relatively soon it will be possible to shut down more or most fossil-fuel-based plants as more clean energy plants come online. The technology and rollout isn’t really there YET.

So our US mandates to shut down fossil fuel plants NOW at the same time as throwing billions at EV charging networks without standards for service & maintenance or commercial turnover at the same time as mandates that natural gas be replaced by electricity in houses at the same time as individual solar or wind remains cost-prohibitive to all but the top 4% and without a strong policy focus on streamlining modern nuclear… are somewhat non-sensical, incoherent and creating chaos.

The billions to EV charging networks feels like a handout to car companies as a kickback for (finally) producing electric cars now that Tesla has survived and thrived.

Why not start with Rural Electrification Administration 2.0, and subsidize green energy installations at people’s houses for a nominal consumer fee, or go after geothermal heating for a city at a time as is being done in England, or incentivize gas station franchises to put in EV chargers at their existing locations so they can make a profit on the electricity AND the crappy food, coffee and beer in the convenience stores?


Where are the minerals actually located? At/near the surface? Or 20+ feet (200+?) underground? Makes a difference because an open pit mine is cheapest for stuff near the surface. However, if the minerals are significantly underground, then no surface mining required. Do it ALL underground. Both sides win with an underground mine. It may be more effective with an underground mine because there is far less excess material being moved all over the place (piled here, there, wherever). Plus, there is essentially no substantial surface environmental damage, so that risk (and high cost) is also minimized. Far easier to negotiate deals with Native groups when their surface monuments/graveyards/etc will not be touched by mining AND there could be some decent-paying jobs coming to their area.

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There are two main differences between a fossil fuel economy and an ev economy. Fossil fuel economies are extractive in nature, and when the fuel is gone, there is zero recovery.
An ev economy can be structured in a more sustainable manner due to the inherent value of the components,which lend themselves to recycling.
The second difference is in automotive efficiency. Evs are twice to three times as efficient.
Getting to a more electric future may be dirtier in the short run,but once the minerals are in the system,the system will bi inherently cleaner because of efficiency and recycling of the base components,



There is already a substantial tax credit for installing charging in your home, up to 30% of the cost to a maximum of $1000 credit. So, done.

Not every program can be perfectly aligned to make it fair to everyone. The interstate highway system is a massive subsidy to the trucking industry, which is in competition with railroads - which, I point out, do not have those kinds of subsidies for their trackage. (There have been, and may be others which apply; my point is that we should not let “oh it’s not fair” be the stopping point to do what’s right.)

Heck, paved roads were a massive subsidy to the automobile industry, from which Henry Ford profited most. The guys selling horses and wagons didn’t get much help, did they?

This is a mistake, but there are often no standards at the start of an industry. Edison patented the screw in lightbulb, but Westinghouse and Tesla tried an end run with a plug-in version (didn’t last, obviously). In time - usually - standards develop. Look at “charging cables” for an industry that’s been around that hasn’t - at least unless the EU mandate finally brings some sense to it. Of course if the government “sets standards” for EV charging we’d be hearing screams of “picking winners and losers”, even though that would be the right thing to do.

The government set standards for color TV’s, picked wrong (CBS version) and quickly changed and picked right (RCA) and the industry grew apace. They declined, for instance, to choose between competing AM stereo technologies, and it never happened even though either was far better than the present AM mono transmissions.

I can’t comment on the various disputes over land, but I am mindful that where there are resources often (not always) industry wins. Heck, we gave the Black Hills to the Sioux until we discovered gold there, at which time we kicked them out (*again.) I wonder if there isn’t some way to force people who want those materials to pay to set aside other equivalent lands to be protected for the right to gain access to the desired mineral deposits? I’ve never looked into this, but there seems there should be some form of compromise for most of those territories.


The railroads were given the land where their tracks are located–with more acreage on each side of the tracks. The railroads eventually sold the (free to them) acreage they couldn’t use, so they were given (and still run on) “free land”. Truckers pay hefty fees to use the highway system, so they are forced to help fund it over the long term.


The transition from one system to the other is the hard part. Massive battery storage facilities will be needed requiring much mining of minerals. That will have to be done in an ecological environmental friendly manner. Otherwise we destroy the planet to transition. Also it means higher costs in mining.
Musk wants all spacing to be done by heat pump. Fine. What about the guy that just put in a new natural gas furnace.Is he going to geta tax rebate to put in a heat pump?
Lots of details to work out.

It’s true that some railroads were given free land (tens of millions of acres); generally it was those running tracks through the wilderness. Smaller railroads, and especially those serving urban areas had to buy their land, often without the help of eminent domain so prices could get quite high.

[Interestingly, much of the land was not contiguous to the tracks. It was distributed in checkerboard fashion up to 20 miles from the trackage. Without the railroads the land was near worthless, but yes, it did “subsidize” (once) the laying of the longest stretches of track at the beginning.]

As to the other point, the higher fees trucks pay come nowhere close to actually paying for their use of the roads:

Considering that the truck has eight axles and the sedan has two, the relative damage caused by the entire semitruck would be 625 x (8/2) -- **2,500 times that of the sedan** . “The damage due to cars, for practical purposes, when we are designing pavements, is basically zero.

Probably not. It’ll take 30+ years to switch out all heating/cooling systems with heat pumps. He can be in year 20-30 when his system is closer to wearing out anyway.

Huh? Not done. Well, ok for EVs in the home, that helps. More broadly, solar panel installation is tens of thousands of dollars. A partial tax credit or direct credit doesn’t help lower-income households without $20 - $30K of cash to dump into it, and the payback period - even with electricity rates up 100% nationally over last year - is lifelong.

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There are plenty of places you can go to finance such a purchase, and doing so will give you a tax credit. Moreover, doing so brings with it a significant tax credit (and some states add to that.)

Does that mean that lower income people can do it? Well there are still roadblocks, like if you don’t own your home in the first place, or if you’re not situated well for sunlight, or if you’re on the 2nd floor of a 4 story co-op, or…

Yes, it’s not for everyone, but there are many programs, including some for low income people. This article covers 5 different options, including using a HELOC, renting panels, leasing them, buying with credit, etc.

And yeah, done. I have taken advantage of the tax credit myself. That doesn’t mean “perfect”, but what is?

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Wrong question.

It’s not “can all of us afford it?”, but rather can all of us NOT afford it?

If the global environment heads south, it won’t distinguish between slums and gated communities. Sooner or later, it will hit everyone on the planet.


Afford? Those that can’t will freeze to death or starve, Gaia’s immune system for getting rid of pesky parasites. Look at history, undesirables are sent to starve in Siberia while the elite in Moscow, Beijing, and other capitals around the world feast on caviar and pâté de foie gras. Let them eat cake.

Reality vs. illusion. Just look at the homeless around you.

The Captain



Perhaps my writing wasn’t clear (wouldn’t be the first time).

My response was to your response to the above sentence.

If the planet becomes uninhabitable, we are all dead; parasites and providers, saints and sinners.

The point I was addressing was how can we NOT afford to take care of that which keeps us, and our descendants, alive.


I think you were talking philosophically while I was talking practically. These are not conflicting statements once we look at them in their context.

The Captain