Let’s have an honest discussion about the transition to renewable energy | News, sports, jobs



One of the most frequent complaints from opponents of renewable technologies (solar, wind, electric vehicles) is the amount of waste generated at the end of their lives. They are usually accompanied by many false or exaggerated claims about their toxicity, size, worthlessness, or non-recycling. Most opponents of renewables insist on paying for this recycling up front, usually in an effort to discourage their growth, by calculating its full cost. I agree that we must calculate the full cost of all energy sources.

Electric car batteries, for example, come in different sizes, but a good average is 1,025 pounds, which is about half a ton. They also come in many different chemists, and the field is rapidly evolving with new technologies or modifications to existing techniques. A BEV battery system is a complex assembly of batteries, electronics and premises built into a robust structure. The batteries themselves are made of graphite, lithium salts, and various metals such as aluminum, copper, cobalt, and nickel. It’s not easy to recycle and contains some toxic elements, but have you ever looked at or tried to recycle what’s in a gallon of gasoline? Have you ever thought about what comes out of the exhaust pipe and why not insist on recycling it instead of just throwing it in the air?

Before you have a Lyon battery recycling industry, you should have some raw materials to work with. It is estimated that the EV li-on battery will last about 200,000 miles, or 17 years. Most of the electric vehicles that are produced are still circulating, so there are few raw materials available to build the recycling industry. Even after the electric vehicle has reached the end of its useful life in the car, it still has 70-80% of its capacity left. There is a very hot market for used EV batteries for fixed storage for renewable energy, grid peak shavers, backup power, and classic car conversions. Due to demand from DIY startups, used electric car batteries are selling at a premium of over 60% over new ones.

Let’s take a look at what fueled the old internal combustion engine: gasoline. A car on the road today averages about 25 miles per gallon and travels 14,000 miles per year, using 560 gallons of gas (mileage may vary). At 6.3 pounds per gallon, that’s up to 1,764 pounds of fuel per year and 30 tons over 17 years of EV battery life. In just one year, the fuel required for an ICE vehicle already weighs more than 70% of an EV battery. (The electrons passing through an EV battery have weight, but it doesn’t add much, even over years and years.) But how toxic is gasoline compared to batteries?

The exhaust coming out of the exhaust pipe has some pretty bad stuff. Over the course of 17 years, a typical gasoline car will emit 2,639 pounds of carbon monoxide (toxic to humans and animals), 1,418 pounds of oxides of sulfur and nitrogen (respiratory irritants and causes of acid rain, smog and ozone thinning), 1,583 pounds of hydrocarbons (a carcinogen and gas global warming), 132 pounds of fine particulate matter and soot (a carcinogen and contributor to lung disease), and 162,840 pounds of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas). In fact, car exhaust in the United States kills 53,000 people, 50% more than car accidents, according to a 2017 MIT study.

A committed person will point out that I compare the exhaust hazards from a gasoline car to a battery electric car. I do not guarantee the pollution emitted from the production of electricity to operate the vehicle. That’s right, but isn’t that the point? Don’t they really say that generating electricity (mainly from fossil fuels) causes pollution and this should be accounted for when evaluating electric cars but ignored when evaluating the damage caused by petrol cars? Opponents of renewable energy also ignore pollution from coal mining and burning, oil extraction and refining, natural gas fracking, transportation, flaring, and pools of highly radioactive spent fuel from nuclear power plants. They are sounding the alarm about false claims about toxins leaking from solar panels, but ignoring the toxins from their exhaust pipes. They moan about birds lost to “killer” wind turbines but ignore the fact that open waste pits from oil and gas extraction kill many, many more.

What we really need is to convert our transportation as quickly as possible away from fossil-fueled cars to electric, while also converting the electrical grid as fast as possible away from fossil fuel generation. Recycling half a ton of batteries after 17 (or more) years of pollution-free use would be nothing compared to the damage caused by 30 tons of burning gasoline with toxic byproducts thrown into the air over the same period.

Thomas Meera resides in Jamestown.


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