The Road Forward

One of the cornerstones of Pres. Biden’s infrastructure plan involves massive expansions of the availability of charging stations for electric vehicles. I understand why: our automobile emissions account for approximately 25% of our greenhouse gases. Reducing those will have a quick, beneficial, and verifiable impact on the environment.

Unfortunately, mining the lithium needed to make batteries for our new electric vehicles has terrible impacts, too: ground water close to mines could be contaminated for more than 300 years. There are responsible ways to mine lithium, but they can’t keep up with the needs that we have for the material if we’re going to quadruple the number of electric vehicles on American roads in ten years.

So: what should we do?

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11 Responses to The Road Forward

  1. Courtenay Sebastian says:

    Personally, I don’t understand electric cars. Now now, yes they burn less fossil fuels, decreasing carbon footprint, and they are better for the environment, or are they. Like you said, the lithium in the batteries for these cars are very detrimental to water, drinking or not. Y’know when I was little I remember watching movies about how electronic components, were going to be the death of our planet. My mom used to talk about that if a solar flare so specific occurred, all our magnets and electronics would lose charge. I think its dumb to start to switch to things that could stop one pollution problem, yet start another. I think we should think of some other way that isnt electric cars and isnt gasoline petrol cars, but something else that is completely different. But until then, I’ll stick to driving my 2014 Chevy Cruze.

  2. Zuyi Li says:

    I believe electric cars will be the future. Eliminating all carbon emissions by eliminating gas power cars is possible, but with the battery technology as of today, I don’t see electric cars will be beneficial. President Biden proposes that quadrupling the number of electric vehicles on American roads in ten years will only cause more environmental issues that will only show in the long run. More with the problem showing more in third world countries. Lithium batteries are at their plateau, and we should not entirely rely on electric cars to save us from further climate change until a more efficient and clean way of storing energy is developed.

  3. Chloe A Sharp says:

    I think that electric cars are the future of helping reduce greenhouse emissions but not the entire solution, nor should it be the final solution. However, as I have said before, we are in a climate crisis. We can’t keep waiting for the perfect solution because there is never going to be one. We need to take the solution that we have now and improve upon it as we are using that solution. We need to put more money into green infrastructure so that we can afford to be careful while mining lithium, as well as find other solutions to help slow climate change because vehicle emissions are not the only source of fossil fuel emissions, nor are they the main source. While electric vehicles are great, they are very much not enough. I will say it again: We are in a crisis. People have already died because of the effects of climate change, and this rate will only grow if we don’t do something drastic. We need to switch to cleaner energy in households. We need to implement strict regulations on industry emissions in the United States and charge huge tariffs on goods that don’t meet those emission requirements outside of the US so that it is in everyone’s best interest to switch to clean energy. Yes, it’s good to start with electric cars but the climate crisis is so much more vast than that, and the Biden administration needs to believe that so that something will be done about it. Many people don’t see the point in America taking such drastic measures to reduce carbon emissions if other countries aren’t doing the same. To that, I argue that the US is a major world leader, and produces the 2nd largest net carbon emissions in the world. If America starts doing this, other countries will follow suit, but we need to start now and act quickly if we are going to succeed. If we keep looking for the perfect solution, we will never get it and more people will die.

  4. Max Dobbs says:

    The answer to that dilemma lies in a similar question: what can we do? If lithium mining harms the environment, there is a strong argument that polluted groundwater, while bad, does not compare to the destruction of every human settlement along the world’s coasts. But this illustrates a greater problem. The responsible methods of mining lithium may very well be possible with enough research and funding, but what institution would provide that? Every good policy Biden proposes will either, as legislation, fight its way through the Senate or, as executive action, be potentially revoked by any president following him. Our government is funded run by corporate lobbyists, some of whom work for fossil fuel industries, and they have great interest in ignoring climate change. Likewise, our business leaders lack incentive to invest in green energy. Bill Gates, for example, wrote a book addressing the need for businesses and the government to work together and invest heavily in green energy. However, he has used his $150 billion neither to invest in such industries nor to single-handedly end the problem with corporate lobbying, despite being quite capable of both. Meanwhile, our news sources rarely give the issue the attention it deserves, and some lie to millions of people about a climate conspiracy and fear-monger about their jobs being lost. We need to mine lithium, even if it requires pollution of our groundwater supply. We need to invest in green energy and cut most of our climate emissions. Will we do so? Our institutions seem quite content where we are.

  5. Chingun Tsogt-Erdene says:

    Right now there are multiple small solutions but they each contain a negative impact too. It is a difficult choice but I believe right now is the time to find something completely different. A whole new solution is probably out there yet to be discovered. However, we need to act fast and not risk anything that speeds up our doom. Right now we are looking at a disaster in the near future and everyone should be on board to help. Investing in green energy is a solution but we need to do more than that. We cannot just rely on cars to have a better future, we actually need to cut down a lot of our carbon emissions and develop a whole new system of energy and waste. I am not exactly sure what will happen, but all I know is that a huge change in our daily lives will be needed to accomplish this goal.

  6. Merideth Johnson says:

    I do not think it is wise to “massively expand” the amount of charging stations for electric vehicles because firstly, are there really that many people using electric cars right now? I understand that electric cars are the future and I have no qualms with that, but is it reasonable to expand the amount of charging stations for a hand full of electric car owners as compared to the amount of traditional fossil fuel vehicles owned by most Americans? Perhaps this is a better idea to implement when electric cars are more than just 2% of America’s vehicle market(and more affordable for the average American). Plus, the contamination of water from making these cars that could last up to 300 years and the inability to meet supply and demand without harming the environment only substitutes one environmental issue for another. Unless President Biden can hand out a stimulus big enough for everyone to afford an electric car, focusing on the small electric car market amidst the other climate issues seems impractical to me.

  7. Alexis Sorg says:

    I think that it is good that attempts are being made to better impact the environment. Having electric cars also sounds like it will be beneficial and like the best solution. But, of course, everything has consequences. No matter how responsible people try to be when mining lithium, there is still a chance that a mistake will be made. The consequences of that sound catastrophic to the water supply. Because of this, it may be better to put electric cars on hold and to find a different solution.

  8. Mikayla Jones says:

    I remember when they first put Tesla charging stations in Tupelo and thinking “who the heck has a Tesla in tupelo?” I didn’t see the point. I didn’t know anybody who had an electric car or anybody who wanted one. The amount of charging stations for electric cars should definitely not be massively expanded. While I understand the benefits of them, it’s dumb to switch one problem with another. If we did increase the use of electric cars, there would still be a ton of people using gas powered cars, and we would have both problems. As bad as it may sound, I think we should stick to our current forms of transportation and slow the rollout of electric cars until there is a more efficient and safe way to obtain the lithium for it. There is definitely a better solution out there that doesn’t force people to chose the lesser evil.

  9. Maddie Flowers says:

    Echoing off of Mikayla, this was my exact reaction to seeing Tesla charging stations in Grenada- no one owns a Tesla in Grenada. Most people in my town believe electric cars are just too much of a hassle. While this proposal serves benefits, it would be quite useless for many people, considering it will just create another problem. Let’s stick with our current transportation until an even safer method is adapted.

  10. Amanda Anderson says:

    I can appreciate the idea of a “zero emission” vehicle, but that is simply not entirely correct. Although electric cars do not necessarily run on fossil fuels, the electricity required to recharge the battery is largely produced by burning fossil fuels. In addition to the dangers of mining lithium for the battery, these vehicles do not seem ready for mass production. Despite the attempt for a greener earth, I personally believe we should stick to our vehicles for the time being.

  11. Cooper Jordan says:

    I feel that even though lithium mining has detrimental environmental impacts, the reduction in greenhouse emissions from cars is worth that cost. Of course, alternate solutions should be investigated, like hydrogen power or even more out there ideas like thorium. This jives with how I see nuclear power, bad in the long term, but the impacts and reductions that it causes today outweigh that a hundred fold. But the best solution to this whole issue is to reduce the need for cars in general, by funding public transportation projects, connecting in the local area internally and to the rest of the country as well.

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