Michigan Representative, GM Stump for Electric Vehicles Despite Environmental Impacts

by Scott McClallen


A Michigan politician talked about how to boost electric vehicle adoption in a brief chat sponsored by General Motors and hosted by Axios.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Ann Arbor, Michigan’s 12th Congressional District member who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, touted subsidies via the Inflation Reduction Act and said that EVs are the “vehicle of the future.”

But to gain widespread adoption, Dingell said EVs must be affordable, increase driving range, and reduce rare earth mineral reliance on China and other countries, as well as requires build-out EV infrastructure charging.

Dingell said 80% of the minerals being used in EV batteries right now come from China, and said the America must incentivize domestic mineral mining.

Widespread EV adoption would require rare earth minerals, including cobalt, lithium, and nickel, which are in short supply in the United States. Importing the minerals, moreover, sparks ethical questions as rare earth minerals extraction overseas often involves child slave labor and can damage the environment.

The world’s top lithium producers are South America, where Argentina and Chile provide 93% of U.S. lithium. Amnesty International reports thousands of child laborers mine cobalt for lithium batteries. Additionally, a Guardian report noted that children as young as six work in the mines.

A United Nations Conference for Trade and Development 2020 report estimated up to 40,000 child slaves work in dangerous conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo to mine cobalt.

“Most consumers are only aware of the ‘clean’ aspects of electric vehicles,” UNCTAD’s director of international trade Pamela Coke-Hamilton said in a statement. “The dirty aspects of the production process are out of sight.”

Extracting rare earth minerals is resource-intensive. Govtech reported that it takes about 500,000 gallons of water to mine one metric ton of lithium.

Mark P Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a Faculty Fellow at the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University, told Congress that producing a single 1,000-pound EV battery requires companies to mine, move, and process over 500,000 pounds of raw materials. He argued that EVs demand more intensive mining relative to producing vehicles with efficient internal combustion engines.

“Obtaining the minerals needed to fabricate the 50 tons of batteries requires mining and processing roughly 25,000 tons of materials,” Mills said. “This kind of disparity really adds up at grid scales.”

While they don’t guzzle gas, a single Tesla requires seven kilograms of lithium for its battery pack, which requires an energy-intensive extraction from the brine of salt flats that can damage the environment and cause water shortages, such as in Chile’s Atacama and Argentina’s Salar de Hombre Muerto regions, Ronald J. Deibert explains in his book “Reset: Reclaiming the Internet for a Civil Society.”

Jason Hayes, director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center, said that the government shouldn’t have to spend billions in taxpayer subsidies to entice  consumers to switch to EVs.

“When the common folk don’t immediately buy in to whatever plan they’ve advanced, their solution is to lavish billions in taxpayer dollars — euphemistically referred to as ‘incentives’ — on the automobile manufacturing industry,” Hayes said in a statement. “They assure us that doing this will ‘remove these barriers.’ But there’s nothing in their plans about customer demand. It’s all top-down, ‘we know better than you.’ And once again, taxpayers take the hit as more corporate welfare is dumped into political priorities.”

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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Debbie Dingell” by Rep. Debbie Dingell. Background Photo “General Motors” by Ritcheypro.




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One Thought to “Michigan Representative, GM Stump for Electric Vehicles Despite Environmental Impacts”

  1. Quick, someone send this article to Bill Lee. He knows how to read, right?