To make batteries for EVs, companies need to mine and refine large amounts of nickel. The process of getting the mineral out of the ground and turning it into battery-ready substances, though, is particularly environmentally unfriendly. Reaching the nickel means cutting down swaths of rainforest. Refining it is a carbon-intensive process that involves extreme heat and high pressure, producing waste slurry that’s hard to dispose of.The nickel issue reflects a larger contradiction within the EV industry: Though electric vehicles are designed to be less damaging to the environment in the long term than conventional cars, the process of building them carries substantial environmental harm.The challenge is playing out across Indonesia’s mineral-rich islands, by far the world’s largest source of nickel. These deposits aren’t deep underground but lie close to the surface, under stretches of overlapping forests. Getting to the nickel is easy and inexpensive, but only after the forests are cleared (see the picture, above).
Saturday, September 23, 2023
#266 / The Nickle Pickle
The Wall Street Journal tells us that the world is in a "nickle pickle." Here's how the problem was presented in an article by Jon Emont, published in the June 5, 2023, edition of the paper:
This "nickle pickle," it seems to me, is just one example of a more general problem. In response to the environmental crises that have been caused by human activity (and global warming is certainly the example that comes more forcefully to mind, though it is not the only example, by any means), we are trying to find ways to continue doing what we're doing, but without adding to the specific problem that we have identified. In the case of the "nickle pickle," the problem is the release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, because of the massive emissions produced by gasoline-burning vehicles.
Solution? Let's make our vehicles electric. We can keep everything the same, but without burning the hydrocarbon fuels.
Looks like there's a problem with this strategy!
Here's what I suggest. Let's really change what we're doing (by doing less)!