Electric cars

A cut-and-paste attack on electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy is spreading across the globe. But is it fair? | Graham Readfearn

AAcross social media, internet forums, and some climate science denialist blogs, there has been furious cutting and pasting of pieces of common text attacking the environmental credentials of electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbines.

About 200 tons of the “earth’s crust” must be extracted for each electric vehicle battery, and 11 tons of brine are needed just for lithium, the text claims, which also states that solar panels and wind turbine blades cannot not be recycled.

Some statements are made definitively and without context, and do not attempt to compare electric vehicle batteries to the fossil-fuel cars they replace. Solar panels can be recycled and fully recyclable turbine blades are now produced.

The former Minister of Resources and Queensland Senator Matt Canavan was another to share some of the text which sat above an image of a hollowed-out landscape. It took seconds to uncover the creepy but irrelevant image of a diamond mine in Canada.

On Facebook, some posts using snippets are tagged with a label saying “Missing context. Independent fact checkers say the information could mislead people.

A category of fact-checking siteses a message like a “scare tactic” containing only partial truths.

An Australian group of climate ‘skeptics’ published a version of the essay from which excerpts were taken earlier this year.

Professor Peter Newman, a sustainability expert at Curtin University and lead author of an upcoming UN climate assessment on mitigation, said the figures related to the resources needed to produce batteries for electric vehicles were “absurd because they were referring to the early days of the lithium battery. development.

Newman told Temperature Check that the claims about brine and lithium were “based on fears associated with brine mining in Andean countries, particularly Chile, and human slavery in the Democratic Republic of the Congo because of cobalt”.

But he said lithium mining was moving away from brine towards a mineral called spodumene, with Western Australia now its biggest producer. This mining, Newman said, was “ethical and sustainable.”

The WA government says the state now produces 49% of the world’s lithium, meaning at least half of the world’s supply comes untreated from salty brine in places like Chile.

Commenting more generally, Newman said “critical mineral rumors” have been spreading for far too long.

“Their time is up. The world is replacing oil with the sun made possible by the spectacular success of the lithium-ion battery.

“Compare [this] with the death toll from air pollution at 10,000 a day, wars created over oil and the impacts of climate change.

But what are the origins of text excerpts?

Versions have appeared on Facebook and LinkedIn, with many attributing the work to another writer – including the version promoted by Canavan.

But it seems that these versions are taken from an essay written last November by a writer based in the United States.

Temperature Check asked the writer where he got his facts from. He said he “tried to find at least two credible sources for each of the things I claim” and said “all statements are readily available on the internet.”

His work was “designed to be fun to read and to make people think,” he said.

It’s worth saying here that most people appreciate that any new purchase – whether it’s a fossil fuel car or an e-bike – comes at an environmental cost and raw materials need to be extracted .

But electric cars are not permanently tied to fossil fuel production and associated greenhouse gas emissions in the same way as internal combustion engines; Australian motor vehicles burn 33 billion liters of fuel every year.

Calling all the snowflakes

Calling all kids and millennials. Veteran News Corp Australia columnist Piers Akerman had a message for you this week.

Climate activists have turned you into “uninformed, unintelligent snowflakes” in a country with a “groupthink mentality.”

Akerman told his Sunday Telegraph readers the Black Summer bushfires were not unprecedented nor the “largest on record in history” and the ongoing floods “were not the worst in history in terms of lives lost”.

Using deaths as a measure of the severity of a flood rather than, say, the actual height of the river or record rainfall will no doubt be of great comfort to people who mourn their own losses in their communities while trying to rebuild their lives in places like Gympie, Brisbane, Lismore, Ballina and Sydney.

On the bushfires, we have to be careful with the term “unprecedented” and Akerman, of course, doesn’t seem to mind.

Corn black summer studies The bushfires revealed that the large-scale destruction along the east coast in eucalyptus-dominated forests was indeed unprecedented in location and scale. The effects of global warming on the risk of more frequent bushfires have been known for decades.

CSIRO research says before 2002, there was only one mega-fire in 90 years of records, but there have been three since then.

Last year, scientists wrote: “Since 2001, winter fires have increased fivefold from 1988-2001 and autumn fires have tripled. Overall, fires in the cooler months of March through August are growing exponentially by 14% per year. »

Take that, snowflakes.

Rio Tinto’s climate bill?

Former Tony Abbott chief of staff Peta Credlin attacked Labor’s proposed climate policy – announced months ago – in its column this week, repeating another claim by Canavan that the Gladstone aluminum plant would face an annual bill of $54 million by 2050 under an Albanian government.

Canavan’s assertion is based on the idea that Rio Tinto – the majority of which own Gladstone’s two alumina refineries and run the town’s smelter – would have to buy carbon credits under the Labor Party’s plan to stay under a proposed emissions cap.

Leaving aside Canavan and Credlin’s assumption that Labor is apparently about to enter three decades of government, perhaps the pair should have checked the figure with Rio Tinto?

The company publicly stated in October it aims to halve direct emissions by 2030 “supported by approximately $7.5 billion in direct investments to reduce emissions between 2022 and 2030”.

Jakob Stausholm, CEO of Rio Tinto, said the company is considering using renewable energy to power its operations, and said “a decade from now we cannot continue to use coal power for aluminum smelters”.

If Rio Tinto does something like the emissions progress claimed by its policies, then the $54 million bill that Canavan is claiming disappears.

Solar credit

Unless you’ve been living under a solar panel for the past few months, it’s been hard to miss the Morrison government’s $31 million marketing campaign, Making Positive Energy.

“We’ve already put solar panels here, here and there,” the voiceover says, as a giant animated finger points at the rooftops of businesses, homes, and a massive solar power plant. “In fact, more than one in four homes have solar power.”

Yesterday the UK-based pro-renewables think tank Ember released its annual report examining changes in the way electricity is generated around the world.

The report found plenty of truth to the idea that Australia’s adoption of solar and wind power has been among the fastest in the world in recent years.

According to the report, Australia gets 12% of its electricity from solar energy, which is now the highest proportion of any major country (i.e. a nation of at least 3 million people). ‘inhabitants).

Between 2019 and 2021, the report says the share of wind and solar in Australia’s electricity generation increased from 13% to 22%.

So is the federal government right to take credit for this renewable energy push in its marketing campaign?

Ember’s global program manager David Jones said the growth of renewables in Australia “has been driven from the bottom up”.

“It’s very different from many countries where national governments are leading the charge. It’s very refreshing to see so many people embracing local solar power, even as the national government continues to push for more oil and gas.”