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“Our onslaught of electric cars can damage the environment and wipe out valuable alternatives.”

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, they say, and when it comes to the electric car revolution, it’s hard to think of a more apt expression. Let’s take what’s going on in northern Portugal, which turns out to be the richest source of lithium in Western Europe.

As you know, lithium is an element that we will need a lot more of when new petrol and diesel cars are banned in the UK in just nine years. This is because the batteries that power our electric vehicles – and our phones, our e-bikes, our e-scooters, as you call them – all contain lithium.

But lithium has to be mined like coal, and that means that large parts of the civilizations that live near the mines (like those in northern Portugal) suffer very badly in our search for this precious metal – because mining of lithium is not possible . It is exactly a five minute process.

Basically, in order to extract lithium from the earth, you have to pump a large amount of saline solution into it after drilling a fairly large hole to pour it into. You then let whatever comes out of the hole evaporate for months, creating a splendid amount of manganese, potassium and all sorts of other salts before tumbling through a huge filter system to produce – ta-dah – lithium carbonate.

You don’t have to blow things up to break down lithium, which is good. But you need a lot of water to extract it – like half a million gallons per ton of lithium mined. Here the darker side of lithium mining shows her ugly head, which Ms. Thunberg & Co don’t talk too much about when they talk about the process of going green.

Because, unfortunately, history shows that mining lithium on a large scale – and boy, it has to be big – brings droughts and famine to the communities that live somewhere near the mines. Pollution of water supplies can also be a problem, although the mining companies usually don’t want us to know about it and major compensation deals target anyone or anything, including entire countries, that stand in their way.

In the case of Portugal, UK-based mining company Savannah Resources is citing the indictment of extracting the Michael – sorry the lithium – from the areas where the local communities near its operating center in Barroso have lived and farmed it for thousands of years.

All is well and good because, according to David Archer, CEO of Savannah, his company “will offer Portugal a whole range of opportunities for downstream developments in the lithium value chain”.

Opportunities within the lithium value chain, I’m not sure if farmers in northern Portugal will see the obsessive-compulsive disruption of their ancient communities that way. But the message is usually dominant; Keep your trap closed and you will make millions of it (but not as many millions as we do, of course). By the way, we will try really hard not to destroy your beautiful landscape in the process. And even if we mess things up a bit, maybe buy yourself a Ferrari and get over it.

Sound familiar? In many ways, it feels similar to the embryonic stages of the fossil fuel industry, but without the obvious pollution sources we need to worry about, namely setting the fire on fire. However, lithium mining could wreak almost as much havoc on our planet in the long run as fossil fuel mining.

Except this time, everyone will be dressed in a shiny new green suit that will dispense the foldable green of the compensation before and not after the chaos unfolds, which is presumably an improvement.

Either way, the hypocrisy is cruel to watch, and some of us seem darned out to ruin it one way or another for the rest of us, mainly to get rich.

The Alternatives to Our Alternative Fuels Perhaps a smarter way to power the devices we work and drive with now and in the future is to consider some of the other energy sources that are available to us. those that don’t require a drill, digger, chemicals, or explosives and that don’t cause as much damage to the environment.

Sources like the sun or the wind or the natural energy contained in our oceans. Or in the minds of our smarter engineers.

Take the Lightyear One, a car that was jointly developed by Dutch electronics company Lightyear and tire manufacturer Bridgestone. Yes, it’s an electric vehicle at heart and it uses a lithium-ion battery. However, the battery itself is unusually small and can usually be charged in the sun while on the move.

Because the Lightyear One’s tires are so resistant to air resistance and its streamlined body has the drag coefficient of a perfectly aligned arrow, it has a range of 725 km. That’s a little more like that.

Even more fascinating, certainly with regard to the immediate future of vehicle propulsion, is the development of what is known as synthetic fuel. This is a fuel that is already climate neutral yet fully compatible with fossil fuel engines.

In other words, you can easily drive a 911 or even a diesel-powered Golf with no modifications required. Due to the massively increased efficiency of synthetic fuel, the engines run cleaner and produce more power (similar to burning high-octane racing fuel) while pumping much less CO2 into the atmosphere.

According to some very shrewd thinkers at companies like Porsche and Bentley (who have an obligation to say so, it could be argued) synthetic fuel is a highly efficient alternative to electrification, and while it may just be a twilight solution to our problems as a whole, we certainly are especially in a situation where “every little bit helps”.

While synthetic fuel is expensive to manufacture and ultimately still produces undesirable emissions, its real impact on the planet, in the view of its creators, is overall less significant than that of a full-blown electric vehicle, considering every factor in its production and increased efficiency .

What surely makes it a very significant thing in the here and now?

The problem is, and as things stand, synthetic fuel won’t be a propulsion method for used cars until 2030 – it’s still classified as a fossil fuel – so its potential may never be realized. To be successful and make a difference, our governments must seriously consider giving synthetic fuel a qualified grace period.

You will also need to think about all the other energy sources that could and should be invested in right now, rather than putting all your eggs in just one conveniently packaged EV-labeled basket.

But then governments aren’t exactly known for making the right decisions when it comes to energy. The companies that mine us and provide us with our energy have far too much influence to get involved in the grand scheme of things. Which means that the consequences of our governments making bad decisions that happen to turn them into huge pots of gold will be swept under the rug anyway.

It’s still not too late, though this day is now screaming at us at breakneck speed, fueled by everything you can imagine – except maybe the right one.

Do you think we should increase lithium mining? Let us know in the comments below …


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