Climate scientist says Biden’s electric car proposals will cause ‘humanitarian abuses’

Michael Bielawski/TNR

WHAT’S IN THAT EV?: Batteries in electric cars include rare metals which must be mined in locations where labor conditions include humanitarian abuses.

A Canadian climate scientist is warning that President Joe Biden’s ambitious electric car proposals could exacerbate human rights abuses around the world where materials for these cars are mined.

“Biden is unwittingly supporting the worst humanitarian abuses in the world,” wrote Tom Harris, executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition. “This is because of the way in which the materials used in manufacturing the batteries that power today’s EVs are obtained.”

According to Harris, large EV expansion as currently proposed by Biden, including a new national network of a half-million new charging stations, will cause an unprecedented demand for rare metals. He said “immense quantities” of lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, aluminum and manganese will be necessary to build the cars.

Some 58 percent of the world’s lithium is located in Chile, but Argentina, Bolivia, and Tibet also have substantial lithium production. In Tibet, production has apparently taken its toll on the local environment.

“Lithium production in Tibet results in dead, toxic fish, and carcasses of cows and yaks floating down the Liqi River,” Harris writes. “The Ganzizhou Rongda Li mine in Tibet has thoroughly poisoned this river.”

Cobalt is another material using controversial labor practices. About 50 percent of the world’s cobalt is in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where children are exploited for cobalt mining.

“Congo has at least 40,000 children — some as young as 4 years old — working with their parents for less than $2 a day,” reports Harris. “They are exposed to multiple psychological violations and abuse as well as significant physical risks.”

According to a 2020 United Nations report, these metals are concentrated in just a few nations.

“This raises concerns about security of supplies, in particular for cobalt, lithium and natural graphite, given that production is concentrated in a few countries, and substitutability is low with the preferred battery chemistries of EV manufacturers,” Harris claims. “Over 60% of cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while over 75% of the global lithium production is mined in Australia and Chile, thus disruption to supply may lead to tighter markets, higher prices and increased costs of [the batteries].”

Nonetheless, Biden is pushing national transition to electric vehicles and claiming it will be an “equitable” rollout. “America is building convenient, reliable, equitable national public charging networks,” he said, as reported by CNBC. “So wherever you live, charging an electric vehicle will be quick and easy.”

Other problems exist with the so-called green vehicles. In addition to labor there are cost concerns. EVs continue to cost more than their gasoline counterparts by wide margins.

“The Postal Service said full electrification of its fleet [about 230,000 vehicles] would cost an additional $3.3 billion over the current plan,” the AP reports. “Money to help pay for a 100% electric fleet is included in Biden’s sweeping Build Back Better plan, but the proposal is stalled in Congress because of objections by Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.”

The issue of electric cars having questionable manufacturing practices has been discussed previously — on the Vermont Statehouse steps.

Everett Fryman of Morristown, speaking on the topic during an anti-carbon-tax rally in summer of 2019, made many of the same points as Harris.

“This cost is nothing less than the enslavement of minor children to both extract and recycle what are called rare-earth heavy metals, which are essential to manufacturing rechargeable batteries, the critical component in those types of vehicles,” he said.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Public domain and Michael Bielawski/TNR

6 thoughts on “Climate scientist says Biden’s electric car proposals will cause ‘humanitarian abuses’

  1. well im all about a healthier environment, however we need to move “toward” this goal..not jump off the log all at once (thanks Marek for the analogy!)…
    one would think to make the move toward this ..we’d want to have available the metals needed for the batteries and systems that operate these EV’s (lithium, copper, others I cant remember) which are NOT mined here in US, mostly in those places we are not so friendly with, but we might think about making a supply route for same, then make sure we have the manufacture set up so those cars, trucks, vans and so on, can be MADE here at home……and I know this is a little piece of the whole thing….but would make sense to me to GET SET UP for it first……then phase it in…….over time, and by the way those pits that produce these metals, materials, are not very pretty……..and yes not in places with labor laws……..

    • Yes, good point, Patricia. Only after setting up an environmentally friendly and human-rights considerate supply route, would be worth considering a transition to EVs. Otherwise, we simply make the problems worse and lessen our energy security as well.

  2. Here’s a little story that puts the whole “climate change” panic into perspective:
    A large log was swept from the bank of a fast-flowing river and is hurtling through the rapids. (The log is our world.) On the log are thousands of tiny ants, all of whom think they are in control of the log. (We are the ants.) Is anything more absurd than for a tiny ant to think it is in charge of a giant log that is careening on the waves of a raging river? And yet, men and women often think that we can change the outcome of this tumultuous world and bring it safely to what we think is the best outcome. The whole situation is in a bigger and wiser pair of hands than ours. The arrogance of thinking we can control the climate will lead to our own destruction.

  3. We don’t need more Electric Cars we Need more Electric Chairs to fry the criminals proposing
    this junk science.. without China India russia et all on board what ever we do will barely move the needle.
    We can’t make more electricity with Unicorn farts and fairy dust..

  4. Where is all this HUGE NEW electricity capacity going to come from? Coal, oil, fairy dust?

    Replacing billions of gallons, and trillions of BTU’s at what environmental costs. –
    Pollutions of recovering expired batteries. and heroic co$$ts
    Uber expensive new, and super expensive to store the dangerous waste!

    And we hate, fear/ are petrified at the thought of easy cheap reliable nuclear power.

    Best experiment. Shut off all fossile fuels to the State house! Give it a shot!!

    Are they just angry that they gave us impossilbe pollution standards AND WE MET THOSE STANDARDS!

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