The Koch brothers, who are deeply embedded in the fossil fuel industry, have long been financing offensives against electric vehicles through multimillion-dollar lobbying campaigns.
They are at it again with a fresh new effort to delegitimize electric cars and promote fossil fuels.
In the past, they have tried several different angles of attacks to paint electric cars in a bad light.
At first, it was about how electric vehicles are being subsidized by taxpayers. Of course, in those attacks, they left out the fact that fossil fuels have been subsidized by governments for decades at a rate way higher than EVs or renewable energy.
And that’s before accounting for the cost of the pollution caused by fossil fuels, which a IMF study found to be the equivalent of ~$5 trillion in subsidy a year.
When that wasn’t working, they instead went to the go-to argument that electric cars are powered by dirty energy from the grid. Of course, that’s energy that they themselves partly produce.
The argument has been debunked on several occasions. More recently, a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) using EPA data showed that the average electric car in the US now gets the equivalent efficiency of a non-existent 73 mpg gas-powered vehicle.
Now they are back with their latest campaign through “Fueling U.S. Forward”. Officially, the non-profit organization describes itself as “dedicated to educating the public about the value and potential of American energy, the vast majority of which comes from fossil fuels,” but in practice, it acts more as a PR firm for fossil fuels than anything else. The Koch brothers have been linked to financial backing for the organization.
As you would expect, their “education” is full of misinformation.
Their latest propaganda effort against EVs focuses on sourcing metals for batteries and spreading misinformation about EVs in general. Here’s the video that they produced:
The first claim they make is that “electric cars are more toxic to humans than average cars.” They based that assertion on a study by Arthur D. Little,. which has been thoroughly debunked for inflating their emission estimates by 40% by accounting for battery replacement without recycling and adding the need for a replacement gasoline car with the EV.
They followed with a claim that batteries for electric cars are made of rare earth metals, which is not exactly true. First off, they include lithium and cobalt in rare earth element, which they are not.
Furthermore, there are tons of different battery chemistries using different minerals and they are not all the same nor have the same impact. Most battery makers try to avoid all rare earth metals, some do avoid them entirely.
In this case, they are focusing on cobalt, which is not a rare earth metal, but nonetheless, it can be a problematic mineral. A report by Amnesty International and Afrewatch published last year pointed directly to battery makers and their clients as fueling the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where they produced most of the world’s cobalt.
In order to mitigate the impact of their products, companies have been following guidelines suggested in the report to supervise their supply chains in order to avoid any minerals in the DRC that could have been sourced in inhumane conditions and using child labor.
Furthermore, several new projects to mine cobalt, and other minerals found in batteries, have been launched in other parts of the world, including in North America, in order to offer alternatives to the DRC if the conditions don’t improve there.
Lastly, without sourcing their claim, the “Fueling U.S. Forward” campaign claims that batteries end up in landfills without being recycled. That’s something that is obviously false and actually one of the biggest advantages EVs have over gas-powered cars on the environment.
Once the oil is extracted, refined, transported, and consumed, there’s nothing to be done. It is released into the atmosphere and they have to start again. On the other hand, the minerals don’t simply evaporate from the batteries. Once their energy capacity has degraded, they can be recycled and you can be sure that they are since they still hold great value. It is much easier to mine a used battery pack than minerals in remote regions of the world.
Actually, battery recycling is expected to become big business. Whether it is to make less energy dense products, like BMW and Renault using their old EV batteries for stationary energy storage, or to recycle the actual minerals to make brand new batteries. Tesla is even believed to be behind a new startup for material recycling in order to take advantage of opportunities.
In conclusion, watch out for the misinformation in those Koch brothers-backed campaigns. While there are problems with sourcing some minerals for batteries, it is false to reach the conclusion that “electric cars are more toxic to humans than average cars” because of it.