Oh dear. Do lithium batteries pose a fire hazard? Yes they do. And suddenly it seems to be mainstream. The story we discussed in April became the focus of a major NBC item on June 20, including the suburban Houston fire chief whose department used a month’s worth of water putting it out comparing such fires to “a trick birthday candle.” And the Guardian just wrote an exposé on the environmental cost of lithium mining. Which of course has all been said before. But what’s actually encouraging is who’s saying it now: People who believe in man-made global warming, and alternative energy, are finally starting to engage in a balanced discussion of pros and cons. Mind you, in the era of the Internet it’s pretty hard to hush up the tendency of lithium batteries to cause horrendous fires. But if you’re waiting for our scathing putdown, well, not in this item. Proper attention to such things can only advance the discussion.
OK, one small putdown. NBC seems to regard the whole thing as a hiccup, to be overcome by one of progressives’ favourite techniques, training. “As the popularity of electric vehicles grows, firefighters nationwide are realizing that they are not fully equipped to deal with them. So they have been banding together, largely informally, to share information… But training to put out these fires can’t come fast enough as more electric vehicles arrive on U.S. roads every day. According to IHS Insight, an industry analysis firm, the number of registered electric vehicles reached a record market share in the United States of 1.8 percent and is forecast to double to 3.5 percent by the end of this year. But IHS notes that 1 in 10 cars are expected to be electric by 2025.”
Frankly we’ll believe that one when we see it. Partly because for all the chirpy enthusiasm about how EVs are on the verge of a technological and economic breakthrough, or several of them, again, batteries are as suspicious as an energy source as they are as a fire source. And a source of materials hard to dispose of. But again, the important point is that discussion of these issues is no longer taboo. Indeed the New York Times just dipped a toe into these calm, sensible waters with an item on how there isn’t enough lithium to meet President Biden’s EV goals and, what’s more, “production of raw materials like lithium, cobalt and nickel that are essential to these technologies are often ruinous to land, water, wildlife and people”. Now the Times also opines that “That environmental toll has often been overlooked in part because there is a race underway among the United States, China, Europe and other major powers.” But we think it would also be fair to say that it has been overlooked in part because climate alarmists, including those at the Times, have not wanted people to think there’s a downside to ditching fossil fuels.
Now that we’re rushing toward Net Zero, or failing to, it seems minds are being concentrated. Including over the fact that solar power has similar problems. Those lovely hideous solar panels do not last forever nor do they go into the compost. Far from it. Though based on their disappointing performance some people might wish they did. And if you’re wondering what is to be done, well, the same Guardian is now willing to start prying the door to nuclear power back open.
Withering putdown? No. Sorry. These developments are just good.