While CleanTechnica has many readers, it would be fair to say that we aren’t a random cross-section of the general population. Our extra interest in clean technologies, on the part of both readers and on the part of people who write here, sets us apart. Sometimes, it’s important to take a look at what everyone else is seeing when it comes to clean technologies to increase our understanding. The media that the average person consumes, and what the average person ends up thinking, will have large effects on where the transition to renewable energy goes.
That’s why I sometimes share videos like this one. Sure, this isn’t CNN or Fox News, but then again, when you look at their actual viewer numbers, a YouTube channel with 2.6 million subscribers is right up there with them. More importantly, YouTube captures the attention of younger people while traditional cable news channels are perhaps serving (or, in the Fox, disserving) the elderly. So, this may be even more important.
The good news? It’s more balanced than it looks on the surface. (Article continues below video)
While Johnny Harris usually covers topics by himself, this time, he worked with someone with a new YouTube channel. He did this as sort of a “good cop, bad cop” or “devil’s advocate” routine with Cleo Abrams. He presented the important concerns about raw materials for batteries, and then she presented why there’s good reason to hope.
Concerns about raw materials for clean technologies are often used for trolling and misinformation. Using real problems to spread concern that can lead to solutions is good, while spreading concern (or FUD) with intent to derail clean energy and keep it from progressing is another thing entirely. Early in the video, the concerns are all laid out, and it starts to look a lot like FUD.
Like both the good and the bad raisers of concerns, he starts with cobalt. Yes, nearly all cobalt comes from the Congo (which may or may not be a democratic republic). Workers toil in the most distressing and unsafe conditions to get the cobalt from the ground, and on top of that many of these mistreated workers are children. Nobody with a properly functioning limbic system is cool with this, but the limbic system can be manipulated by money and profit, so the terrible working conditions persist.
And then there are geopolitical problems. China bought nearly all of the cobalt mines two decades ago, as it had the strategic foresight to do this while western corporations were too concerned with next quarter’s numbers to think that far ahead. We know from sad experience that China isn’t afraid to use access to minerals against other countries when it suits its best interest, so this is a frightening prospect for western countries by itself.
But, these problems aren’t without solutions. Cleo Abrams points out that minerals get mined once and then work for the life of the car, while fossil fuels get spent every time you turn a gas-powered car on and drive it. So, this means it’s far less impactful per vehicle, and can’t really be equated to fossil fuels. It’s also important for us to consider that batteries from electric vehicles get reused and recycled, further diluting the impacts of mining. Finally, there are efforts to use more batteries that don’t require cobalt.
This doesn’t mean the green energy revolution is going to be perfect, but it’s not as bad as it appears on the surface. It also means that we need to keep working to make sure that the transition to clean energy doesn’t become an authoritarian nightmare (especially for those the suffering worst), which won’t be easy.
But there’s really no alternative. Staying with fossil fuels is not an option, so we need to fix clean energy.
Featured Image: thumbnail image from the embedded video.
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