Friday, December 11, 2009

The hidden cost of green technology: lithium dependence

For years I believed that green technology could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce the influence of cartels like OPEC. With new wind farms and large solar farms, we could start utilizing energy freely available to us. We could stop paying outrageous gasoline prices at the pump by buying fully electric cars or at least reduce it significantly using hybrid cars like the Prius (Prius uses NiMH not lithium-ion batteries).

But there's a roadblock to total energy independence. We need lithium batteries! Yes, those crazy little critters that run our hybrid and electric cars, that store our solar and wind power, are all in need of lithium-ion based batteries. Even our consumer electronics need them.

Lithium is a metal that needs to be mined on foreign soil and most of the supply is located in countries like Bolivia, that more or less have the same policies and anti-American leanings as Venezuela.

As we start weening away from foreign sourced fuel like oil and leverage more of green technology like electric cars, more lithium will be needed.

And unfortunately, we will still be depending on foreign sourced fuel.

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