Gavin Newsom

The Human Cost of Our Pollution-Free, First-World State

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 40,000 children work daily in the mines picking and checking the rocks for presence of “chocolate-brown streaks” of cobalt, an essential raw material necessary for the batteries that power electric vehicles.

Barbara Jones of the Daily Mail recently wrote that, “Almost every big motor manufacturer striving to produce millions of electric vehicles buys its cobalt from the impoverished central African state. It is the world’s biggest producer, with 60 per cent of the planet’s reserves. The cobalt is mined by unregulated labour and transported to Asia where battery manufacturers use it to make their products lighter, longer-lasting and rechargeable.”

Jones continued, “Cobalt is such a health hazard that it has a respiratory disease named after it – cobalt lung, a form of pneumonia which causes coughing and leads to permanent incapacity and even death. Even simply eating vegetables grown in local soil can cause vomiting and diarrhea, thyroid damage and fatal lung diseases, while birds and fish cannot survive in the area.

No one knows quite how many children have died mining cobalt in the Katanga region in the south-east of the country.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4764208/Child-miners-aged-four-living-hell-Earth.html 

California just enacted a $3-billion state subsidy program specifically for electric cars made by Tesla Motors. Tesla’s production will soon reach its limit for federal tax rebates, good for the first 200,000 electric vehicles sold in the United States. Business Insider noted, “Given Tesla’s ambitious U.S. sales forecast for its Model 3, it will hit the 200,000 vehicle limit in 2018, after which the phase-out begins. A year later, the subsidies are gone. Losing a $7,500 subsidy on a $35,000 car is a huge deal.”

A big deal indeed: When Hong Kong discontinued its equivalent subsidy, Tesla’s sales in the Chinese city dropped from tens of thousands to ZERO.

Todd C. Frankel of the Washington Post wrote that, “Most Tesla models use batteries from Panasonic, which buys cobalt from Southeast Asia and Congo. Replacement batteries for Tesla are manufactured by LG Chem.” 

As California’s political leaders herald electric vehicles as the future backbone of our state’s private transportation system, they must not forget Barbara Jones’ cautionary warning: “Free from pollution, such ideals mean nothing for the children condemned to life of hellish misery in the race to achieve its target.”