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EDITORIAL: Green roadblocks ahead for coming EV revolution

Greens are determined to get everyone out of their gasoline-powered vehicles within the next dozen years, and they’ve found allies in President Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress. Automakers are jumping on board, as several companies — preening for marketshare — vow to ditch the internal combustion engine by 2035 in the crusade against global warming.

But reality is more complicated.

Nagging issues of battery range and lengthy charging times remain, so consumers have yet to warm up to EVs. Plug-in sales declined during the first nine months of 2020 as the pandemic raged and, overall, electric vehicles account for a paltry 2 percent of all new car sales.

The Biden administration hopes to distort the market by offering cash giveaways to middle class Americans who go electric and continuing the pressure on Detroit to fall in line or else. Expect more “cash for clunkers” proposals from the White House as they attempt to strong-arm consumers. Government central planning — even when it involves compliant car manufacturers — typically requires some level of force.

Of greater concern, however, is whether the supply chain can handle the supposed coming boom in EV demand over the next decade. After all, plug-ins don’t run on magic fumes. Not only do they require electricity — often generated by fossil fuels — but the batteries that power them require materials such as lithium, cobalt and nickel that must be extricated from the ground through mining.

“I think there’s a fear amongst car companies and battery companies that they won’t be able to get sufficient raw materials,” Keith Phillips, the CEO of Piedmont Lithium, told NPR last month. “So they’re reaching back and looking to procure the raw material on their own” by directly contracting with suppliers.

But here the highway toward green nirvana becomes even more twisty. Some progressives fret that ensuring we have the raw materials and minerals necessary to fuel an EV revolution may compromise regulations already in place. “The concern is that a huge supply crunch leads to policymakers stripping away environmental review or protections in favor of expediting new lithium supply projects,” Patrick Donnelly, the Nevada state director of the Center for Biological Diversity, wrote in a recent newsletter.

In other words, expect litigation from activists designed to cripple the domestic mining needed to produce the materials necessary to make the transition to EVs.

Which raises the question of whether the real agenda for many radical greens is to wage war on the automobile and the autonomy it provides, regardless of what powers it down the open highway.

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