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Cllr urges caution in rush to embrace electric cars to meet carbon targets

May 6th, 2022 8:00 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Many councillors said they’d never even considered the human impact on the countries who provide the lithium needed to make batteries for electric cars. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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A COUNCILLOR has highlighted the ongoing environmental and social injustices endured by some countries in meeting the accelerated demand for lithium-ion batteries, which power electric cars.

Cllr Marcia D’Alton (Ind) highlighted the plight of these countries – Chile, Argentina, Bolivia – at a recent meeting of the local authority and said the European Commission’s push to have at least 30m electric vehicles on member states’ roads by 2030 is causing untold damage.

Several councillors complimented her for raising the issue because they had not previously been aware of this.

Cllr D’Alton said lithium is the key to this energy transition and it’s a key active ingredient in the rechargeable batteries that are used to power electric cars.

‘At present almost every ounce of battery grade lithium used in Europe is imported and more than half of the world’s grime dissolved lithium comes from the Lithium Triangle, that lies under Argentina, Chile and Bolivia,’ said Cllr D’Alton.

‘It takes about 2.2m litres of water to produce one tonne of lithium and it’s extracted by drilling holes in the salt flats which are then allowed to evaporate in huge artificial lakes. The impact on local people in what is generally one of the driest regions in the world is enormous.’

Cllr D’Alton said the large evaporating pools, which aren’t sealed, can and has led to the leaking of toxic substances into the nearby water supplies.

Cllr Alan O’Connor (GP) supported the motion and said that it is right that they as a Council should highlight the problems associated with lithium-ion batteries, while Cllr Ross O’Connell (SD) said that while electric cars have some part to play in meeting future carbon targets, he doesn’t believe they are the full solution and said that bio-gas – which he highlighted at a previous Council meeting – should be considered.

Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) described Cllr D’Alton’s motion as ‘eye opening’.

‘It’s so earth shattering that we have to depend on exploiting others to tick the boxes. The human impact on what it is doing to children and families is not sustainable,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan, who added that the bigger picture needs to be taken into consideration.

Cllr Audrey Buckley (FF) supported Cllr D’Alton and said she had never thought about the background of the batteries needed for electric cars.

Cllr D’Alton said what really upsets her is that people are subsidising this environmental damage and that it’s important that this is being discussed.

‘We are being actively encouraged to use lithium and the wool has been drawn over our eyes and it’s insulting to those of us who want to make the world a better place.’ Councillors agreed that they would write to their MEPs on this issue.

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