For years, news outlets including The New York Times have been covering the abundance of cobalt in the Congo. In 2016, Washington Post published a story about the reality that Congolese children are mining for the cobalt that powers our electronics. They have fallen silent more recently, however, because cobalt is necessary for electric vehicles, which is part of the left’s Green New Deal.
It’s really a green new “don’t.” There’s a “dirty secret” to push for green energy; it’s the “insatiable hunger for resources from Africa and elsewhere that are produced using some of the world’s dirtiest technologies.” China dominates the market for processing the minerals needed for electric vehicles and manufacturing batteries, and the Democratic Republic of Congo supplies almost 70% of the world’s cobalt used in EVs. Relaxed labor laws allow children to dig for cobalt, and there are horrific stories of mines collapsing, crushing and burying kids alive. The US cannot morally allow money to go toward the purchase of EV materials made possible by the work—and even deaths—of children. Relaxed labor laws allow children to dig for cobalt, and there are horrific stories of deaths and injuries in these mines. The US cannot morally allow money to go toward the purchase of EV materials made possible by the work—and even deaths—of children.
Congress is aware of this fact and mandated in the Inflation Reduction Act that an EV can only qualify for tax credits if its battery is made in the USA.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is making it harder to mine critical minerals with onerous environmental regulations and some states like Maine have banned certain types of mining. Currently, according to a Reuters article, “The United States has only one rare earths mine and has no capability to process rare earth minerals.” An effort to mine Lithium in Nevada is being delayed by lawsuits from environmental activists.
In this environment, a forced transition to EVs will mean a forced reliance on minerals from foreign countries. As developing countries continue to fight debilitating poverty, the drastic shift to EVs will echo old imperial states who colonized African countries for slave labor and resources. One young man in the DRC described that “The relationship between us and the [mine] is like a slave and a master.” This new colonialism is a climate colonialism.
In November 2021, 14 Congolese families sued Apple, Alphabet, Samsung, and Tesla for the damage done to their children—severe paralysis, injury, and death. The Congolese families lost, and there has been no update on an appeal. These children are helpless, unable to fight the cobalt craze because of the world’s determination to go net-zero.
There is no immediate fix to soaring prices at the pump except for one: our government encouraging the exploration and use of affordable and energy dense domestic fossil fuel resources. Recommending the same solution over and over is the definition of insanity. Ultimately, EVs are not the solution, and neither are renewables. The exploration for fossil fuels, building of pipelines, and movement toward energy independence are the solutions that will bring millions out of energy poverty.