Electric vehicles are the wave of the future, according to environmentalists, with individual citizens and governments investing millions of dollars into the concept. Los Angeles Mayor (and presidential hopeful) Eric Garcetti has spent over $330 million to bring electric buses to city streets, despite the fact that the electric buses are plagued with breakdowns and poor performance. In May, the Los Angeles Times reported:
A federal testing center and transit agencies across the country logged driving ranges that were dozens of miles short of company claims, limiting the routes they can handle and requiring passengers to shuffle onto replacement buses when the batteries go low. The first five buses BYD sent to Los Angeles Metro were pulled off the road after less than five months of service. Internal emails and other agency records show that agency staff called them “unsuitable,” poorly made and unreliable for more than 100 miles. Despite strong concerns from its own staff about the quality and reliability of the company’s vehicles, the transit agency awarded [bus manufacturer] BYD tens of millions of dollars more in public contracts.
It’s the same story in Albuquerque, according to the Associated Press:
[Albuquerque] had planned to operate at least 20 fully electric buses built by the manufacturer Build Your Dreams, but the buses have been plagued with delays and various problems. City officials say the battery range of the buses fell short of what was promised. [Mayor Tim] Keller says the city is planning to negotiate to reduce the number of buses from the company and take outside bids to fill the order. The remaining buses would use natural gas or clean diesel.
Taxpayer money isn’t being spent on just these buses, but on individual family cars as well. California is leading the way, with the California Air Resource Board (CARB) burning through cash on the project. According to public records, “Through April 2018, [California] has provided rebates for over 235,000 vehicles at a cost of nearly $525 million since the project’s launch in 2010.
City, state, and federal government money is being spent every year on electric cars; but are they paying for child slavery? One of the key components to the batteries for electric cars is cobalt, and it’s being mined by tens of thousands of kids in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A CBS News report from March outlined the issues:
CBS News’ investigation ofrevealed the shocking fact that tens of thousands of children are still growing up without a childhood. On Monday we showed you how most of the mineral used to make batteries is unearthed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
An estimated two-thirds of children in the region of the DRC that CBS News visited are not in school. They’re working in mines instead. What we found when we travelled to the south of the country for this investigation was a complex host of barriers for children; weak economy, corrupt government, but above all, poverty.
CBS News correspondent Debora Patta followed one young boy, Ziki Swaze, home from a mine to understand the challenges he faces as his family’s main provider. Ziki has never been to school. He has no idea how to read or write, but he is an expert in washing cobalt.
He is one of an estimated 40,000 children in the DRC getting paid a pittance to produce cobalt. Every evening the 11-year-old returns home with a dollar or two to provide for his family.
“I have to go and work there,” he told Patta, “because my grandma has a bad leg and she can’t.”
Sky News has more heartbreaking details on what life is like for those mining the materials necessary for electric vehicles:
“At one cobalt mine, children toiled in the drenching rain carrying huge sacks of the mineral. Dorsen, eight, had no shoes and told us he hadn’t made enough money to eat for the past two days – despite working for about 12 hours a day. His friend Richard, 11, talked about how his whole body ached every day from the tough physical work. The mine tunnels are dug by hand by miners who have no protective equipment. The tunnels have no supports and are prone to collapse, especially in the rain. At one mine we travelled to, workers had downed tools in support of a fellow miner who had died after one such collapse.”
In their reporting, CBS explained that companies supplying these vehicles, funded by our tax dollars, are well aware of the issue:
Many top electronic and electric vehicle. We spoke with some of the companies that use cobalt in their lithium-ion batteries. All the companies acknowledged problems with the supply chain, but said they require suppliers to follow responsible sourcing guidelines.
Here’s the question we should be asking of lawmakers: should our government be funding these cars because of our fetishization of electric cars while these human rights abuses are taking place? At what point do we decide there’s a line, and that it will not be crossed? One would think the line would be with virtually enslaved children in mines in Africa.Published in