You Might Not See Any Smoke Coming Out of Any Smokestacks But That Doesn’t Mean There Are No Fires
by Sarah Aminoff of Safe Tech International, Images courtesy Floris Freshman
What About Fires Due to Frenzied “Climate” and “Safety” Initiatives?
“We are in the midst of the 6th great extinction. Paper or plastic is not the question – its life vs. bare rock.
This environmental movement that was so honorable and impassioned, has turned into something completely different – it’s all become ‘how do we continue to fuel this destruction. There is a push for a 100 percent renewable world, what they don’t talk about are the unseen harms caused by these technologies.
You might not be seeing any smoke coming out of any smokestacks but that does not mean there are no fires.” – Bright Green Lies
Bright Green Lies Documentary
Technology is seen as the great panacea from electric cars to smart meters, which monitor energy use in real time, and yet even National Geographic has a lesson plan for kids that urges “recycling” of one’s tech in order to preserve chimpanzees.
According to Bright Green Lies, “We are operating on the premise that with industrial technological escalation this will save the planet with e-bikes, e-scooters, electric vehicles, and lead us to utopia. But do they maintain an illusion that this consumptive life can continue, we can just change the energy source? Derrick Jensen writes about our transition to clean energy: “But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption — changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much — and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet?“
Is Mining Dirty Business?
According to National Geographic, in order to switch from dirty fossil fuel energy sources to carbon-free renewables and EVs, we need more mining—historically a very polluting business. Can we have it both ways?
Clean Energy Transition is Dirty Business
According to National Geographic: “Mining involves digging ore out of the ground, hauling it to processing plants, crushing it, separating and refining the metals, and then disposing of the waste. Land is stripped bare to make way for mines and surrounding infrastructure, which often uses considerable amounts of energy and water, produces air pollution, and generates hazardous waste.”
Is this our clean energy transition?
Another Article by National Geographic, “Electric Cars are Powered by Rare Metals. Can AI Find Them?”
But will AI save the day when clean energy is dirty business? Can AI really find a solution or is this a cognitive dissonance moment and a Catch-22 if the manufacturing of AI uses even more earth resources to solve the problem of us using too many earth resources? Jeff Gibbs, a film documentary writer asks, “Can machines made by industrial civilizations save industrial civilizations?” Are we trying to solve the problem at the same level of consciousness that it was created?
According to David Suzuki, “faulty economic thinking makes destroying nature profitable. We must put the “eco back into economics.” “Let’s get beyond the false dichotomy of economy vs. environment.” But have we?
Exploding E-bike Batteries Were Responsible for 190 Fires in 2022
E-bikes are touted as decarbonizing transport, and a companion to one’s smart phone as smartphone apps are enabling cyclists to plan their routes, find charging spots and even dodge traffic. But what happens when Eco friendly New Yorkers have e-bikes that cause building fires?
According to The City article, exploding e-bike batteries were responsible for 190 fires in 2022. These fires, triggered by poorly maintained or damaged lithium-ion batteries, have caused 10 deaths and more than 200 injuries in the five boroughs in just the last two years alone.
From January through November 28, 2022, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission received at least 208 reports of electric scooters, e-bikes and other so-called micro-mobility products overheating or bursting into flames.
Are Electric Cars, and Spontaneous Combustion a Small Sacrifice for Sustainable Technology?
The Hill article explores a basic chemistry lesson about fire risks from lithium batteries, “saltwater damage from Hurricane Ian has left South Florida with a new danger: electric vehicles (EVs) that spontaneously combust.”
Electric Cars Have One Problem: They Sometimes Light People’s Houses on Fire
According to the Washington Post, “Charging electric cars parked in personal and public parking garages occasionally catch fire, even once fully charged. Chevrolet had to recall more than 60,000 of its Bolt EVs, the second recall of its kind — advising its customers that the cars could spontaneously combust.
In one particularly violent instance, a charging Tesla Model S parked inside a garage burned so bright that it caused a neighboring vehicle to catch fire as well. ”
After crunching car fire statistics and sales data, the authors of the study found that hybrids actually have more fires per 100K sales, with:
- Hybrid vehicles: 3,474 fires per 100K sales
- Gas vehicles: 1,529 fires per 100K sales
- Electric vehicles: 25 fires per 100K sales
Chemistry Lesson 101: Where Do Electric Cars Get Their Batteries? From Lithium
Lithium is extremely flammable, but its lightness makes it great for Teslas and cell phones. Mother Jones writes, “Lithium, the lightest metal, shines silvery when stored in protective oils. (Otherwise, it’s extremely flammable.) That lightness makes lithium ion batteries essential to everything from cellphones, to tablets, to Tesla’s lithium ion batteries.
Chemistry Lesson 102: Saltwater + Lithium Battery May = Short Circuit and Sometimes Fire
Saltwater is an electrolyte — a chemical which helps transmit electric charge. This can create the ingredients for a sudden, uncontrolled transfer of energy — creating a short circuit and, sometimes, a persistent fire.
NBC News reports, “From Florida to California waterlogged EV batteries explode. Tesla car battery ‘spontaneously’ catches fire on California freeway, requiring 6,000 gallons of water to put it out. No injuries were reported. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously stated only 0.01% of Teslas have ever caught fire. Road and Track also reports of waterlogged EV Batteries exploding following Hurricane Ian.
Chemistry Lesson 103: Electric Fires Can Get as Hot as 5,000 Degrees Fahrenheit
Vox writes, “EV batteries are packed with an incredible amount of stored energy, one of these fires can get as hot as nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Even when the fire appears to be over, latent heat may still be spreading within the cells of the battery, creating the risk that the vehicle could ignite several days later. One firefighter compared the challenge to a trick birthday candle that reignites after blowing it out. These fires burn at much higher temperatures and require a lot more water to fight than conventional car fires.”
Chemistry Lesson 104: 6,000 Gallons of Water to Put Out An Electrical Fire
According to NBC news, a Tesla car battery “spontaneously” burst into flames on a California freeway Saturday, and firefighters needed 6,000 gallons of water to put it out.
The Metro Fire Department said in a series of tweets that “nothing unusual” had occurred before the Tesla Model S became “engulfed in flames,” but the agency said the car’s battery cells “continued to combust” while the fire was being extinguished.
Firefighter Training 101: Firefighters Training to Combat Electric Fires Needed
Image courtesy of free svg
As many as half of the 1.2 million firefighters in the US might not be currently trained to combat EV fires, according to the NFPA.
“The Fire Service has had 100 years to train and to understand how to deal with internal combustion engine fires,” remarked Andrew Klock of the NFPA, which offers EV classes for firefighters. “With electric vehicles, they don’t have as much training and knowledge. They really need to be trained.”
Firefighter Training 102: A Common Fire Extinguisher or Foam Many Fire Departments Carry Isn’t Effective at Dousing Lithium Fires
Here is why….getting the foam to the failed cells of lithium batteries is difficult, if not impossible, because the thermal runaway event is happening inside a watertight, fire-resistant box. A fire blanket is traditionally used to smother a fire to starve it of oxygen. According to Patrick Durham, of Firerescue1, ” lithium-ion does not need oxygen from the atmosphere to burn, so trying to smother the fire will be ineffective. However, these blankets could be used to contain the fire for exposure protection.”
Electric vehicles batteries are known to burn continuously for many days in the case of a fault. In some countries, the means to extinguish such a fire involves lifting and dunking the burning vehicle in a container full of water. This is specialist apparatus which is not readily available and very time consuming and difficult to put in place.” – EINTEC.
Buy EV Fire Blankets – EINTAC OFFERS VEHICLE FIRE BLANKETS
“A fire in a vehicle, particularly an electric vehicle, can spread quickly spread to other cars parked close by. Any car fire is dangerous and toxic, but in a gas station, road tunnel, car park, passenger ferry or any location where cars are parked close together it can be a disaster.”
Image courtesy of EINTAC
Earth Sciences 101: Shifting Emissions from Tailpipe to Power Plant. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Don’t Just Come Out of a Tailpipe.
Electric cars emit CO2 both in their production and during their charging. First, the production of the electric batteries requires lithium, cobalt, and manganese. Manufactures end up expending a large amount of energy on mining and processing these raw materials.
Geography Lesson 101: Where do Electric Cars Get Their Batteries? From Lithium. Where does Lithium Come From – One Place is Chile’s Atacama Desert
As we mentioned in our Chemistry lesson: Lithium is extremely flammable, but its lightness make it great for Teslas and cell phones. According to Mother Jones Magazine, “Until now, lithium typically has been extracted from saline areas, such as Chile’s Atacama Desert, through an evaporative process. A relatively new technique using sulfuric acid to extract it from clay means the West is facing a new mining boom—and Nevada may soon be a global lithium-mining hotspot.”
Your Zero Emissions Vehicle May Be Saving the Planet But Destroying the Desert.
Sierra Club Asks “The True Cost of the Lithium Batteries in EVs and Our Tech Devices – Can We Have Our Clean Energy and the Environment Too?”
According to Sierra Club, we may save the planet but kill the Atacama? Developing the minerals and metals for the “clean energy economy” comes with tradeoffs in the Atacama Desert.
“But while the mines are helping save the planet, they may also be killing the Atacama. The mines suck up huge amounts of water in what is already one of the driest places on Earth.” —Sierra Club
Sierra Club explains, “Underground water is disappearing, along with lagoons full of rare flamingos; vegetation that feeds goats, sheep, and llama-like guanacos; and an Atacameño way of life followed by communities for thousands of years.”
Image courtesy Floris Freshman
It’s an increasingly familiar dilemma: Extracting the metals and minerals we need to avoid the worst catastrophes of climate change creates a different set of catastrophes.
In Indonesia, rainforests are being razed for nickel. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, children toil in cobalt mines. And lithium extraction sows havoc the world over. Brine operations in Argentina have reportedly contaminated streams that irrigate food crops. Leaks from Chinese hard-rock lithium mining turned a river so toxic that it killed not only fish but also the cows and yaks that drank from it. Last January, a proposed lithium mine in Serbia was scrapped in the face of ferocious street protests. Native American tribes, ranchers, and environmental activists are fighting an enormous hard-rock operation slated to open soon at Thacker Pass, Nevada, arguing that it will desecrate sacred Indigenous lands and clobber the local ecosystem.
“There was a whole ceremony, to the land, to the water, to the flamingos themselves, to give thanks for the food. But since the lithium companies arrived, this ancestral practice can no longer be carried out.”
Mother Jones Magazine speaks about potential impacts of Lilithum Nevada and explores the conundrum of planned lithium extraction turning land in Nevada into a dustbowl with water table contamination and problems with impacts on indigenous nations with loss of habitat and natural wildlife,
Your Zero Emissions Vehicle May Be Saving the Planet But Destroying the Ocean.
Image courtesy Floris Freshman
Greenpeace’s App Urges Lawmakers to Reject Deep Sea Metals. Tesla Has Not Agreed to Refrain from Deep Sea Mining.
Greenpeace has an app for EV makers to reject deep sea metals.
According to Greenpeace, “Using an interactive interface, the web app encourages people to learn more about the emerging extractive industry while also providing a way to urge EV makers such as Tesla to commit to keeping deep sea metals out of their supply chains.
The mining industry is targeting the electric vehicle market as a potential market for deep sea minerals, but many car makers including Volvo, BMW, Volkswagen, Renault and Scania, have already signed an agreement committing to keeping deep sea mined minerals and metals out of the supply chain.
Your zero emissions vehicle may be destroying the ocean,
Before you buy that Tesla, check this app to see if your electric car company pledges to exclude mining deep sea minerals.
Tesla, Ford and General Motors have not made a public commitment supporting a moratorium on deep sea mining nor pledged to exclude deep sea minerals from their supply chains.
Greenpeace USA project lead on deep sea mining Arlo Hemphill said: “Should deep sea mining begin on an industrial scale, it would cause significant and irreversible damage to our oceans and our climate.
Whether it is destruction of the desert or ocean through mining for tech, or EVs catching on fire, (even if statistically low), the fact these fires are way more intense requiring 6,000 gallons of water – shows we are in a double bind thanks to current options involving industrial economy. Solar photovoltaics do not exempt us as they still require mining and transportation infrastructure in all aspects of production. Charles Eisenstein writes: “Would the environmental movement be more successful if it put less emphasis on the abstract problem of carbon dioxide — a problem that lends itself to “technocratic solutions and geoengineering” — and focused instead on, “How do we want to live here” on Earth?”
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