Feb 202021
 February 20, 2021  Posted by at 4:49 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Pablo Picasso Head of a Woman 1946
Missing, stolen painting .. gifted to the National Gallery by Picasso in 1946 in recognition of Athens’s resistance to Nazi occupation; he inscribed on the back: “For the Greek people, a tribute from Picasso.”



Dr. D posted this as a short comment, not an article, and he’s welcome, encouraged even, to expand on it at a later date. But I think it’s important enough, and detailed enough, to in fact make it an article. We can take if from here. The blind drive towards EV’s is going to hurt, and we should prepare for that.

The idea, and the concept, that we can simply switch from one energy source to another and keep motoring and do all the other things we do, is nothing but a cheap and meaningless sales pitch. To produce 20 million Tesla’s would require 165% of the entire 2019 global lithium production, says this from mining.com:



That’s just Tesla, that doesn’t yet include the entire rest of the world’s car manufacturers who also claim they’ll go “green”. But then we’ll just raise the production of lithium! Well, there may be a problem with that…

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if “green” cars in the end prove to be more polluting than “dirty” cars?



Dr. D: More math, like garlic and holy water, keeps the riff raff away.

One solution to Texas’ problem is to have long-term storage that the grid refuses to buy and install. But you can! For only $10,000, 5-10x the cost of yesterday’s generator, you can own a brand new Tesla Powerwall. That maybe MIGHT not catch on fire like all their cars and solar panels have. With it, you can have 13kw of power, and that’s not joking: an American house uses 1kw a day, so that’s almost two weeks of power. For $10,000, and a little house fire.

There are 3M Texans without power, so say 1M households, not sure how they account it or how carefully. 1M Powerwalls, and their NOT drawing on the grid would help the rest of Texas households too! For only $10 BILLION dollars. (And a 10-year lifespan). Chicken feed these days.

Cool. He’s building a factory there, we’ll buy one today. You know, with that extra $10k most American families have hanging around.

But…then there’s math. At 200lbs/pc 1 Million Powerwalls would need 200 MILLION pounds of lithium or 100,000 tons. (90,718 Metric Tonnes)




Oh wait: that’s more Lithium than is mined in WHOLE CONTINENTS, like top producer Australia @ 42,000 tonnes. Next is Chile, 18,000 tonnes.

I detect a problem.

More problems follow. Lithium is both unbelievably reactive and unbelievably toxic. It catches on fire in water — not like there’s any “water” where humans live, and as lithium is a major ingredient in psychology drugs, causing mood leveling or even erasing emotions altogether, and doesn’t decay, even a small amount of escaped lithium is a big deal. That’s both in the Pecos and Red River, AND at the mining site, where it consumes tens of thousands of gallons in the world’s driest environments, like Bolivia.

The Environmental Impact of Lithium Batteries

“Lithium extraction harms the soil and causes air contamination. In Argentina’s Salar de Hombre Muerto, residents believe that lithium operations contaminated streams used by humans and livestock and for crop irrigation. In Chile, the landscape is marred by mountains of discarded salt and canals filled with contaminated water with an unnatural blue hue.

… In Australia, only two percent of the country’s 3,300 metric tons of lithium-ion waste is recycled.

… recovered cells are usually shredded, creating a mixture of metal that can then be separated using pyrometallurgical techniques—burning—which wastes a lot of the lithium.”

Two other key ingredients, cobalt and nickel, are more in danger of creating a bottleneck in the move towards electric vehicles, and at a potentially huge environmental cost. Cobalt is found in huge quantities right across the Democratic Republic of Congo and central Africa, and hardly anywhere else. The price has quadrupled in the last two years.

Unlike most metals, which are not toxic when they’re pulled from the ground as metal ores, cobalt is “uniquely terrible,” according to Gleb Yushin, chief technical officer and founder of battery materials company Sila Nanotechnologies.”

Not done yet, where one solution to one 7-day crisis takes more lithium than is mined? Then polluted? Then not recycled? Then as not recycled, permanently escapes into your water supply?

There’s still this: it takes 60kw to produce 1kw of lithium battery capacity. Now it’s reusable, so there are many, many cycles in a battery, but your 13 Million Kwh are going to need 78M Kwh to create, just for the battery side, or 78,000 megawatts.

Are you sure you wouldn’t rather – say it with me now:

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”? You know, by reducing, reusing, economizing, using less, and creating only things that last longer?

Nope. If I DON’T buy a Powerwall, who profits? No subsidy, no GDP, no sales tax, no Wall Street IPO. No 18 weeks’ work at $20/hr, tied up to Jamie Dimon and Uncle Sam to buy it.

Thoreau said he could walk to Boston on foot quicker than he could get the money to take the train there. Is chopping fallen wood and sitting on a rammed clay floor next to your small wood stove REALLY that bad? That’s 18 weeks you can stay home and read Cicero – from a real-to-god, paper book — with your children. Or not. Don’t, end up in the dark and curse: “I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” What do you think he’s going to do for you that you’re not doing for yourself?



See also:

The Spiralling Environmental Cost Of Our Lithium Battery Addiction


Bolivia: Where revolutionaries and lithium miners go to die




We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.


Support the Automatic Earth in 2021. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.


Home Forums But…Then There’s Math

Viewing 22 posts - 1 through 22 (of 22 total)
  • Author
  • #70003

    Pablo Picasso Head of a Woman 1946 Missing, stolen painting .. gifted to the National Gallery by Picasso in 1946 in recognition of Athens’s resistance
    [See the full post at: But…Then There’s Math]

    Dr P

    I have learned recently that Math is racist and correct calculations are white supremacist. So, I don’t believe this article at all.


    Yup. Lithium batteries in large quantities are bad news. “When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?”

    I liked the salt water battery idea for homes. Non-toxic. But it appears the company has gone out of business, although the batteries can be obtained second hand.

    When are we going to learn that our technologies must not pollute the planet? When are we going to learn to work with biological systems rather than at odds with them, rather than trying to be their “master?” When are we going to learn that coming up with one dominant (planet wide) solution to a problem — say, battery powered powered cars for locomoting individuals and small groups — does not build resiliency? Resilient systems are built with multiple ways to solve problems, with reserves, with fallback methods and options, with an understanding that a solution for one clime may not be the solution for another clime. Live near a forest? A wood frame house with wood siding and shingles may be a good option. Live in a desert? Consider adobe and cement (aircrete is interesting) and bricks.


    “An electric car uses five times as many minerals as a conventional car (IEA 2020)”

    Autos need finite rare earth, critical, & precious metals

    Oh sure, we’ll all be driving $50K EV’s in 10 years.
    What a crock – more like riding donkeys a la Kunstler.


    “To produce the metals and minerals to make a transition to wind, solar, nuclear and so on would be incredibly destructive and filthy. A fifth of China’s arable land is laden with toxic heavy metals from mining and industry. And huge amounts of CO2 would be emitted by the fossils used to mine, smelt, fabricate, and transport these short lifespan devices. They’re rebuildable, not renewable.”

    Minerals essential for wind, solar, and high-tech, are anything but clean and green


    “After Evo, the Lithium Question Looms Large in Bolivia”

    Bolivia’s key reserves are in lithium, which is essential for the electric car. Bolivia claims to have 70 percent of the world’s lithium reserves, mostly in the Salar de Uyuni salt flats.

    After Evo, the Lithium Question Looms Large in Bolivia

    Elon ‘we’ll coup whoever we want’ Musk : – https://tinyurl.com/3k8yqp5y


    Common topic during the lunch break of employees for those multi nationals operating in poor but resource rich countries must be about some “Commie POS leader who does not want THEM work and operate in his country. Does not matter, Texas’ oil , Appalachian coal or riches anywhere in the world, all extracted to benefit just a few “owners”.

    How one makes “dirty colors” to shine like gold. Picasso is one of them who can make it work.

    V. Arnold

    I thought Germ put a miscalculation to Dr. D’s math on the $10,000 battery:

    @Dr. D. – “With ..(a Powerwall) .. you can have 13kw of power, and that’s not joking: an American house uses 1kw a day, so that’s almost two weeks of power. For $10,000, and a little house fire.”

    Yes – you are joking. Afraid you need more math Dr. D.

    “The average US house uses 877 kWh per month” – https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=97&t=3

    Let’s call it a round 30kWh per day and your Powerwall will be flat in less than 12 hours!


    V. Arnold:

    If Dr.D is out by any factor it just makes his argument that much stronger, or stronger worst case in this case!

    Needing more Powerpacks, than Dr.D said, just makes the environmental impact that much worst! By what 5, 10, 20 times?

    Basically everyone having power-packes is so outlandish to solve a temporary problem that as Dr.D says it should be obvious that it isn’t the right solution!

    Destroying our environment to save our environment! Yeah, we had to bomb the village to save it!

    One nice thing about cars made with steel, is mother nature can reclaim it as rust!

    V. Arnold

    If Dr.D is out by any factor it just makes his argument that much stronger, or stronger worst case in this case!

    Yes, it certainly does that.

    I’ve been giving the phrase, “I have enough.”, some thought.
    At first blush it sounds great, but; going deeper it’s basically meaningless, IMO.
    I looked up enough in 5 different dictionaries and they avoid any philosophical considerations such as for whom is enough and enough of what?
    I’m fairly sure Musks’, Gates’, Bezos’ enough is far more opulent than what I might or do consider enough for example…
    I would further add that I do not want anyone dictating this value to me or mine…
    There are no longer simple solutions because our value systems will not allow them…

    absolute galore

    Of course the meta math has to do with the wattage consumption per capita, regardless of the technology. Doesn’t matter if it’s lithium or biofuel from the Lorax tree, it’s the energy addiction that will have us “collapsing into a sociocultural energy coma:”

    “The widespread belief that clean and abundant energy is the panacea for social ills is due to a political fallacy, according to which equity and energy consumption can be indefinitely correlated, at least under some ideal political conditions. Laboring under this illusion, we tend to discount any social limit on the growth of energy consumption. But if ecologists are right to assert that nonmetabolic power pollutes, it is in fact just as inevitable that, beyond a certain threshold, mechanical power corrupts. The threshold of social disintegration by high energy quanta is independent from the threshold at which energy conversion produces physical destruction. Expressed in horsepower, it is undoubtedly lower. This is the fact which must be theoretically recognized before a political issue can be made of the per capita wattage to which a society will limit its members.

    Even if nonpolluting power were feasible and abundant, the use of energy on a massive scale acts on society like a drug that is physically harmless but psychically enslaving. A community can choose between Methadone and cold turkey”—between maintaining its addiction to alien energy and kicking it in painful cramps—but no society can have a population that is hooked on progressively larger numbers of energy slaves and whose members are also autonomously active.

    In previous discussions, I have shown that, beyond a certain level of per capita GNP, the cost of social control must rise faster than total output and become the major institutional activity within an economy. Therapy administered by educators, psychiatrists, and social workers must converge with the designs of planners, managers, and salesmen, and complement the services of security agencies, the military, and the police. I now want to indicate one reason why increased affluence requires increased control over people. I argue that beyond a certain median per capita energy level, the political system and cultural context of any society must decay. Once the critical quantum of per capita energy is surpassed, education for the abstract goals of a bureaucracy must supplant the legal guarantees of personal and concrete initiative. This quantum is the limit of social order.

    I will argue here that technocracy must prevail as soon as the ratio of mechanical power to metabolic energy oversteps a definite, identifiable threshold. The order of magnitude within which this threshold lies is largely independent of the level of technology applied, yet its very existence has slipped into the blind-spot of social imagination in both rich and medium-rich countries. Both the United States and Mexico have passed the critical divide. In both countries, further energy inputs increase inequality, inefficiency, and personal impotence. Although one country has a per capita income of $500 and the other, one of nearly $5,000, huge vested interest in an industrial infrastructure prods both of them to further escalate the use of energy. As a result, both North American and Mexican ideologues put the label of energy crisis” on their frustration, and both countries are blinded to the fact that the threat of social breakdown is due neither to a shortage of fuel nor to the wasteful, polluting, and irrational use of available wattage, but to the attempt of industries to gorge society with energy quanta that inevitably degrade, deprive, and frustrate most people.

    A people can be just as dangerously overpowered by the wattage of its tools as by the caloric content of its foods, but it is much harder to confess to a national overindulgence in wattage than to a sickening diet. The per capita wattage that is critical for social well-being lies within an order of magnitude which is far above the horsepower known to four-fifths of humanity and far below the power commanded by any Volkswagen driver. It eludes the underconsumer and the overconsumer alike. Neither is willing to face the facts. For the primitive, the elimination of slavery and drudgery depends on the introduction of appropriate modern technology, and for the rich, the avoidance of an even more horrible degradation depends on the effective recognition of a threshold in energy consumption beyond which technical processes begin to dictate social relations. Calories are both biologically and socially healthy only as long as they stay within the narrow range that separates enough from too much.

    The so-called energy crisis is, then, a politically ambiguous issue. Public interest in the quantity of power and in the distribution of controls over the use of energy can lead in two opposite directions. On the one hand, questions can be posed that would open the way to political reconstruction by unblocking the search for a postindustrial, labor-intensive, low-energy and high-equity economy. On the other hand, hysterical concern with machine fodder can reinforce the present escalation of capital-intensive institutional growth, and carry us past the last turnoff from a hyperindustrial Armageddon. Political reconstruction presupposes the recognition of the fact that there exist critical per capita quanta beyond which energy can no longer be controlled by political process. A universal social straitjacket will be the inevitable outcome of ecological restraints on total energy use imposed by industrial-minded planners bent on keeping industrial production at some hypothetical maximum.

    Rich countries like the United States, Japan, or France might never reach the point of choking on their own waste, but only because their societies will have already collapsed into a sociocultural energy coma. Countries like India, Burma, and, for another short while at least, China are in the inverse position of being still muscle-powered enough to stop short of an energy stroke. They could choose, right now, to stay within those limits to which the rich will be forced back through a total loss of their freedoms. ”

    Ivan Illich, Energy and Equity, 1974

    I have a tattered, falling apart copy. You can read a pdf of the full essay/booklet here: http://www.davidtinapple.com/illich/1973_energy_equity.html

    As the years pass, Illich is more on point and relevant than ever. Which would explain why virtually nobody talks about his ideas these days. Because we want a Green Deal with No Limits.


    absolute galore:

    I studied electricity in early 1970s. In my rather short life, I have seen tremendous improvements in electrical energy use.

    Take light. We went from the ordinary light bulb that produced more heat than light to LEDs which produce more light than heat! The same for electric motors! The same for gas engines! The same for computers!

    This is what Ivan Illich failed to understand and is one reason why few remember him. He was too rigid.


    V. Arnold:

    “I have enough” of winter!

    Could you please send me some of your lovely summer!

    V. Arnold

    Absolute Galore
    As the years pass, Illich is more on point and relevant than ever. Which would explain why virtually nobody talks about his ideas these days.

    Deschooling Society, by Ivan Illich,is an intriguing idea.
    I would be much in favor of his treatise…
    A difficult read for me, but I’ll eventually get through it.

    @ Wes
    If I’m not mistaken, I think the whole point is, technology is only a very little/small part of our problem.
    Our thinking and value systems must be completely revamped or we’ll fail completely.
    Technology is only getting us further into the labyrinth…we’re not keeping our critical thinking active, but getting lazy and philosophically obese…

    V. Arnold

    V. Arnold:

    “I have enough” of winter!

    Could you please send me some of your lovely summer!

    Woulds’t that I could… 😉

    Starting in December until as I am typing this, we have had the coolest weather in my 18 years here.
    I’ve worn socks and long pants with layers of shirts; I can imagine how ridiculous this must sound to you but; temps are relative in how we perceive them and how we’ve acclimated to them…
    Wishing you warmer weather soonest…

    absolute galore

    @WES wrote: I studied electricity in early 1970s. In my rather short life, I have seen tremendous improvements in electrical energy use…This is what Ivan Illich failed to understand and is one reason why few remember him. He was too rigid.

    Illich lived until 2003, and he saw many “improvements” in technology over his lifetime, even up to 1975. He certainly takes into account improved efficiencies and other factors in the full (85 page) essay, but efficiency is just another side of the increased per capita energy consumption, not terribly relevant in the end.

    Outside of Illich’s arguments, from a pure technology point of view, you have the law of diminishing returns–you can’t produce a light source with zero energy use. From a human behavior standpoint, you have the Jevons Paradox. Once refrigeration reached a certain efficiency/cost, you have every gas station in America with walls of refrigeration. In other words, the greater efficiency at lower cost encourages increased deployment and use.

    The one thing that did dawn on Illich as the years went by, was that the world was not going to be able to grasp the danger of its energy glut; or if it did, be able to do anything about coming to an agreement on where the cutoff per capita should be. Because that would go against being American, whether you have capitalist or socialist tendencies. And once the cat is out of the bag and you build entire infrastructures, there is no way to go back. You pour that much excess energy into a system and it will be compelled to use it, whether a petri dish full of microbes or Western Civilization. I think it is beyond even addiction, it is a biological imperative. It still ends up at Tainter’s collapse of the complex. So yeah, headed for a reset, but not the green fantasy envisioned by the billionaires club. Humans will have little to say in where this ends up going. At this point we are in freefall reaction mode (and of course our reactions are almost comically guaranteed to be the exactly wrong ones!;^)

    Dr. D

    Thanks for the unexpected, and V. is completely right, kWh seems to be very high, which is bending my brain in several ways, one, since I remember the kW number from exploring solar at home, and two, since 200lbs of lithium would surely be more than a few hours. 200lb of much less efficient lead would probably be 24 hours. And here I was pretty sure it was the megawatt hour equation that was totally wrong, but as a mere comment, I didn’t fact check every item through google. I just figured that, it’s 1 million people when there are 29M people in Texas: even if I was off by 10x or 100x, the principle would hold, as THAT’S how far off the path we are.

    And here math is my poor subject, I don’t even drill the details and it’s STILL obvious to a blind bat how much this won’t work? It’s still in the news. Tesla is still $1,000/share or some such. Still lighting cars on fire. I just SMH and “Are people totally illiterate? What is going on that you can’t tell this isn’t working and their solutions are worse?” Or rather:

    The social aspect is important here. As TAE says, “we don’t have an energy (or financial) problem, we have a political (will) problem”, or something like that. Obviously we’re wasting 90% of our energy and resources on pure garbage that makes everyone miserable and not happy right now, but fixing it requires people change their minds and so is nearly impossible. But what we choose to do is very important, who we choose to credit, believe, follow, pay attention to.

    I think the old system is cracking, right now, has cracked, and the fracture and failure of ALL things, RNC, DNC, CNN, CDC, NYSE, UPENN, is fantastic. Couldn’t be happier. They all have to be discredited, let go, for anything new to happen. And those people are a SYSTEM. Their “GameStop must always win, the people must always lose” is so extractive, and they are so leveraged into it, that half of one percent will cascade-fail them now. I suspect from the Great-Wall-of-Pelosi that’s already happened and they know it, and BTC is showing the flop OUT of their system and into a new one. But the people ARE the system, Gates, Elon, Bezos, and the end of the present system means the end of them and their exaggerated power. What have I said, Wall St, College, Health Care are all 5x their usual size? The Federales are 10x, 20x, since they’re not supposed to be running much at all but leave everything but the Post Office to 10A and the States?

    So their fake and stupid solutions are about to disappear and be discredited with them, leaving a solution-vacuum as people — in Texas, but should-have-known-since-Katrina — in 12 burned-down cities, in $600/year UBI now delayed to pass a law about the funerals of twice-impeached Presidents who don’t care a bit, all those solutions are gone. You won’t buy a PowerWall because you’ll be broke as the dollar drops 90% PPT or something. You couldn’t anyway since the disruptions will stop all lithium supply, to say nothing of food. If you could it would immediately be stolen, even at gunpoint. And Sugar Daddy government isn’t going to help you: if anything, they’re going to hurt you, stop you, and raise your taxes in their (IL, CA, NJ, NY, KY) bankruptcy.

    So the world gets SMALLER, in a way. It decentralizes and depends on you. Your house, your family, your farmer’s market, your neighborhood. As you knew that was coming, it’s coming right now, it’s too late to change or fix the ship, you’re probably down to planning how to reef the sails and get the sea anchor ready.

    The solution-vacuum is a good thing as then it will be OUR solutions that happen, instead of the idiotic, self-serving, non-working solutions they’ve been at for 20 additional years. That’s how system change. The big rotten tree falls over, you obviously can’t graft a huge tree on new roots, even if they’re named “Morgan”. Hundreds of saplings spring up. Most are turned aside, but a few trees grow large, then one, and it crashes all over again.

    You’re the solution masters now. There’s nobody but you, possibly starting even next month. Thank God. I didn’t know how much more of these idiotic, egotistical dummies I could take, who can’t calculate a PowerWall within two zeros. As I barely can, and don’t need to.

    madamski cafone

    Improved efficiency only means more consumption in a consumer society.


    Dr. D

    In other words …
    “We’re certainly going into a time where ideological purity isn’t going to help. But at least we could look at what’s worked and what hasn’t over time for a change.”

    First, the first problem is for “the we” to find who will be the “chosen experts” that will look at the problem, recommend solutions, and implement the changes”.
    The odds are that the “we” will chose people just like themselves.
    I has to be someone with “purity, knowledge, morals and a socialist bone, better than the “we” “


    You pour that much excess energy into a system and it will be compelled to use it, whether a petri dish full of microbes or Western Civilization. I think it is beyond even addiction, it is a biological imperative.

    One of my main takes, for a long time. The system seeks to revert to a balance. Excess energy must be used ASAP. And for all intents and purposes, the world is a petri dish, only bigger. Just like humans are like microbes, only bigger. What drives us is the same. It’s not “progress”, as we like to tell ourselves, it’s an energy surplus.

    What we call “progress”, and “smart”, is just a way to burn it faster and find that balance. I like the take by I forget whom, which goes that because so much excess carbon was stored in the earth, nature developed mankind to get it out and restore the balance.


    Most greens have little background in science and engineering so can easily end up in a fantasy world.

    Firstly, the world can not produce enough raw materials to create the batteries required.

    Secondly, not that greens seem aware of this, these vehicles need electricity. If just one million cars are plugged in to the grid drawing 30 kilowatts/hour that is 30 gigawatts of new power consumption.

    In the UK the Royal Mail looked into electrifying their vehicles at their Mount Pleasant sorting office. They were told it would literally ‘melt’ the local transformer!

    The grid is not built to carry such huge amounts of electricity and would have to be totally rebuilt as well as creating a large number of new power stations, costing hundreds of billions.

    Politicians have obviously been willing to listen to the greens on this without once asking electrical engineers what would be required to achieve it! Or accountants to cost it out!


    B from B

    Ladies, Gentlemen,

    I feel the urge to remind the public an amount of energy is expressed in Joule. An amount of energy per unit of time is thus expressed in Joule per second. That is power. Power is energy/time

    1 Joule per second equals 1 watt.
    1000 Joule per second equals 1 kilowatt (1 kW).

    If one has a device with a power of 1 kW and they keep it plugged in during 1 hour, that device will have consumed an amount of energy equal to 1kilowatt*hour = 1kWh = 1000 Watthour = 3600000 Watt*second = 3600000 Joule.

    If 1 million people want to charge their EV battery containing 15 kWh with a 7.5kW charger all together, they will need 15 gigawatthours of energy provided over the course of 2 hours. That requires about 7 nuclear reactors.

    But if these cars were charged with slower 1kW chargers, taking 15 hours to charge them, one (typically 1Gigawatt) nuclear rector will do.

    Calculations using “kilowatts per hour” make no sense.

    Best regards.

Viewing 22 posts - 1 through 22 (of 22 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.