How clean energy actually destroys the environment and fuels abuse

The global drive to replace fossil fuels with climate-friendly energy alternatives has fueled demand for rare earth minerals used in electric vehicle batteries and wind turbines, with major US companies importing rare earths from Asia. In Myanmar, the process of extracting these rare earths has caused environmental damage and human rights violations, according to an Associated Press investigation.

Chinese companies profited from the explosion of the rare earth industry until the government in 2012 tightened regulations on domestic mining, both to prevent mine deforestation and to maintain Chinese reserves for help it to remain competitive against the United States, the investigation, dated August 9, found. In response, companies have moved to mines in neighboring Myanmar, where government-backed militant groups have enabled them to disrupt local economies and fuel global supply chains for eager Western buyers.

“The money fueling these abuses ultimately comes from rapidly growing global demand for these minerals, driven by the scaling up of green energy technologies,” said Clare Hammond, senior researcher at Global Witness. , to the P.

Myanmar jungle is now pocketed by an estimated 2,700 mines that have poisoned the country’s rivers, driven out endangered species and destroyed land-based jobs, the AP found. Militant groups in Myanmar have seized land from villagers and proceeds from rare earth exports are funneled to Myanmar’s junta government which is under international investigation for human rights abuses.

“It reminds me of European colonial attitudes towards Africa,” a Chinese industry analyst told the AP. “You simply cannot rely on Third World-style mining practices in a dictatorship like Myanmar. It’s not sustainable. » (RELATED: THE NEW SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA: Europe sees Africa’s vast gas reserves as an alternative to Russia)

General Motors, Tesla, Apple, Mercedes and Volkswagen are just some of 78 companies sourcing rare earths from Myanmar, the AP reported. Volkswagen told the AP it exercised due diligence in making sourcing decisions, and Mercedes said it would contact suppliers for details.

GM told the AP it plans to switch to U.S.-based suppliers, noting it “understands the risks” of sourcing rare earths overseas, and that Apple is not aware of any rare earths from Myanmar, a spokesperson told the Daily Caller News. Foundation. However, experts told the AP that unenforced or unclear regulations mean shoppers cannot be certain of a product’s origin.

“Nothing exists on the Chinese supply chain audit,” Nabeel Mancheri, secretary general of the Rare Earth Industry Association, told the AP. “The downstream players just rely on the certificate they get from Chinese companies.”

Tesla cars sit at charging stations in Yermo, California on May 14, 2022. (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)

The United States does not have a federal regulatory system for rare earths, unlike “conflict minerals” whose supply lines are often controlled by militant groups, according to the AP. Companies have to audit their supply chains independently and many of them neglect environmental, social and governance (ESG) requirements.

Global demand for rare earths could explode by up to 700% by 2040, according at the International Energy Agency, as governments increasingly adopt policies aimed at combating climate change. Senate Democrats passed the Cut Inflation Act on Aug. 7, spending billions to subsidize electric vehicles that could fuel additional demand.

The State Department, the White House and the Chinese Embassy did not respond to requests from the DCNF.

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