The global embrace of electric cars is being hailed by myriad enthusiasts as yet another kind of digital disruption coming out of Silicon Valley. But if that transformation comes to pass, what it would actually signal is a new era of mega mineral mining and chemical processing — and rising American import dependencies.
Batteries are, after all, not digital but chemical machines. Given the scale of global transportation, using electricity as the primary fuel for personal mobility would mean fabricating gigatons of batteries. And that, in turn, would require mining astounding quantities of minerals and processing a virtual sea of chemicals.