Wednesday, September 02, 2009

An Environmentally Sensitive State

Greg Pollowitz has some bad news for the imaginary hippies who are forever dancing 'round the maypole in his skull:

What might come as a shock to those on the left is that to make "green" batteries for their "green" cars to fit their "green" mandates is that you need to mine for the materials that make the batteries possible. Here's a good piece from Reuters on how the future of U.S. supply of he "rare earth" metals needed for the batteries rests on a project in the enviromentally sensitive state of California. Good luck with that.
Breaking news, treehuggers: Building stuff requires the extraction and processing of natural resources!

Now that you know that neodymium batteries can't simply be willed into existence through Thelemic sex ritual, I bet you feel pretty stupid for complaining about drilling for oil in ANWR, and whining about how much water it takes to process tar sands, and agitating for mine safety and pollution prevention. The fact that consumption has consequences clearly demonstrates that consequences don't matter, so you doomstruck Chicken Littles had better cast aside your irrational optimism, and wake up to the cold hard reality of inexhaustible oil and limitless growth.

You'd think that Pollowitz would be going out on a limb here, given that his "argument" is stupid to the point of incoherence. But by invoking the dismay of a hopelessly naive left, and putting "green" in scare quotes, and referring knowingly to the "the enviromentally sensitive state of California" as though the phrase actually meant something, he transports his readers into a realm where, to paraphrase Flann O'Brien, anything can be said and it will be true and will have to be believed.

The Reuters article is about an enormous open-pit mine at Mountain Pass, CA, right off Interstate 15 in the Mojave desert. It closed in 2002, after running for almost 60 years, and reopened in 2007, thanks to increasing demand for rare earths. It's now gearing up to expand production dramatically.

The site did, in fact, cause a number of environmental problems during its first few decades of operation, though the Reuters article all but ignores this. And in a perfect world, we'd shift to cleaner technologies without reopening it. But what Pollowitz neglects to mention -- either because he doesn't know about it, or assumes no one else will -- is that this "project" has already won approval from all the relevant California regulatory agencies, for better or worse. Its EIR was approved back in 2004, for fuck's sake. "Good luck with that," indeed.

But so what? All this proves is that California's progress-hatin' enviro-nazis are a bunch of frauds, and have no moral standing to oppose drilling for oil in national parks, or staking mining claims on the Arctic seabed.

Incidentally, the CEO of Molycorp, which runs Mountain Pass, notes that rare earths are vital to missile-guidance systems.

Where's your Peaceable Kingdom now, you dirt-worshipping hypocrites?

(Photo by Greg Vojtko.)


Cheryl Rofer said...

It's possible to do these things in environmentally responsible ways.

Sillamäe was a uranium- and rare-earth-processing plant in Soviet Estonia. They made rather a mess, which has been cleaned up in a ten-year project. The processes in the plant have also been upgraded so that there is no effluent, but I can't find links to that.

Here's what we were thinking when the project started. That's pretty much the way it turned out.

Oh, and that tree I'm using as an avatar? It's in south Estonia.

Phila said...

It's possible to do these things in environmentally responsible ways.

Sure. And my understanding is that they had to clean Mountain Pass up a lot, and upgrade it a lot, to get the permits.

But beyond that, the idea that "the left" is going to sour on cleantech because it requires reopening and upgrading a 60-year-old rare earth mine is really not very realistic.

Next week, Pollowitz will probably learn that bicycles are made of metal, and wonder how anyone who rides them can dare to complain about SUVs.

Phila said...

Nice avatar, by the way!

Reminds me that I need to change mine....

Jazzbumpa said...

Geeze. Come for the enviro-rant, stay for the vocabulary enrichment.

Or is it uranium that gets enriched?

Anyway, if neodymium batteries can't simply be willed into existence through Thelemic sex ritual, then fuck it, I say.

Reminds me that I need to change mine....

Well if you're thinking green, remember the Estonian trees and trombone playing lizard are already spoken for.

JzB the ritualistically Thelmic trombonist

donmateo said...

Thanks for linking to the story about Mountain Pass and its checkered past. I live in the Mojave Preserve, and the mine (and Interstate 15) break the continuity between Clark Mountain and the rest of the park.

I had heard about some of the past pollution problems and it was great to learn about their extent (and the efforts to turn things around).

I daresay it would be much harder for us to conduct our enviro-nazi research into the hugability of desert trees without our rare earth laden computers and fluorescent light bulbs.

Though, while driving through the pass, I do often think, "aw hell, let's just close the Preserve and reopen ALL the mines... future here we come!" so, you know, maybe Pollowitz is on to something.

grouchomarxist said...

One thing's for certain: the Right's supply of straw men is well-nigh inexhaustible.