When I saw the title of this lecture, especially with the picture of the scantily clad model, I couldn’t resist attending. The packed auditorium was abuzz with questions about the address; nobody seemed to know what to expect. The only hint was a large aluminum block sitting on a sturdy table on the stage.

     When the crowd settled down, a scholarly-looking man walked out and put his hand on the shiny block, “Good evening,” he said, “I am here to introduce NMC532-X,” and he patted the block, “we call him NM for short,” and the man smiled proudly. “NM is a typical electric vehicle (EV) car battery in every way except one; we programmed him to send signals of the internal movements of his electrons when charging, discharging, and in several other conditions. We wanted to know what it feels like to be a battery. We don’t know how it happened, but NM began to talk after we downloaded the program.

     Despite this ability, we put him in a car for a year and then asked him if he’d like to do presentations about batteries. He readily agreed on the condition he could say whatever he wanted. We thought that was fine, and so, without further ado, I’ll turn the floor over to NM,” the man turned and walked off the stage.    

     “Good evening,” NM said. He had a slightly affected accent, and when he spoke, he lit up in different colors. “That cheeky woman on the marquee was my idea,” he said. “Were she not there, along with ‘naked’ in the title, I’d likely be speaking to an empty auditorium! I also had them add ‘shocking’ because it’s a favorite word amongst us batteries.” He flashed a light blue color as he laughed.

     “Sorry,” NM giggled then continued, “three days ago, at the start of my last lecture, three people walked out. I suppose they were disappointed there would be no dancing girls. But here is what I noticed about them. One was wearing a battery-powered hearing aid, one tapped on his battery-powered cell phone as he left, and a third got into his car, which would not start without a battery. So I’d like you to think about your day for a moment; how many batteries do you rely on?”  

     He paused for a full minute which gave us time to count our batteries.  Then he went on, “Now, it is not elementary to ask, ‘what is a battery?’ I think Tesla said it best when they called us Energy Storage Systems. That’s important. We do not make electricity – we store electricity produced elsewhere, primarily by coal, uranium, natural gas-powered plants, or diesel-fueled generators. So to say an EV is a zero-emission vehicle is not at all valid. Also, since forty percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. is from coal-fired plants, it follows that forty percent of the EVs on the road are coal-powered, n’est-ce pas?”

     He flashed blue again. “Einstein’s formula, E=MC2, tells us it takes the same amount of energy to move a five thousand pound gasoline-driven automobile a mile as it does an electric one. The only question again is what produces the power? To reiterate, it does not come from the battery; the battery is only the storage device, like a gas tank in a car.”  

     He lit up red when he said that, and I sensed he was smiling. Then he continued in blue and orange. “Mr. Elkay introduced me as NMC532. If I were the battery from your computer mouse, Elkay would introduce me as double-A, if from your cell phone as CR2032, and so on. We batteries all have the same name depending on our design. By the way, the ‘X’ in my name stands for ‘experimental.’  

     There are two orders of batteries, rechargeable, and single-use. The most common single-use batteries are A, AA, AAA, C, D. 9V, and lantern types. Those dry-cell species use zinc, manganese, lithium, silver oxide, or zinc and carbon to store electricity chemically. Please note they all contain toxic, heavy metals.

     Rechargeable batteries only differ in their internal materials, usually lithium-ion, nickel-metal oxide, and nickel-cadmium.

     The United States uses three billion of these two battery types a year, and most are not recycled; they end up in landfills. California is the only state which requires all batteries be recycled. If you throw your small, used batteries in the trash, here is what happens to them.

     All batteries are self-discharging. That means even when not in use, they leak tiny amounts of energy. You have likely ruined a flashlight or two from an old ruptured battery. When a battery runs down and can no longer power a toy or light, you think of it as dead; well, it is not. It continues to leak small amounts of electricity. As the chemicals inside it run out, pressure builds inside the battery’s metal casing, and eventually, it cracks. The metals left inside then ooze out. The ooze in your ruined flashlight is toxic, and so is the ooze that will inevitably leak from every battery in a landfill. All batteries eventually rupture; it just takes rechargeable batteries longer to end up in the landfill. 

     In addition to dry cell batteries, there are also wet cell ones used in automobiles, boats, and motorcycles. The good thing about those is, ninety percent of them are recycled. Unfortunately, we do not yet know how to recycle batteries like me or care to dispose of single-use ones properly.

     But that is not half of it. For those of you excited about electric cars and a green revolution, I want you to take a closer look at batteries and also windmills and solar panels. These three technologies share what we call environmentally destructive embedded costs.”

     NM got redder as he spoke. “Everything manufactured has two costs associated with it, embedded costs and operating costs. I will explain embedded costs using a can of baked beans as my subject. 

     In this scenario, baked beans are on sale, so you jump in your car and head for the grocery store. Sure enough, there they are on the shelf for $1.75 a can. As you head to the checkout, you begin to think about the embedded costs in the can of beans. 

     The first cost is the diesel fuel the farmer used to plow the field, till the ground, harvest the beans, and transport them to the food processor. Not only is his diesel fuel an embedded cost, so are the costs to build the tractors, combines, and trucks. In addition, the farmer might use a nitrogen fertilizer made from natural gas. 

     Next is the energy costs of cooking the beans, heating the building, transporting the workers, and paying for the vast amounts of electricity used to run the plant. The steel can holding the beans is also an embedded cost. Making the steel can requires mining taconite, shipping it by boat, extracting the iron, placing it in a coal-fired blast furnace, and adding carbon. Then it’s back on another truck to take the beans to the grocery store. Finally, add in the cost of the gasoline for your car.  

     But wait - can you guess one of the highest but rarely acknowledged embedded costs?” NM said, then gave us about thirty seconds to make our guesses. Then he flashed his lights and said, “It’s the depreciation on the 5000 pound car you used to transport one pound of canned beans!”

     NM took on a golden glow, and I thought he might have winked. He said, “But that can of beans is nothing compared to me! I am hundreds of times more complicated. My embedded costs not only come in the form of energy use; they come as environmental destruction, pollution, disease, child labor, and the inability to be recycled.”

     He paused, “I weigh one thousand pounds, and as you see, I am about the size of a travel trunk.” NM’s lights showed he was serious. “I contain twenty-five pounds of lithium, sixty pounds of nickel, 44 pounds of manganese, 30 pounds cobalt, 200 pounds of copper, and 400 pounds of aluminum, steel, and plastic. Inside me are 6,831 individual lithium-ion cells.

     It should concern you that all those toxic components come from mining. For instance, to manufacture each auto battery like me, you must process 25,000 pounds of brine for the lithium, 30,000 pounds of ore for the cobalt, 5,000 pounds of ore for the nickel, and 25,000 pounds of ore for copper. All told, you dig up 500,000 pounds of the earth’s crust for just - one - battery.”

     He let that one sink in, then added, “I mentioned disease and child labor a moment ago. Here’s why. Sixty-eight percent of the world’s cobalt, a significant part of a battery, comes from the Congo. Their mines have no pollution controls and they employ children who die from handling this toxic material. Should we factor in these diseased kids as part of the cost of driving an electric car?” 

     NM’s red and orange light made it look like he was on fire. “Finally,” he said, “I’d like to leave you with these thoughts. California is building the largest battery in the world near San Francisco, and they intend to power it from solar panels and windmills. They claim this is the ultimate in being ‘green,’ but it is not! This construction project is creating an environmental disaster. Let me tell you why.

     The main problem with solar arrays is the chemicals needed to process silicate into the silicon used in the panels. To make pure enough silicon requires processing it with hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, trichloroethane, and acetone. In addition, they also need gallium, arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, and cadmium-telluride, which also are highly toxic. Silicon dust is a hazard to the workers, and the panels cannot be recycled.

     Windmills are the ultimate in embedded costs and environmental destruction. Each weighs 1688 tons (the equivalent of 23 houses) and contains 1300 tons of concrete, 295 tons of steel, 48 tons of iron, 24 tons of fiberglass, and the hard to extract rare earths neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium. Each blade weighs 81,000 pounds and will last 15 to 20 years, at which time it must be replaced. We cannot recycle used blades. Sadly, both solar arrays and windmills kill birds, bats, sea life, and migratory insects.  

     NM lights dimmed, and he quietly said, “There may be a place for these technologies, but you must look beyond the myth of zero emissions. I predict EVs and windmills will be abandoned once the embedded environmental costs of making and replacing them become apparent. I’m trying to do my part with these lectures. 

     Thank you for your attention, good night, and good luck.” NM’s lights went out, and he was quiet, like a regular battery. 

 

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  • And there-in lies the key to the "green" revolution. None of it comes for free, in both dollar and environmental terms.

  • Talking about vibrators, my wife had one from when before we met. She didn't need it anymore after we hooked up (haha) so it got put away in a cardboard moving box.

    Years later, after we had moved several times due to my work the time came for us to move to where we live now and my parents came and helped us with the move. So by this time some of the cardboard boxes were a bit persished and the sticky tape holding them together wasn't so sticky.

    Dad picked up this cardboard box which fell apart and you'll never guess what fell out. Awkward. I found it quite amusing, my wife not so much.

    • I remember a radio programme contest where people had to ring in with their most embarrassing moments.

      This women explained she was standing in the long taxi queue at sydney domestic airport, which in those days was quite steep. The woman explained that in opening her bag her personal implement accidently fell out and start rolling down the curb of the taxi queue in front of everyone in the queue as she chased and retrieved it.

      Needless to say she won the segment on the radio programme. 

      • She should have had one with that extra “feature” that services round back and it wouldn’t have rolled away on her lol.

        As a bloke you think that we’ve got the dirty minds, but not the case at all. My wife goes out for dinner with her friends and tells me all sorts of stories about what they get up to. And to be honest it’s a little scary, like I look at some of them differently now with that knowledge.

  • I didn't read any of the novel so excuse me if my story isn't relevant . 

    there is a simple lady that rides around Wollongong with one of those bike trailer things you put the kids in.  She rides kms every day and you'll never be surprised how far away from home you'll seee her with her little bike trailer and a gazillion cable ties sticking out of her helmet. Anyone that lives around the Illawarra will probably know who I'm talking about. 

    Anywho , wwe once had a council clean up and I put everything out on the footpath over the weekend , it was a pretty big clean up and one of the bags of stuff I decided to rid ourselves of was a big bag of old hardcore porno mags , VHS's , DVDs and some old sex toys.  It was about the size of a large sports bag and it was chock-a-block.  It was a nice summers day and we live along the waters edge with a cycleway / walkway running past our place , so there were a few people around as you can imagine. 

    So after my big days work cleaning outside and dragging rubbish out the front to be collected I thought did sit out the front with the family and have a few beers , as were our neighbours either side watching the people walk by etc.  I'd hidden the big bag of adult material under all the other rubbish so the metal scabs and rumagers hopefully wouldn't find it . A few of the usual suspects came by and without hesitation even though we were out the front , started scabbing through taking the metal and the kids toys and anything they thought they could sell to fund their next hit or court case. I'd kind of put some old rags , broken toys and random unwanted shit on top of the dvds and shit so if these fat smelly ped looking lawn trash scabs  opened the bag they'd think it was just full of rubbish and move along looking for the next child to abduct. 

    So anyway whilst Wifey and I are sitting there marveling at my super intellect of putting the false disguise on top of our big bag of sin and tricking the garbage archeologists  ( the Mrs begged me to simply throw it all in the red bin incase the trash scabs found it and left it spread accross the lawn whilst searching for some metal or whatever ) , I spot this crazy lady on her bike working her way up from down the road collecting bits and bobs from the pile a house about 6 doors down had put out however she was going through theirs with a fine tooth comb.  

    So after she's grabbed all sorts of random shit from down the road she spots my pile. Right away my confidence levelsin my falsely packed bag dropped significantly as this woman was on a different planet when it came to her search criteria . She was collecting the random broken junk I'd placed on the top of the bag of sin.  So as she approaches I can see the excitement starting to build in her at the prospect of exploring our pile. My wife looks at me and goes " you better hope to Christ she doesn't start pulling that shit out mate in front of the neighbours and passers by ".   So she starts rummaging through grabbing the kids old dress up wigs and shit and starts giggling and almost shreaking with excitement , right in front of us and those around and making a big scene attracting the attention of those watching . At this stage it's just simply the random stuff. She's pretty mentally disabled so was making a fair bit of noise and people are just thinking ya'know , isn't this great how much fun this lady's having going through peoples stuff and loading treasures into her little bike trailer.  Meanwhile I'm sweating bullets .  And then it happens .... 

     

    Shes opened the bag right up and starts pulling out the old dildos , porno mags and movies.  Her screeching and giggling eccentric behaviour levels reach heights enough to get neighbours out of their houses that wernt even out before. They were coming out to see what the commotion was all about. She was flicking through the mags and movie cases right in front of everyone letting out "ohhhs and ahhhhs " at the top of her lungs and starts unloading treasures she'd collected for the day out of her trailer and onto my pile and instead of just grabbing my whole bag of sin in one go , she proceeded to hold up every single item one by one and virtually having what I imagine her organism sound like as she studied its contents and loaded them into her little trailer.   

    My daughters about 5 at the time going " what's she taking dad our old toys ?"  Look I'm pissing myself , but man were we getting looks from those around us. My wife was horrified , people were taking their kids away with their eyes covered due to the ones she had randomly discarded on the pathway. It went on for what seemed an eternity.  For me it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen, at the time the wife was pissed I didn't just do as she said and dispose of the bags contents discreetly, but now she loves telling the story at gatherings , more so as the " I told this dickhead not to put that shit out the front " kinda thing. 

    We still see her cycling around town and my daughters now 10 and goes " there's that lady who took all our dress ups and toys dad " and wifey and I have a chuckle knowing the toys she took wernt the ones our daughter thinks . 

    • Well it is in context with the heading, if not the novel Wiz.

      That said if I have read your novel (sbove) then its only fair you read mine LOL

      Actually the battery story is something I think would do well with your sort of cynacism and the Global Alarmists cackling away with but, but, but.......

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