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The viral montage resurfaces regularly on social networks. And wants to emphasize that an electric car is less clean or “green” than a thermal car. Two photos would show, according to their caption, first, “a freshly completed pipeline”, illustrated by a green path in the heart of a forest. Below, a second photo shows a landscape ravaged by a mine, there is indicated “a lithium mine for your Tesla”, lithium being an essential metal used in the batteries of electric cars, but also computers or mobile phones.
A damning finding? Not so sure, because by performing a reverse image search, it is certain that one of the photos does not match its caption (we did not find an occurrence for the other photo).
Thus, what is presented as a lithium mine is, according to a reverse image search, a copper mine in the United States, operated by the Kennecott company, belonging to the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto. The mine is located on the Bingham Canyon site in the Salt Lake City region of Utah. The image was spotted on the Viator website, apartment at TripAdvisor, and offering online sightseeing tours. It is “one of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world,” boasts Viator.
By comparing the images on the Rio Tinto website, one can recognize the presence of the Oquirrh Mountains in the background. On the Viator site, there is also the huge salt lake, the Great Salt Lake, which gave its name to the city, and is located behind the mountains (which can be checked on Google Maps).
Open since 1903, this mine mainly exploits copper, and also silver and gold. Clarification: copper, which is a conductor of heat and electricity, is also used in the manufacture of electric vehicles as well as thermal ones. Open-pit lithium mines do exist: it is possible to see that of Arcadia, in Zimbabwe, certainly less impressive than that of Utah, on the media Young Africa.
“The clean vehicle does not exist”
The problem of raw material resources is frequently put forward against the development of electric vehicles, a reality that is not ignored by those who defend it. “The clean vehicle does not exist”, explained to us last June Pierre Lefaivsle, transport manager of the Climate Action Network. This group of associations defends electromobility to limit greenhouse gas emissions, under certain conditions. Like reducing the size of the car fleet, guaranteeing the sustainable and environmental aspect of the sectors from design to recycling or ensuring the transparency of the extraction sectors.
However, “an electric vehicle pollutes three to five times less than a thermal vehicle”, also recalled Pierre Lefaivsle. To affirm this, he relies on the life cycle analysis tool (from production to the energy needed to run the vehicle) developed by the Transport and Environment association and which makes it possible to compare CO2 emissions between thermal and electric vehicles. For example, even in Poland, which has the most polluting electricity supply in the EU, electric vehicles emit 22% less CO2 than gasoline-powered cars, the association said in 2021. Transport and environment.
However, reducing CO2 emissions, a greenhouse gas generated by human activity and responsible for this disruption – along with methane, is essential. In the world, the transport sector is the second sector emitting CO2, it is the first in France, according to the 2021 edition of the key climate figures for France, Europe and the worldpublished by the Data and Statistical Studies Department of the Ministry of Ecological Transition.