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Amnesty International lays environmental blame at battery industry's feet

In addition to increased pollution due to battery cell production, the report faults the battery industry for not doing enough to prevent human rights violations.

It's easy to think of battery production as a neat and tidy process, but the further you dig, the dirtier it gets.

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Just because a vehicle doesn't have a tailpipe, that doesn't mean it doesn't have a negative impact on the environment. Or, at least that's the case that Amnesty International (AI) is making against the production of EV batteries and motors, according to a report by Reuters published Wednesday.

AI's case states that the production of battery cells is hugely energy intensive, and because many cells are manufactured in places like China, Japan or South Korea -- where power is generated predominantly via coal or other fossil fuels -- it may be doing more harm than good.

Things don't appear to get any rosier when you begin to look farther upstream either. Many of the areas that are rich in the rare-earth minerals necessary for battery and motor production are located in countries with a high degree of civil unrest and weak human rights protections.

As with the diamond industry, the extraction and sale of minerals like cobalt is allegedly being used to fund civil wars, and it's not uncommon for less-reputable mining firms to employ child labor. To try and curb this, the London Metal Exchange has proposed banning the sale of "conflict cobalt," but it's unclear how much effect this would have.

Over a dozen nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have opposed the London Metal Exchange's plan, instead favoring a hands-on approach with the mining firms that more actively educates and incentivizes them to comply with human rights statutes.