On September 28, Legault officiliazed its subsidy of 7 billion dollars to a Swedish battery company to build a mega-factory in McMasterville. Less than a month later, the government announced that he won't pay the deficits of the transportation services, making the STM afraid that it would mean that they'll have to shutdown the Metro at 11PM. Those events are linked: they express a transportation strategy excessively damaging to the planet and to our wallets. By pushing people to use more cars, governments ensure economic growth, because people working night-shifts are now even more enclined to buy a car, a quite costly decision. The massive investment in NorthVolt are a short distance of Montreal and are really vulnerable with the construction delays and cost increases that will obviously happen. This is an amazing opportunity as NorthVolt is a symbol of canadian imperialism, of the harfmul transportation policies and of greenwashing that actually justify environmental destruction. This is why you are invited to welcome the CEO of NorthVolt North America on Tuesday November 28th at 11AM in front of the Queen-Elizabeth Hotel!
NorthVolt, an attack against nature
The goal of the NorthVolt megafactory is to production 60 gigawatthour of batteries per year with the Lithium NMC technology, NMC standing for Nickel, Manganese, Cobalt. First off this is a risky investment, as the NMC technology is more and more replaced by the LiFePO, a lot less damageable to the environment, by preventing the use of Cobalt and Nickel, two expensive heavy-metals. But let's think this project go trough for a minute. This technology boast a 200 watthour per kilogram, so only bringing the material to the factory involce transporting 300 000 tons per year, but we have to multiply by two to send back the assembled batteries on the market. If we assume a standard load of 40 000 pounds per truck, we are talking about 60 semi-trucks getting in and out of the factory everyday on average. But this is a clear underestimate: it is a calculation from the theoritical capacities of the battery, not taking in account the other material needed and the transportation of the workers themselves. All this transportation will be done in one of the most critical road axis of the region, already clogged with all the suburban workers. Wether merchandises will be offloaded at the Contrecoeur, or Montreal port, this will be a complicated endeavour.
However, this is only the tip of the iceberg of potential environmental problems. NMC battery composition vary greatly, but cobalt typically represent 90 to 300g of the dry weight of a NMC battery per kilo, while nickel represent 300 to 720g per kilo. That is to say that 2 to 9 of the trucks carrying the raw materials will be loaded with cobalt, an heavy metal that tends to accumulate in the body and potentially carcinogenous, while 9 to 26 of the trucks will contain nickel, another potentially carcinogenous metal. Spill and contamination risks are real, while the factory is beside a river from which many cities depends for their water supply. Spills risks are all along the tranportation line, and cobalt is mostly imported from Congo.
Capitalism transports us to misery
The benefits provided by cars don't justify any of those risks. In Quebec, the average car driver invest yearly about 9 500$ in fees: insurance, tire change, fuel, parking, repairs, etc. Even at full price, the STM card cost 97$, making a yearly sum of 1164$, 8 times less than a car. People will say that its because the STM is subsidized, but that the societal costs of car infrastructure are actually higher: snow removal, road safety, road and bridge construction, managing accidents (SAAQ). According to a report by Transport Canada, the social cost associated with car commuting are 15 times higher than transit. Governments pay a heavy price to force us to spend more on transportation.
The car industry lobby has a strong influence, especially since car parts are the Canada's second biggest export, but the governments has its own benefit in those dubious investments in the way of economic growth. Indeed, most of our consumption isn't really a choice: we have to eat and if we don't work, we don't have money to eat. By investing massively in road infrastructure and underfinancing public transit governments can force us to consume, by forcing us into the most expensive mean of transportation. Just like when they build an highway, they increase urban spral, allowing some of us to exchange their high housing cost into a dependency to low cost of fuel, as only 2% of cars are actually electric. This logic feeds itself: the more people come into town by car, the more roads and parkings need to be built, making housing more expensive while noise and pollution make our lives harder and harder.
Electric cars are therefore not a tranportation solution, but a continuation of this same transportation paradigm, and the heavy financing provided by governements leads us to be more and more dependant on cars. This money is just wasted: everyone would prefer walking 5 minutes to work and go out camping by train instead of being stuck in traffic on a Friday night.
Not in my backyard, not in anyone's backyard
The emergence of supposedly green technology is a windfall for investors, as they can obtain substantial state funding. This is why the energy transition, which should above all lead to greater sobriety, is instead leading to massive investment and mine openings: thousands of mines will have to be opened, because in addition to batteries, electric cars use copper, steel, aluminum and so on. It's no wonder that financing is so easy to find in Canada, a tax haven for mining companies. In fact, 75% of the world's mining companies are based in Canada, and are responsible for human rights violations around the globe. In so-called Quebec, this is happening not only in aboriginal communities resisting extractive projects, as in Lac Barrière against a copper and nickel mine, but also in the south of the province, where the Qlaim coalition is now taking action against the invasion of the territory by mining companies. So it's not just a matter of slowing down a dubious capitalist project, but of directly attacking Canadian extractivism, by reducing outlets for their harmful products.