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Jack Lifton  

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  • Why The Electric Vehicle House Of Cards Must Fall [View article]

    You, of course, are right. And calling in to play "Catch 22' is very appropriate. Environmentalism, the religion, seeks perfection, so whenever you have reached a goal the bar is simply reset higher. There's no baseline of the most good for the most people with the economic reality we have.

    There's also something insidious going on here. In ancient Rome taxes were levied on the productive classes to maintain the army and to feed the mob. The luxury lifestyle of the ruling elite was considered a perk of power. I've become more and more amazed during my lifetime as I've watched so-called pundits cry out against America as the New Rome for being imperialist in its foreign policy, while in fact we have become the new Rome by levying taxes on the productive to maintain the perks of the ruling elite, feed the mob, and support the Army.

    The driving fantasy of "climate change" is the same as those who wish to preserve each and every species no matter what the cost to our standard of living. It is that we live in an ideal world, or can still revert to that idealized world, that evil science and technology are destroying. It is Luddism pure and simple.

    The dumbing down of western education is the culprit here along with the rise of a righteous liberalism which hates non-believers. Oh, I forgot, that's now called the new progressiveness.

    Economic gravity is surely straining Atlas. He'll shrug soon.I think so anyway.

    Jack Lifton
    Jan 8, 2012. 10:41 AM | 24 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Electric Vehicles: Front Loading The Filth [View article]
    I have now arrived in Germany where I will be speaking about the rare earths critical to hybrids, EVs, and most of all, IC, powered cars and trucks to the SAE on Thrusday in Stuttgart. You are of course entirely right when you do an overall toxicity audit of the residues produced from the manufacturing and operation of motor cars.

    I admit that the front end audit is horrifying overall and the back end though not as bad is also an eye opener. What is the impact of the average useful life of the vehicle on the back end numbers? Note that batteries are not only not reconditioned they are also disposed of (wasted again)and replaced, so that there is another load of front end contamination required to "extend" the life of the vehicle.

    In the Soviet Union and its dependencies the automobiles and trucks available were of uniform design from year to year and were so costly in terms of average income that they were run into the ground, literally. Sheet metal repairs were not considered important and there was no infrastructure to support any cosmetic repair industry. The joke is that although these vehicles were spewing raw gasoline, oil, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide they lasted for decades. I remember well that a Romanian Dacia pickup truck was called a Chinese limousine, because it could carry 3 Chinese in the cab and six in the pickup box. The pollution per capita was thus less in use than the most fuel efficient western glamorous looking machine. Dacia exported 80 such limos a day to China.

    If we keep up this mindless enthusiasm for the environmental problem of the moment with subsequent legislation making whatever it is into a permanent resource drain while ignoring all of the consequences such as the ones you enumerate here then you're right we will simply run out of technology metal and mineral resources because we will use up our ability to generate enough capital to keep this avalanche of waste creation going.

    How many of the commenters are multi-car owners that utilize their cars to carry one person at a time on multiple shopping trips to decide which redundant luxury item to buy.

    The hypocrisy is no longer even noticed.
    Oct 9, 2012. 12:29 PM | 20 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Are EV Dreams Going Up In Smoke? [View article]

    The key word here is "validate" A technology. In my working life in high-tech, 51 years, I have never seen such a common-senseless approach to a technology. I cannot any longer understand why anyone would buy anything at all from a company like Yuasa/Boeing that says, essentially, "we don't know what happened on the 787, but we have fixed it." Isn't it obvious that it's the manufacturing technology that is the problem. Li-ion battery development has reached a plateau or perhaps a brick wall. No one is born to be a battery engineer or an electrochemist. We cannot create experts who master these technologies by simply throwing money at promoters, or, worse, at scientists with little knowledge of business, economics, or politics. A scientists's only goal is to increase knowledge, but in our society we value money and its accumulation more than knowledge, so we get promoters in charge not scientists and engineers.
    I will fly on a 787 using a new improved Yuasa li-ion battery only when the CEOs of both Yuasa and Boeing are on the same flight. Boeing should buy simple, reliable, Duracell flashlight batteries by the ton, TEST EACH ONE, and replace them after each flight.
    I visualize Yuasa and Boeing engineers with screw drivers on each flight while company executives and so-called regulators sit in their plush safe offices and fret about their jobs and their share prices. Is that any way to run an airline( automotive company)??
    Mar 28, 2013. 06:46 PM | 19 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • A123 vs. BYD and Other Irrational Battery Investments [View article]
    Once again John Petersen has shed light on the contradiction between the reality of scientific progress and politicized science.

    The Wall Street casino plays musical chairs. Individuals bet against each other to see who has the greatest staying power in the flavor of the moment contest while companies formed from illusions are born and vanish spending their IPO money on raising more money through pronouncements clothed as announcements.

    In the mean time institutional investors mostly ponder getting in and out as fast as possible and hoping to catch the bubble as early as possible.

    We use safe reliable and cheap incandescent lamps to read about how "environmentally" correct expensive short-lived fluorescent lamps will soon make our lives "better." We start our safe reliable long lived internal combustion engine (fueled with fossil fuel) powered cars with safe reliable cheap lead-acid batteries and listen on the car radios to stories of how expensive lithium-ion batteries of unknown reliability, durability, or cycle life are going to make our lives "better." We listen to foolish celebrity scientists as well as ignorant celebrity singers and actors telling us how mining is evil while they live private lives of profligate excessive use of energy produced by burning huge quantities, as much as any ten or a hundred of us mere ordinary folk use, of the fossil fuels they condemn while they waste huge quantities of the mined metals the production of which they condemn.

    The rare earth mining space has become now just like the lithium-ion battery space, so before any of you rush out to buy shares of rare earth mining stocks please read my "The Rare Earth Crisis of 2009," which you can access through It's free, and I hope it will put the rare earth industry in perspective for you as John Petersen has put the lithium-ion battery space in perspective.
    Oct 25, 2009. 08:21 AM | 18 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Economists Ring Hollow on Energy [View article]
    Mr. Macdonald,

    You couldn't be more correct. I make my living by advising institutional investors that are doing due diligence on metals mining ventures. For several years now I have been warning them that the it is not the quantity of these materials in the earth's crust that matters but it is rather the production rate of them and that rate's cost in and dependence upon available energy that matters.

    I think that the ignorance of the financial, political, and sadly even of the industrial community in what you aptly term the "infrastructure- and-engineering" aspect of our society is staggering.

    Your graph demonstrates that the cost of energy and its availability are reaching the point where choices will have to be made. Do we, for example, produce more copper, or light more homes? The idea that the earth;'s resources are infinite and that our capacities for engineering, creating skills, and for deployment of capital are infinite is worse than silly.

    For the statist economists in Washington and elsewhere the moment of truth is at hand. The rate of increase of energy production at a pace where economic growth can keep energy costs under control has ended.

    The scramble for alternative energy sources is a politically-driven, agenda-riven, sham; it is an attempt to replace what is necessary with what is nice, and any non-politician businessman will tell you that this is a prescription for a disaster, the lemination of economic growth.

    Perhaps the current President's cabinet is symbollic of economic ignorance with its complete lack of any members with practical non-government al experience in engineering or infrastructure.

    By the way, the world simply does not have the energy production capability, now or ever, to produce sufficient metals, other than iron, economically enough so that everyone will attain to the living standard of Joe the Plumber.

    Dream over. Nightmare on the way.
    Jul 4, 2010. 10:17 AM | 17 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Lithium-Ion Batteries Were A Bust, But Advanced Lead-Acid Batteries Are Booming [View article]

    Once more your succinctness has silenced the braying of the jackass knee-jerk market technicians.

    I note three of your bullet points, which I think have universal applicability in our age of over-the-top hype for share price boosting:

    -Expected improvements in energy density and battery performance proved elusive as unicorns;
    -Expected economies of scale couldn't be achieved in a mature industry with highly refined manufacturing methods, equipment and supply chains; and
    -Profit margins were savaged as manufacturers tried to meet unreasonable price expectations of automakers and match unreasonably optimistic price quotes from competitors.

    Please replace "expected' with "projected," and eliminate the words "energy density and battery" in the first bullet point above and you have a universal descriptive sequence for solar and wind power developments also.

    Keep up the good work

    Dec 14, 2012. 09:23 AM | 16 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Plug-in Vehicle Subsidies: Taxing Peter to Buy Paul's New Car [View article]

    A few thoughts:

    Since first-adopters are frequently high-net worth individuals, it seems to me that the wage-slaves are being taxed to support an alternate life style for the coupon-clippers. I honestly think this subsidy is not just a feel-good TAX but a slap in the face to the little guy by a central government increasingly isolated from the daily economic life of the majority of Americans. I wonder if the tea-party hasn't just begun.
    Note please that the elected officials of the US government have completely subsidized protection from the real world as soon as they have been re-elected just once. After that their incumbency provides security of lifestyle that other public-worker union members can only dream about.
    When was the last time Congress reduced its salaries or agreed to a MEDICAL, pension and benefit plan no better than the average American worker? Perhaps it is time for an up-or-down vote on Congressional salaries and perks, so we can see if any of them at all deserve re-election.
    By the way how can so many Congresspersons afford to live in both their home districts and in Washington, DC, one of the most expensive areas in the country?
    The ancient Roman Senate had a requirement for membership of a net worth of 1,000,000 sesterces, which today would be about $3,000,000. What's the requirement now when just John Kerry's worth divided by 100 senators is still more than $7,000,000/each? What I'm saying is that the average "census" of an American Senator must be 10 times that of an ancient Roman one!

    We seem to already have a plutocracy legislating for itself with the sole purpose of maintaining power.

    Is this the basis of good government?
    Jan 19, 2011. 09:43 AM | 15 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Lead-Carbon Batteries Will Deflate the Li-ion Bubble [View article]

    One would think in a rational world or, at least, in one governed by logic that your article would and could not have a sequel, but to the investment community any risk of success, or failure, is worth betting upon. The bigger the risk the greater the bet and the more the volatility.

    The cult of lithium has now adopted the mantra: Billions for marginal increases not one cent for critical materials

    So, having waxed philosophical above, let me again say that

    There is no way to determine WHEN or IF scientific research will provide the desired outcome of an economical, mass producible , and safe technology. Those very few of us who choose to follow scientific research as a profession are well aware of this. Journalists, politicians, and financiers who are ignorant of science and technology prey upon the gullible for their attention, votes, or money by selling dreams of knowledge, power, and wealth.

    As your article so ably points out: We can electrify our motor vehicles right now, economically, with existing technology and with no practical limit on the natural resources that would be required. Since this is do-able and could be done relatively rapidly the fact that it is not being done means that the issue of the electrification of cars is not driven by economics it is political.

    The politicians know that you are right, but their agenda is driven not by economics but by their need to retain personal power. Boatloads of money will be used up to make marginal increases in battery efficiency and the priests and politicians of the cult of lithium will chant "weight" and "power" endlessly while so much capital is wasted that it can never be recovered. But that's the story of the modern western world's approach to technology. I suspect (I actually know) that your articles are read with great interest in China where the practical is preferred to the theoretical.

    Aug 2, 2009. 10:16 AM | 15 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The Chinese Yuan, Rare Earths and the Selection of Critical Mining Projects [View article]
    America's political class seems to follow a relative morality; it takes a vote each time on whether something is right or wrong or good or bad for the USA. China's leaders believe that what's good for China is what increases its standard of living and/or quality of life. American hypocrites say that the Chinese do not question whether or not the end justifies the means.
    The biggest mistake one can make is to judge Chinese actions by American beliefs and adjudge Chinese actions as wrong or immoral. We are witnessing and are mostly unwilling participants in the battle for the survival of the fittest 21st century economies just when we were told that we had reached "the end of history."
    Jan 19, 2011. 05:50 AM | 14 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Is Lithium-ion a Dead-End Electric Drive Technology? [View article]

    I note that you show a sodium-sulfur battery chemistry as one of the high energy density storage technologies to watch. While you do that please adjust your rear-view mirror. I worked on that chemistry at Ford Scientific Labs (Ford Motor Company's "Sci-Lab") in 1965-66. The problem then was a 600 pound container of molten salts (chemical compounds) of sodium and sulfur that was profoundly unstable to moisture. The group tried lithium and potassium also, but both were too costly and their containment chemistries were more difficult than those of sodium-sulfur systems.
    I would say that today's infrastructure chemistry and engineering is much improved over that of 1965 but I still would never consider such a system for a passenger carrying personal use vehicle-its too dangerous in a collision that could cause a rupture. However such technologies are well suited to electric train or even ship propulsion where people are paid as safety engineers.
    You have got me wondering why the DoE is pouring billions into lithium-ion battery manufacturing facilities the products of which by Secretary Chu's own definitions do not measure up. I assume that it is believed in clueless Washington that the billions are a pre-emptory investment in factories that can quickly be changed over to manufacture the next best technology of a future moment. In the meantime, of course, the new jobs (IN CONSTRUCTION) are votes for the party that paid exorbitantly for them with taxpayer largesse.
    Secretary Chu will be out of office in January 2013 or January 2016, so he will not be held accountable while in office for mistakes or for wasting public money. Therefore he can really say anything he likes without fear of immediate retribution. Yet he seems to want history to judge him well. Isn't it interesting that he has chosen to tell the truth early on?
    Dec 14, 2010. 08:38 AM | 13 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Rapid Transition to Grid Enabled Vehicles Not Possible or Desirable [View article]

    To paraphrase John Milton "Logical analysis is a dangerous thing, drink deep or drink naught of the logical spring"

    I want everyone to print the following paragraph by you and read and understand it:

    "Batteries are commodities, as are all of the raw materials that are used to make the batteries, motors and other components required for a GEV. The roadmap assumes away critical issues of raw materials availability by proving that the elements exist in nature and then ignoring fundamental natural resource development issues like location, economics, environmental impacts and the difference between known mineral resources and developed mineral reserves. It also assumes that recycling issues will resolve themselves despite the fact that the only class of ARRA battery manufacturing grants that went begging was battery recycling."

    As usual you have zeroed in on the two key points of logical absurdity in this latest set of directions on how governments should spend taxpayer money for private interest:

    1. This group does not understand the difference between "present in the earth's crust" and "available for use by mankind," and

    2. There is no safe, economical, recycling method for recovering the lithium from lithium-ion batteries.

    Unelected, poorly educated bureaucrats, throw money at nice presentations such as this one. The money has been allocated to their use by elected, poorly educated, politicians whose advisors are agenda ridden interest groups. In government speak this process is called "investing in science and technology."

    We're watching just another lobby being born. This will be the infrastructure spending for electrification lobby. It's an interest group not an agenda.
    Nov 20, 2009. 06:49 AM | 13 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • PHEVs and EVs: Plugging into a Lump of Coal [View article]
    So it came to pass that in year 9 of the false god Climate, whose priest was lithium, there arose a prophet called John and all that John foretold came to pass and the rain of truth fell and lithium dissolved to reveal bright lead underneath as it had been foretold verily by John...the text breaks off here.
    Aug 30, 2009. 08:13 AM | 13 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Axion Power: Time Is Right for Gas Guzzlers to Dual Mode EV Conversions [View article]
    To place some of this very cogent arguments in a natural resources availability and future possible availability context, it should be noted that:

    1) Lithium is widely distributed in the earth's crust, and so it has joined the group touted as "earth fundamental" by those whose ignorance of mining is profound. In fact accessible deposits of lithium are rare and are mostly in inhospitable places like the alkaline high deserts of the southern Andes. The largest known such deposit, in Bolivia, may well be worthless, because the cost of recovering its low lithium content and then separating that lithium from the very high magnesium content is at present prohibitive to say the least.

    2) In general hard rock mining and processing of lithium minerals such as spodumene will be XXX% more expensive than the simple process of separating low magnesium brines; additionally the current discussion of using more common lithium minerals than spodumene ignores the fact that all other minerals are so much more expensive to process and the returns are so much less than for spodumene that such processing is uneconomical at any prices for lithium to be expected in the next generation.

    3) Hard rock mining could create an immense environmental impact from the tons of tailings required for 100 kg of useful metal; in any case such concerns will keep any new or expanded lithium production in most countries in the regulatory tribunals for years, and

    4) There is today no known way to recycle li-ion batteries into materials that are pure enough for use in new batteries at a price that makes such recycling attractive. Thus, even if politically corrupt countries produce some lithium the rule-of-law countries will regulate the disposal of lithium containing batteries and that fight and that added cost has not even been factored in yet.

    Might I also point out that the world's known reserves of lithium, 50% of which are in the "iffy" Bolivian Uyuni desert deposits with their world's highest magnesium to lithium ratio, are just 13,000,000 metric tons, from which last year 2008, 27,000 metric tons of lithium were mined and refined. Compare this to lead, the global reserves of which are 170,000,000 metric tons, of which 3,800,000 metric tons were mined and refined in 2008. Note that no lithium was recycled last year while in the U.S. alone more than 850,000 metric tons were recycled, almost entirely from automotive SLI batteries.More than 50% of US industry's demand for lead is met by recycling right now.

    The conclusion is that we know how to make, recycle, and reuse lead and lead carbon batteries right now, and the process is economical. Why then are billions being poured into the black hole of lithium for marginal increases in technology?

    Anyone who thinks that lithium production can be ramped up to meet more than a small percentage of what would be needed to electrify even the world's existing fleet (750,000,000 cars and trucks) is wrong unless their perspective is generations not decades.

    The US has more capacity in shut down lead mines than in currently producing ones.

    What is the problem? It seems to be that politics has eclipsed economics, science, and common sense.

    Apr 19, 2009. 09:25 AM | 13 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • 3 Billion Reasons Why Tesla's Gigafactory Will Be A Bloodbath [View article]

    I'm in Ningbo, China, right now at the International Rare Earth Permanent Magnet Conference. Yesterday in the China Daily, the English language version of the semi-official Peking People's Daily, a statistic was published that last year 9,000 EVs and 13,000 PHEVs were sold in China. At the same time an American was telling the conference that there were already 2,000,000 EV and HEVs in China and that there would be 20,000,000 by 2020.

    The EV and HEV stock promoters are once again out of the asylum. Cheap fuel cells built from scarce and expensive raw materials drawing hydrogen fuel from non-existent distribution points will soon join endless numbers of obsolescent
    lithium batteries built from fantasy mountains of lithium and fueled from non-existent charging stations powered by bankrupt coal-fired or frackless natural gas fired generating stations.

    That whistling sound you hear is the money being separated from the fools.

    April 1 is literally just around the corner. It must be Elon Musk's favorite day for raising money.

    Next time you see him ask him why not a TESLA FCV?
    Mar 3, 2014. 09:14 AM | 12 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Even After More Insider Buying, Molycorp Struggles To Generate Upward Momentum [View article]
    The Chinese centrally planned economy has now turned its laserlight on the rare earth mining and refining industry, which has been an opaque circus riddled with illegal mining and refining almost from day one.The purpose of the stockpile is twofold: One, to stabilize prices, and Two, to allow the central government's chosen surrogates, State-owned metallurgical giants such as Jiangxi Copper, Chinalco, and BaoSteel Heavy to review and select those rare earth miners and refiners in their geographically determined oversight districts that are to be shut down; those that are to be modernized; and those that are to continue production with safety and health standards overseen by their big company supervisors. This will cause shutdowns and increased costs for remediation and modernixation. Therefore the very rational Chinese government is building a stockpile to ensure the security of supply during this restructuring.

    Companies in the outside world that care only about financial reporting do not have the luxury of restructuring when they have made a mess or done the wrong things.

    STOP viewing China from a small investor's mindset and try to think of it as a centrally planned economy.

    The rare earth issue is way overblown. It is the mix of products of a mine or refinery that matters not the quantity. The entire world, including China, is short of the heavy rare earths. The light rare earth demands can be met in several ways including a straightforward ramting up of Chinese production utilizing existing capacity. This now will not and cannot happen until the Chinese mining industry is cleaned up.

    There is a window therefore for companies like Molycorp and Lynas and Rare Element Resources and Frontier to produce light rare earths for a market deprived by thie contemporary Chinese withdrawal. But in the future the only non Chinese suppliers of rare earths will be those who produce significant quantities of the heavy rare earths. I would choose Lynas, Rare Element Resources, Tasman, Ucore, and Frontier as those who can survive the resumption of large scale Chinese production at the end of this decade. It is their product mix that counts.
    Jul 9, 2012. 09:57 AM | 12 Likes Like |Link to Comment