Dumb Company Tricks


When General Motors began outlining plans in 2020 to fully switch to electric vehicles, it didn’t account for one critical factor: Many of the battery minerals needed to fulfill its plans were still in the ground. 

“I remember seeing a report from our raw-materials team at the time saying, ‘There is plenty of lithium out there. There is plenty of nickel’,” said Sham Kunjur, an industrial engineer now in charge of securing the raw materials for GM’s batteries. “We will buy them from the open market.”

GM executives soon came to discover how off the mark those projections were, and now Mr. Kunjur’s 40-person team is scouring the globe for these minerals. 

Of course,  the Biden administration’s energy policy basically does the same kind of assuming, but in their case on the scale of the entire US energy infrastructure.

30 thoughts on “Dumb Company Tricks”

  1. To be honest, both our political power structure and our commercial institutions have become so intertwined that reality and facts are considered the enemies of the preferred narratives. And the narratives have absolute priority.

    Subotai Bahadur

  2. From a report by Simon Michaux for the Geological Survey of Finland:

    “Preliminary calculations show that global reserves, let alone global production, may not be enough to resource the quantity of batteries required. In theory, there are enough global reserves of nickel and lithium if they were exclusively used just to produce li-Ion batteries for vehicles. To make just one battery for each vehicle in the global transport fleet (excluding Class 8 HCV trucks), it would require 48.2% of 2018 global nickel reserves, and 43.8%
    of global lithium reserves. There is also not enough cobalt in current reserves to meet this demand and more will need to be discovered.”

    There also are not enough Rare Earths and graphite for the Net Zero Scam.

  3. Watched this some months ago:


    The conclusion is in the title.

    “Someone” should be looking into infrastructure, chargers, rationalizing the charger connectors, and recycling/repair of battery packs. Not sure ‘anyone’ is alive at the helm to do so. Seems all involved are politicians, and they are demonstrating their usual ignorance of these minor problems… and somehow the decree from DC will happen…
    Don’t hold your breath, as passing the buck and ducking any blame is an everyday part of political life.

  4. A transportation infrastructure based on lithium batteries as the are now is almost perfectly analogous to the original automotive industry being built on using whale oil as fuel. As it was, petroleum refining and distribution was in a constant race with mass automotive deployment for the first 20 years of the 20th century. Luckily, there was no “somebody” to rationalize everything, he would have, inevitably, gotten everything wrong. Instead, there was Henry Ford who figured out how to build and sell millions of cars and trucks and Rockefeller who figured out how to have fuel where and when they needed it. Then there were all the black smiths and bicycle mechanics that learned how to keep them running along with all the manufacturers that saw an opportunity supplying all the parts.

    There is an IEC standard charging plug. I believe most of the newer electrics use it with the notable exception of Tesla. The electric car illusion or ponzi scheme, as you like, should be so lucky as to survive long enough to run up against a lithium or cobalt shortage. It is immanently colliding with the shortage of electric energy to do the charging. There is no place in the world that is managing to do more than barely keep ahead of existing demand and many places that are falling short. A single charger draws as much power as about 70 houses and they will need millions.

    The established manufacturers that have joined the scrum are making, so far, little progress in providing support. If your new Lightning or Hummer breaks, expect months of delay for parts and possibly hundreds of miles of tow cost to get it fixed. If you have a Tesla or Rivan, the problem is the same or worse. Last I heard, the closed ecosystem of Tesla had barely any parts availability and such a sparse service network that being out your car for six months or more for even fairly minor problems was the norm. An out of warranty Tesla should probably have a negative value. From what I’ve heard, about the only thing you can do to a Tesla at one of their service facilities for less than $20,000 is refill the washer fluid.

    There are a few intrepid individuals that will do repairs but they are dependent on salvage parts.

    As for whether there is an impending shortage of the various metals needed to make these contraptions, Tim Worstall, a former metals trader, has written at length and far more cogently than I can on the subject.

    The short answer is that it’s largely a question of price. The higher the price, the more of it will become available. Of course, a mismatch between the rate of production and the rate of consumption is likely.

  5. This whole electric car and truck thing is dependent on magical thinking. I am a fan of Elon Musk but the Tesla thing is dependent on government subsidies. SpaceX seems to be a free enterprise phenomenon. Solar is not a realistic substitute for “fossil fuels.” I put solar panels on my roof because, if solar is ever going to be cost effective, it should be in Tucson AZ. The vast solar farms I see driving to CA do not look worth the trouble. To think that Germany has gone solar is really appealing to magic. I’ve spent time in Germany in summer. If the greenies were pushing nuclear power, I might consider them sane but they are not.

  6. I agree with MCS

    I followed through to the WSJ article and my first question was “Where’s the GM board in all of this?” I know it’s Government Motors and 21st corporate governance but still….

    GM has committed to eliminating tail-pipe emissions from cars/light truck new sales by 2025. Given that they are directing ½ their capital investment to the endeavor it’s pretty much a bet-the-company move. Using my back-of-the-envelope calculations and assuming all variable remain constant (sales numbers, amount of Lithium per battery) , it would take the entire annual global production of Lithium to electrify 1 year of GM sales. This is keeping in mind that GM is less than 20% of US auto sales, let alone other domestic and global needs…. and they really thought with the spin-up time for mines and their aggressive timetable they could just source this as needed from the market. Oh my.

    I see they realized they goofed but anyone reading that initial report with the slightest background in commodities would realize it was crap. These are the geniuses who developed a global supply chain?

    You look at the GM board and I see 1 outside director who can claim any sort of engineering background and no one with any experience in commodities. So basically no one with an outsider’s perspective on this. No one to say “with all the other challenges we face why are we betting the company on being in business (mining) that we know nothing about?

    Two other thoughts.

    I always hated people who use the Apollo 11/Manhattan Project analogies for large-scale, rapid-development projects as in if “We can send a man to the moon..” or “We need a Manhattan Project for…” Put aside that those two projects involved relatively discrete engineering problems compared to the society-wide transformations envisioned by the Green New Deal. They key part for those two projects were the consequences if they failed; wasted money, wasted lives (and dead ones too), but life would continue as before. We are winding-down essential parts of our economy in anticipation that the future will arrive without a hitch. No one on this side of the 1920s believes that will happen, you figure out the motive.

    The other thought was this from the WSJ article “The minerals deficit traces its roots to early last decade, when a commodity super cycle fueled by voracious Chinese demand went bust, wrecking the debt-laden balance sheets of mining producers. These operators had issued billions of dollars in debt to fund huge mining projects. Rather than invest in new projects, the world’s mining giants distributed billions of dollars in dividends to shareholders.”

    This sounds a lot like what happened with the fracking industry where rather than keeping plowing money into more and more wells to generate growth, the drillers decided to return some money to their investors. Wow a company that had the shareholders as its first priority as opposed to ESG or government-butt kissing.

    This will not end well

  7. It would be a dumb company trick if GM was really in the business of producing vehicles at a profit to provide transportation for its customers. It is not. It is an arm of the regime operated to wind down the American automotive industry so the public can no longer afford their own cars or trucks, but also slowly enough to maintain deniability if anyone notices.

    GM can always go bankrupt again, when it turns out that it can’t make or sell enough vehicles to be viable. It can then be resurrected as a boutique manufacturer of expensive battery powered limousines for those the regime deems worthy.

    This is the same scheme being imposed by the regime upon many other industries in the US- make things more expensive via regulation or ban them entirely to make life worse for rank-and-file Americans, but again slowly.

    In this example, GM plans to go all-battery started in 2020. By the time this brings disaster, all the executives involved will have long since retired and their replacements will have been operating with an unachievable goal for many years. The people who knew how to design and build internal combustion powered vehicles will have left or been fired a long time ago.

    I’m reminded of the Morganthau Plan that was proposed for Germany after WWII. That is, Germany was to be deindustrialized and turned into an agricultural nation of no importance.

    For all intents and purposes this is being imposed upon the United States.

  8. The Left really does live on magical thinking, doesn’t it. ” We want it to happen, so it must. ”

    This was such a nice country.

  9. There is an IEC standard charging plug. I believe most of the newer electrics use it with the notable exception of Tesla.

    Depends on how one defines “most.” If you look at a list of what each manufacturer puts in their cars, then that’s the case. If you look at the number of cars that use which plug, then the proprietary Tesla plug is the standard just because of sheer market share in the EV space… made even more extreme since they just revealed a deal with Ford to swap over to the Tesla plug, giving adapters (and software patches) to existing owners on top of new models shipping with it.

    Not that that deals with the very real problem of battery materials…

  10. The promotion of EVs aligns with the cashless society. If “they” do not like what you are doing “they” can stop you from doing “it”. Whatever ” it” is.

  11. I can imagine at the next next GM shareholders meeting the screening of a short film depicting the company’s heroic role in saving the planet with employees scouring the globe, Indiana Jones-style, for the precious minerals needed for the Green New Deal. Good times

    It also confirms how tied to the hip corporations like GM are to the government; not just for the EV subsidies but for the financing needed when the inevitable bottlenecks occur like with getting enough Lithium. So as essentially a government-client, forget about who does GM support for the 2024 Election, the question really is who does GM sees as the existential threat. Just another example of how the corporatist model works

  12. The price of lithium is only half what it was in November, and nickel just dropped below $10 per pound. Apparently, there is enough supply to meet demand at these prices, at least for the time being. Is it time to bet the farm on these commodities increasing in value?

  13. More and more extractable lithium (and other metals) are being reported every day. In the short term there is a shortage probably. And definitely a shortage if you’d like them refined in an environmentally friendly manner i.e. outside the PRC.

    In the medium term there isn’t – https://twitter.com/worstall/status/1663473749482455046

    In the longer term. It depends on how much netzero idiocy happens but still probably not

  14. Re: Mike (May 28, 2023 at 4:34 pm)

    These are not the geniuses that developed a global supply chain. They are the idiot children of those people, who inherited the global supply chain and never bothered to figure out how it worked while they cashed “daddy’s” checks and spent the money on dissolute living. They are fit only to operate a cargo cult, which is what we’re watching them do today.

  15. At first, I’d say that GM didn’t learn a damn thing from the EV1.

    But there may be something bigger – and more threatening – in the push for green tech.

    Established energy technologies, established because they meet the needs of their customers (us) produce steady returns on investment in them,

    But not the dot-com-level returns that a New Big Thing can produce. What better way to generate a dot-com-style bubble than to have government restrict the use of what works – and compliant businesses limiting their offerings of what works, pushed both by government and ESG-score-wielding investors to limit them – so we are compelled to buy the New Big Thing?

    That is, until it is evident that the New Big Thing won’t meet our needs … but by then, the Hans Grubers in the background of this push will have cashed out, leaving the rest of us holding the bag.

    Greed, hiding behind a manifesto.

  16. The Green New Deal is not about saving the environment. That is not its purpose at all. The Dem-Leftist Revolutionary Vanguard knows it is about two things: money and control.

    German economist Ottmar Edenhofer is co-chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group III on Mitigation of Climate Change. He was the lead author of the IPCC’s 2007 report. He told Germany’s Neue Zurcher Zeitung in November 2020, as reported by Investors.com:

    “The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War.”

    Edenhofer let the environmental cat out of the bag when he said “climate policy is redistributing the world’s wealth” and that “it’s a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization.” …

    Edenhofer claims “developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community” and so they must have their wealth expropriated and redistributed to the victims of their alleged crimes, the postage stamp countries of the world. He admits this “has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.”

    Leftism, no matter in what venue it manifests itself, is NEVER about the welfare and benefit about the proles. It is *always* about the privileges, profits and riches that the Revolutionary Vanguard can carve out for themselves. In every chest of Leftist ideologues beats a heart filled with greed for themselves and contempt for everyone else – including other ideologues, whom they view first of all as competitors, not allies.

    Hence, the only point of any Leftist ascension to power has been to entrench the positions, status, privileges, and personal wealth of the Revolutionary Vanguard, by whatever name it may call itself.

    And that is what the green agenda is about.

  17. The promotion of EVs aligns with the cashless society. If “they” do not like what you are doing “they” can stop you from doing “it”

    That doesn’t really have anything to do with EVs, per se. It’s the push toward automation and connectivity, which is happening in ICE vehicles, too.

  18. I agree with Donald Sensing. Must be a Tennessee thing. ;-)

    I wonder if we are living through the implementation of a kind of Cloward-Piven/Reichstag fire on steroids strategic attack. It seems to be the only explanation for Soros prosecutors, homeless/drug/BLM/Antifa degradation of cities, the bizarre/dishonest/counterproductive Covid responses, the massive armament of government agencies, decades of climate idiocy, etc.

    It’s impossible to look at Mann’s hockey stick, Monnet’s polar bear study, and the IPCC’s rejection of economics without wondering if we are living on the other side of Alice’s Looking Glass. This “science” isn’t just wrong, it’s ridiculously incompetent and corrupt. No intelligent person can try to claim it is accurate or believable with a straight face. And then somehow, Covid saw the establishment embrace stupid, corrupt and dishonest in ways that dwarfed that which has marked the climate scam.

    As Angelo Codevilla wrote about the Kavanaugh hearings, the most debilitating imposition of power is to make us pretend that patent nonsense is true.

    Everything is a lie.
    Btw, somewhat related. Why aren’t we focusing on the Judge Collyer opinion in 2017 and recent revelations that the FBI and Democrat operatives troll through the NSA databases looking for material they can use for profit or blackmail to abuse power? There’s even a terminal with NSA access in Elias’ law firm offices!

  19. Within the past year, lithium carbonate was trading at more than $80,000/metric ton.
    It was only a few years ago that lithium carbonate was <$3.00/lb.

    Poling numbers I've seen indicate that about 70% of Americans were not willing to
    spend $25/month to address "Climate Change" What happens when the cost jumps to $2,500/month?

    Buy rope futures.

  20. I am reminded of a recent letter to the editor in a local TX rag that advocated that our town move to 100% renewable electrical energy. The Big Freeze of February 2021 went from International Falls, Minnesota on the Canadian border to the Rio Grande Valley. For that 1000+ mile north-south stretch of land, all electricity regions (TX, Central, Midwest) showed a drop of about 75% in wind energy generated during the big freeze, which lasted about 10 days.

    If an area has 100% renewable electrical energy, a Big Freeze like that of Feb 2021 will result in massive blackouts.

  21. If the “100% renewable” scam was real, Gringo would be right. As is, it’s just a way for them to squeeze more money from the virtue signalers. And you wouldn’t have to wait for the next freeze, just about any of the days coming up down here would see them run out of “renewable energy”. There’s a strong negative correlation between temperature and wind, especially above 90°F.

    By all means, ask the advocates what plans they have for when the system runs out of renewable energy and try to keep a straight face when they explain why it won’t and why paying extra is a good idea.

  22. The first of the Sodium based batteries are staring to show up in Chinese EVs. No Lithium required.

    It is interesting that Chile nationalized its Lithium, and China bought into Afghanistan’s as it could.

    The ability to supply electricity for an Electric future depends on the infrastructure. In BC we have that and can supply our people with no real problem. We are beginning to make clean Hydrogen as well, as part of a long term plan.

    In excessively capitalist countries this is more difficult as short term profit is important, and programs to create electricity cleanly is harder t6o implement.

    Once you have an EV you can never go back. The explosion based Rube Goldberg contraptions are primitive things, and will be obsolete pretty soon now, as EVs are easier and cheaper to make.

  23. Speaking of energy infrastructure, the lead article in a major German newspaper this morning was about how the country was going to return to nuclear power, but fusion, not fission!


    It’s behind a paywall, but the gist is that a bevy of heavyweight German leaders will meet on Monday to map out the country’s transition to fusion power. Apparently, they’ve been taken in by the nonstop hype about how fusion reactors are just around the corner after ignition was achieved on the NIF and new records were set on other devices. It ain’t gonna happen, and it doesn’t take a degree in atomic physics to understand why. The problem is tritium. It doesn’t occur naturally, but it is an essential fuel for the type of reactors being discussed. Tritium is a heavy isotope of hydrogen, with two neutrons along with the usual proton in its nucleus. It is highly radioactive, as slippery as normal hydrogen, and useful in nuclear weapons. It is possible to breed the stuff by leveraging the energetic neutrons produced in the fusion reaction, but that would require a blanket of special material and some miraculous way to remove the tritium that would be a) economical and b) not an engineering nightmare. The scientists working on these machines will assure you that it can be done, and, in fact, it is scientifically feasible. It’s just not feasible from an economic and engineering point of view. Even if it could be done, the complexity of the process would ensure that such reactors would never come close to being competitive with, for example, conventional nuclear reactors.

  24. ” Inflation has pushed prices up across the board, and now, the average new car sale price in the US is at an eye-watering $48,000.”

    At least some of that is a result of specific shortages, especially of semiconductors.

  25. Just wait until they see a YouTube video where somebody hooks a car alternator to a lawnmower engine, hooks the alternator to an electrolysis cell (home made) and runs the hydrogen into the engine. For some reason they all seem to end there, although we’re assured they run forever on water. Sounds like just what the Germans need.

    another example of that famous German efficiency:

    The guy telling the story is a Swede and he has a hard time keeping a straight face.

  26. It’s easy to poke fun at the Germans, it’s not like out bunch would do anything like this. Not after they just enacted our own version of fiscal perpetual motion. Ha ha, I kill me. Has anybody asked AOC or Biden?

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