Recently, the FAA, also known as the Federal Aviation Administration, was forced to land Boeing’s new fleet of 787 Dreamliners due to unexplained battery fires. This is not the first time that lithium batteries have caused accidents. Three years ago, a UPS cargo plane made an emergency landing when carrying a shipment of lithium- ion batteries that caught fire. Although the plane landed safely, much of the aircraft was destroyed by ensuing conflagration. Even though many technologists and safety experts cautioned President Obama of the potential dangers of lithium batteries, Obama bet billions on his new favorite green alternative. This gamble, however, has burnt down 4 planes, 12 cars, 2 houses, and 18 computers.
According to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), the root of the problem is “because the electrolyte materials are flammable, no lithium-ion batteries are completely safe.” The National Fire Protection Association also warned that “as lithium-ion battery use increases, so do the concerns related to the fire-safety of these devices.” Boeing and the FAA have stated that the 787 will not fly again until the battery fires are explained and fixed. But can they fix it? Scientists have failed to make lithium-ion batteries safer for nine years, when the green technology was first introduced.
The campaign for lithium has cost billions of borrowed dollars and still has not produced one prototype safe for the public. Obama issued a $465 million loan guarantee to Tesla motors in 2012; but soon after, a Tesla warehouse was burnt to the ground. Despite the US government giving the South Korean company LG Chen $151 million in August 2011, it has not created one single battery. Some lithium corporations funded by Obama, such as the Indiana-based Ener1, have gone bankrupt. The $118.5 million federal dollars given to Ener1 was apparently not enough to salvage the sinking ship of lithium- ion energy.
Jon Entinie, the founder of the environmental consulting firm ESG Media Metrics, explains that lithium energy is not the solution to the task at hand. “Lithium ion batteries just won’t do the trick in the kind of mass vehicle applications that the environmental community is pushing for.” Other experts believe the batteries have been oversold to the public. Although smaller lithium- ion batteries are widely sold in consumer electronics, the push for powering vehicles such as cars and aircraft is a much greater challenge. The dangerous Dreamliners have miles to go before a passenger will sit safely on its first class seats.
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