Rechargeable batteries are touted as environmentally friendly and a cost-effective means of energy. But could future regulations make them more expensive to consumers?
If you read any best practices guides to either living a free lifestyle and/or saving money on energy, rechargeable batteries are bound to turn up on both lists. It is well documented that traditional alkaline batteries — the kind that are disposable — are bad for the environment: when thrown out into landfills, their acids can do harm to nearly farmland and rivers. The other problem is that the alkaline battery is not a sustainable energy source: it get charged, it gets used, and it gets thrown away. There is no chance of it having a sustainable lifecycle.
And hein lies the price benefit of rechargeable batteries: whereas their alkaline counterparts have just one life to live, you get multiple uses out of your rechargeables. And because new battery technologies like NiMH and LiON are much less harmful to the environment once they are thrown out — and because they are less frequently thrown out — rechargeable batteries seem like a win-win.
However, is there is a risk that the prices of rechargeable batteries will “skyrocket” like the rest of energy sources around the world?
For as much as the green movement is no doubt a well-intentioned and helpful global movement to slow down emissions and toxicity in the world, there is an extreme believe in the moment — that energy is inherently evil — which has slowly creeped into the green mainstream. In 2004, ahead of his first Presidential election victory in the U.S., then Senator Barack Obama famously said that, under his Presidency, electricity costs would “necessarily skyrocket.” This would be due to stringent taxes he would levy on the coal-powered utilities in the U.S., who would in turn pass it along to consumers.
President Obama’s prediction came true: Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row. In addition, in 2004, when Obama took office, petrol in the U.S. ran about $2.77 a gallon. Now it averages almost $4.00 a gallon.
But this anti-energy trend is not all just a cause of Mr. Obama. Other global trends, such as Earth Hour, demonstrate a sense that electricity — and living with less of it — is somehow more noble and more advanced. The fact is, access to cheap, abundant electricity and oil was precisely what launched the Western world to prosperity in the 20th century. With the rise of electricity and oil as accessible energy sources, we saw the rise of the middle class, a longer life expectancy, improved infrastructure, improved communication, and improved transportation.
Since this recent trend, however, an increasing number of families are falling out of the middle class, infrastructure is failing, and the economy is contracting. And rechargeable batteries — they’re caught up in this anti-energy controversy as well.
For as much as rechargeable batteries are often touted as green, there is also a growing global movement to tax, penalize, and even ban them from being sold. Some believe that it is a political lobbying movement funded by the big battery companies, while others point to extreme environmentalists who see the use of LiON battery packs in the growing number of mobile devices in the world as objectionable. It is very possible that, as a means of reducing the use of even rechargeable batteries, heavy tariffs could someday be levied on the materials used to make rechargeable batteries, “skyrocketing” their price to consumers.
The solution could someday be to use solar-powered battery cells, even on small devices like smartphones. But at present, the technology needed to make this a viable reality simply doesn’t exist. There are some solar-powered rechargeable battery packs for smartphones, but they are really only used for emergency purposes and cannot muster a full change like AC power can. We’re a long way’s away from simply leaving our phones, cars, and other electronics in the sun to get a full charge.
It may seem impossible to imagine that someday rechargeable batteries could cost a fortune. But people in the first half of the 20th would have said the same thing about petrol. Maybe now is time to stoic up on rechargeable batteries while they are still affordable?
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