Tesla Plans to Build Huge Factory in Mexican City Struggling With Water Scarcity

Individuals had been lining up with buckets to get water from a truck final yr in Monterrey, Mexico, as two of the town’s three dams nearly utterly dried up. Now Tesla has plans to construct an enormous electrical automobile “gigafactory” in that very same water-insecure metropolis.

A gigafactory is Tesla’s time period for its large meeting and components crops. The Monterrey one shall be constructed on 4,200 acres — twice the dimensions of the corporate’s Texas plant, and across the dimension of three small cities. Whereas the electrical autos (EVs) that Tesla builds are supposed to ease automobile air pollution, the corporate is passing the water consumption and the excessive air pollution ensuing from its manufacturing course of on to Mexico. The vehicles shall be despatched to the U.S., as most Mexicans might by no means afford them.

The Tesla Gigafactory was introduced in March, and CEO Elon Musk said it might be “the largest electrical car plant on the planet.” The goal is to construct the manufacturing facility this yr and have it operating subsequent yr. Tesla chose Monterrey, in Nuevo Leon state, due to its low-paid workforce, its proximity to its Austin, Texas, headquarters, and the presence of key suppliers close by.

Final yr, for 3 months, water was rationed for Monterrey residents — it was solely out there between 4 am and 10 am. Individuals panicked and acquired bottled water, to the purpose the place solely the smallest bottles had been left in retailers. Communal house owners of ejidos (land owned by communities reasonably than by people or non-public companies) protested the shortage of water for small farmers and requested financial assist as a result of they weren’t capable of water crops or feed their animals. Monterrey had “a 40 % deficit within the mandatory quantity of water,” Monterrey resident Ismael Aguilar Benítez advised Truthout. Specializing in water administration, he’s a researcher with the City and Environmental Research Division of the Northern Border Faculty (Colef).

“Tesla is aiming to construct round 1,000,000 autos, and in considered one of its studies, it says that it makes use of 3 cubic meters of water per car, in order that’s round double the quantity of water than the Texas manufacturing facility,” he stated.

Aguilar defined that although the corporate says it should use handled or recycled water — as is already the case in all of Nuevo Leon — he’s involved that the corporate estimate is low. Its water use will nonetheless be very excessive, and on high of that, “Tesla will appeal to suppliers and sellers that can even use water, and staff will transfer to the realm, possible a further 30,000 properties across the new manufacturing facility.”

The area is going through a drought, and Aguilar says it should solely pull by way of this yr if there’s above common rain. Attempting to reassure buyers, the state governor commented, “Nuevo Leon has sufficient water for firms, however not for human consumption.”

A train in Mexico City, along side a main road.
A prepare in Mexico Metropolis, alongside aspect a important highway.

Local weather Issues Can’t Be Solved If the International South Is Thrown Below the Bus

Tesla can even want lithium for the automobile batteries. And whereas Mexico nationalized management of its lithium in February, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said he’s open to Musk exploiting the sunshine steel in Sonora state.

Producing one EV lithium battery entails digging up 500,000 kilos of earth. The mining of different minerals to construct the EVs additionally has severe environmental and well being impacts, and that value is sort of at all times borne within the International South. The EV manufacturing course of, together with the battery, emits 13 tons of CO2 per automobile, in comparison with 10.5 tons for combustion engine vehicles.

Aguilar worries that even when Tesla complies with state air pollution laws, “massive firms are inclined to switch their damaging impacts to small firms — to suppliers — and so they find yourself contaminating (air and rivers). The impression on Monterrey might be very severe.”

Attempting to reassure buyers, the state governor commented, “Nuevo Leon has sufficient water for firms, however not for human consumption.”

In Puebla metropolis, within the heart of the nation for instance, overseas automobile producers like Audi and Volkswagen are among the many main firms accountable for the low air high quality. They’re polluting the air with benzene, which may result in anemia, hemorrhages, weakened immune methods and even cancer.

Aguilar stated the excessive inhabitants density in Monterrey and excessive dependence on vehicles within the metropolis means there’s loads of site visitors. In reality, Monterrey ranked 11th out of 991 cities for site visitors congestion. The brand new Tesla manufacturing facility and the infrastructure that comes with it “will imply extra vehicles within the northwest of the town and can make issues worse,” Aguilar stated.

A person sells churros to slow-moving traffic in Mexico City.
An individual sells churros to slow-moving site visitors in Mexico Metropolis.

Automobile Colonialism

Mexico is the seventh-biggest automobile producing nation, however 90 % of autos are bought overseas, with 76 % going to the U.S.

The vehicles that transnationals in Mexico export are “very secure autos that meet worldwide requirements for security methods … which means they’re safer for drivers, passengers and for pedestrians. However the autos made for Mexican consumption aren’t as secure and don’t meet these requirements,” Armando Pliego, a spokesperson for the Protected Mobility Coalition, a Mexican network of 97 specialist and civil society organizations campaigning for safer and higher transport, advised Truthout.

The so-called free commerce agreements that Mexico has had with the U.S. and Canada (first NAFTA and now USMCA) have given U.S. and Canadian firms nice benefits, on the expense of Mexico. The businesses — together with Tesla — obtain tariff-free imports, exploited labor, low-cost water, electrical energy and land, ship the merchandise and earnings to their headquarter nations, and depart Mexico polluted and struggling to entry water.

For Karen Castillo, member of the Reminiscence and Freedom Observatory, which paperwork assaults towards activists and social actions in Mexico, the brand new Tesla Gigafactory is “a part of a historic coverage in the direction of Mexico of extractivism, through which different nations come right here and make the most of the land, strip it and destroy it for the financial advantage of their nations and corporations … and naturally this Tesla plant is a part of this sample of ecocide and colonial extractivism.”

She advised Truthout, “This course of has been dashing up in Mexico; the door has been opened to firms in order that they will come right here and … use our assets with none concern for what occurs to the surroundings, to close by communities.”

Castillo is collaborating in a 10-day caravan of activists that’s visiting communities which can be resisting different massive business or industrial initiatives being constructed with out session or concern for his or her impression. “It’s principally rural and concrete communities which can be resisting these actions, so they’re those being demonized and criminalized,” she stated.

Highway overpasses cut across the sky
Assets go into roads, leaving these with out vehicles excluded from providers and having to spend way more cash and assets on transport. These roads are in Mexico Metropolis.

EVs Aren’t a Resolution in an Unequal World

One other irony of the Tesla plant is that not even the wealthiest Mexicans might afford an EV. Tesla’s least expensive mannequin is $55,000 in U.S. forex. On common, Mexican staff make simply $366 in U.S. forex a month — whereas the bulk casual staff would make much less. The most affordable Tesla is costlier than many properties, and 10 occasions greater than a secondhand automobile.

A U.S.-based examine found that individuals who can take into account shopping for an EV sometimes have properties already, levels and a number of autos. They’ve a median annual revenue of $150,000 in U.S. forex or extra, whereas even the highest 1 % of Mexicans solely earn an average of $81,093 in U.S. forex.

The brand new Tesla Gigafactory is “a part of a historic coverage in the direction of Mexico of extractivism.”

Additional, EVs require new infrastructure and sure residing circumstances, like garages for chargers. McKinsey estimated that EV infrastructure would value the U.S. $35 billion to fulfill demand by 2030. Mexico and different International South nations don’t have these types of funds: Quite a lot of roads in Mexico are nonetheless grime and plenty of of its hospitals are severely missing, so spending cash on EV chargers shouldn’t be a precedence.

“Quite a lot of Mexico’s city areas had been developed with out a lot planning, so most of the poorer areas are far-off and never properly related with providers,” Pliego stated. He described a mannequin of city improvement that “privileges vehicles” and the people who find themselves capable of personal them.

“If we simply substitute one type of automobile for an additional, all that’s occurring is highway insecurity or site visitors congestion is being electrified … and a rise in EV chargers would trigger an elevated pressure on the already struggling electrical energy grid,” he stated.

Spending on EV infrastructure would divert extra assets — cash, vitality and bodily area — towards non-public autos, as a substitute of the general public transport individuals want, he argued.

Whereas simply 25 % of Mexico’s inhabitants makes use of vehicles, cities spend 47 % of their transit budgets, on common, on automobile infrastructure and nothing on public transport. The federal authorities spends 1.2 % of its mobility price range on public transport. Governments hire out bus routes to non-public firms that then focus extra on earnings than on offering a great service, Pliego defined.

“Public transport has been deserted. We want a transport planning imaginative and prescient that takes totally different wants and patterns of motion under consideration,” he stated.

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