The Department of Labor (DOL) on Tuesday asserted that components essential to the production of electric vehicles (EVs) are made using child labor in The Democratic Republic of the Congo, raising questions about the Biden administration’s push to get more EVs on the road.
The department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) found that Chinese lithium-ion EV batteries may be tainted by child labor as the cobalt used to make such batteries is often mined by children in the Congo, according to an updated list of imports that were produced by child labor.
The batteries are crucial to the Biden administration’s plan to get more EVs on the road to accelerate its green energy transition; however, the list could encourage businesses and other entities to shift supply chains away from China and the Congo.
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The bureau pointed out that “clean energy” supply chains may support cruel labor practices such as forced and child labor, according to the list. Lithium-ion batteries, which are used to store energy from EVs, wind turbines and other green technologies are largely produced in China; however, China gets 90% of the cobalt used in such batteries from the Congo, where children have been found to work in artisanal cobalt mines under harsh conditions, according to ILAB.
President Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in December 2021 to crack down on alleged Chinese slave labor practices in the Xinjiang region. U.S. customs authorities began cracking down on Chinese solar imports in August as polysilicon, a key material used in solar panels, may be sourced using the forced labor of Uyghur Muslims, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The report notes that the Biden administration has taken steps to remove child labor-produced goods from American supply chains.
“Under this administration’s leadership, the United States has taken many significant steps: added its voice to the statement of the G7—a group of seven of the world’s advanced democracies—to affirm there is no place for forced labor in a rules-based multilateral trading system,” the report noted.
However, though ILAB primarily maintains the list to raise awareness of unlawful labor practices and encourage entities to stop them, it is not explicitly intended to punish companies or industries that may profit from them, according to the bureau.
Biden is pushing automakers to ensure that EVs make up 50% of all vehicles sold in the country by 2030, according to a White House fact sheet. The Democrats’ $370 billion climate spending package which Biden signed into law in August will spend $36 billion to give tax credits to electric car buyers, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
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California, New York, and Washington will also ban sales of all gas-powered cars by 2035 in order to encourage citizens to drive electric cars.
The White House and DOL did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.