A sexton reported recently that the church’s battery-powered lawnmower couldn’t cut it — the grass that is, in our wet season. Even though I was among those who urged the church to go electric for its new mower, I am sympathetic. It is remarkable what batteries can do, but they still have limitations.

I researched the literature and spoke to dealers last summer trying to see if it would be practical for me clear my drive with a cordless snow thrower. The drive, about 150 yards long, is considerable — too much, it turned out, for a battery-powered machine in even a moderate snowfall. At the best, clearing the drive would take me nearly twice as long as with gasoline. Snow thrower batteries don’t yet have enough output and endurance; furthermore, they generally lose power in cold conditions. Reluctantly, I purchased a gasoline machine.

“Reluctantly” because my snow thrower, like a gasoline-powered lawnmower, will contribute to carbon in the atmosphere and, thereby, the climate crisis. Still, opening up my drive will emit less than the tractor-mounted snow thrower I used the past decade — before it started busting its belts — and less than from a commercial plowing service, counting emissions from the truck getting here and returning.

Batteries power everything from cameras to cars these days. They have become an essential part of our lives. My Prius runs on a hybrid, rechargeable battery part of the time. I plug in my smartphone occasionally to recharge it. A friend has a cordless electric chainsaw that seems to have plenty of power — and it is so quiet. My cordless drill works fine, although it can’t be recharged when temperatures are below freezing.

Lithium batteries are highly efficient and cheaper to make than lithium-ion batteries, the rechargeable ones. Both are stronger and longer-lasting than the alkaline batteries I have in my smoke alarms and older flashlights. The technology continues to improve, leading to solid state batteries, using aluminum and yielding more energy for the weight and cheaper cost. SSB could be the next wave.

The implications of improved battery density (power from weight) are exciting. Electric vehicles are already revolutionizing transportation, the most carbon emitting of human activities. Improved batteries can transform the way the way electricity comes to our homes and businesses. Used in connection with wind or solar electric generation, they can store the excess when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, for our needs in windless gloom. Even on an individual basis, a friend with a less-than-perfect site for his solar panels augments his green energy with a battery.

Making new generation batteries isn’t completely environmentally clean; however, recent exploration continues in that direction. The four factors in play are energy, weight, environmental impact and cost. Add: Are the ingredients safe for human health and do they come from corners of the world that aren’t political problems?

Lithium, for example, is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal. Under standard conditions, it is the lightest metal and the lightest solid element. In medicine, it is used to treat bipolar disease. Although traces are found in almost all rocks, at present the leading producer is Australia, then Chile, China and Argentina. So, in spite of my decision to purchase a gasoline snow thrower and the problem the church sexton is having, we are only going to become more reliant on batteries and they are going — although only by a great deal of effort — to become better and better. They cannot, by themselves, solve the climate crisis, but they are already making and will continue to make an important contribution.

At least, that’s how it looks from the White Oaks.

Lauren R. Stevens, a writer and environmentalist, is a regular Eagle contributor.