The controversial purchase of lithium-ion batteries briefly became the focus of a Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Wednesday night, local time,media outlet The Verge reported. The issue is directed at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
“In this state, there will be tension between those who need renewable energy and those who want to protect on public land,” says host Jon Ralston. He noted that Warren had pledged to sign an executive order on her first day in office to stop drilling on public lands. “You have to have lithium, you have to have copper to produce renewable energy. What will you do? He asked Warren.
Moving to electric and solar power will require lithium-ion batteries, and Nevada has a large stockpile of lithium on public land. Thacker Pass in Humboldt County, Nevada, is one of the potential sources of lithium. Lithium Americas, a Canadian lithium company, has been planning to develop the site, which it estimates is the largest lithium deposit in the United States.
The United States Bureau of Land Management is currently reviewing Lithium Americas’ proposal to mine the Thacker Pass deposit. The company hopes to recycle about 30,000 to 60,000 tons of battery-grade lithium carbonate a year at the site for 40 years starting in 2022. The company said it could meet “most or all” of the US demand for lithium.
While the company says the business will create jobs in the transition to more renewable energy, some Nevada residents are concerned about actually owning open-pit mines in their backyards.
Rancher Jhona Bell told Mountain West News Bureau: “Well, it takes up a lot of our range and has had a huge economic impact on us. Obviously, you can’t put cattle where there are mines. Comments on the Thacker Pass program can be submitted to the Bureau of Land Management by 27 February.
Making batteries without harming humans and the environment remains one of the biggest problems to address in order to secure clean energy in the world. Lithium mining has dried up the lagoon; Chile’s lithium mining program affects local groundwater resources, which are estimated to hold nearly half of the world’s lithium reserves.
The cobalt needed to manufacture lithium-ion batteries has also contributed to child labour in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Apple, Google and Tesla are facing lawsuits. Finding new places that won’t harm humanity has marine advocates worried that deep-sea mining is destroying ecosystems and doesn’t even have a chance to learn about them.
Mining, metal and material extraction are the hidden basis for a low-carbon transition. ‘But it’s too dirty, dangerous and too destructive to keep up the current trajectory,’ Benjamin Sovacool, a professor of energy policy at the University of Sussex, said in a policy paper published in the journal Science last month. Mr Sovakol believes the success of efforts to combat climate change depends on how well leaders manage the demand for minerals such as lithium and cobalt responsibly.
Warren, who answered a question about how to get the raw materials needed to power America’s green energy infrastructure, said she might have some exceptions when it comes to protecting public lands from mining. “If we need to make exceptions because we have to acquire certain minerals, then we locate them, and the way we do it is not just about the profits of giant industries, but about environmental protection.” Warren said during the debate.
As climate change becomes a bigger election issue, she and other Democratic candidates are vying for environmentally conscious voters. So the question of how to build a low-carbon energy infrastructure without compromising communities and the environment in the construction process is likely to re-emerge in the election campaign.