The renewable energy revolution will require the world to ratchet-up lithium production to make batteries for electric cars and devices. As with all mining, there are concerns about lithium mines, but some experts overstate the potential environmental cost while neglecting to mention a big advantage: mining for lithium is much cleaner than mining for coal.
Lithium is also much more efficient. Jim Krane, PhD, who teaches energy policy and geopolitics at Rice University, has crunched the numbers. “Over 20 years,” he said, “the same amount of mining would give you five times as much power if you did the mining for wind rather than coal.” Not to mention that using lithium to store renewable energy will slash or possibly eliminate the need to mine coal.
This video by independent videographer and Yale Climate Connections regular contributor Pete Sinclair explores how some lithium is already being obtained without any mining at all. At the Salton Sea in California, geothermal power plants tap the brine and produce lithium as a byproduct. Estimates show that the Salton Sea holds enough lithium to provide all projected future U.S. needs for the battery metal, and 40 percent of the world’s future needs, according to experts cited in the video.