How lithium is affecting the environment

Lithium is needed to help eco-friendly cars run and extracting it is part of a billion-dollar industry, but ABC News chief meteorologist Ginger Zee explores how it is damaging the planet.
3:01 | 04/21/21

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Transcript for How lithium is affecting the environment
I cannot wait for you all to see this story from GM to Ford we know electric vehicles are the future and even with the current grid and infrastructure issues we have to figure out, they are better for our planet. We got one here in my home. I wanted to be part of the climate crisis solution but then I realized I don't know anything about the new battery I'm sitting on. It had lithium in it and there is a white gold rush for lithium. An industry worth billions that could boost our economy but at what cost to our planet. The critical element that powers our fast and loud world comes from some of the quietest most desolate land on Earth. The mojave desert in Nevada. Here at silver peak they're not mining rock, they're farming lithium, these brilliant blue pools come from wells that tapped underground salt aquifer, each nearly 500 football feels long are rich in lithium. Now, once the original well is drilled it goes through a series of ponds, they look beautiful, very different colors there behind me, the sun and the arid nature of Nevada here takes care of the processing. 18 months later, lithium carbonate. Soon there will be a lot more batteries, Ford and GM among the carmakers that are promising an electric slide. Promise of a renewable industry we believe is important is the recycling of lithium. We get to a point where you recycle the resource. But that something we need to work on. Nevada isn't the only state that has owe pension. California could produce up to 40% of the global lithium demand. We just have to find the technology to get it out. They could create $9 billion in revenue for this part of Nevada but they're also endangering a very rare wildflower. Only 15,000 of these plants more or less. Reporter: This varietal is not known to grow anywhere else in the world. The buckwheat adapted to the lithium rich soil. It is an important balance and the wildflower is just another symbol of the debate between our energy future and our environment now. We absolutely need to do it right and right now those impacts are being offshore to distant countries, do we need to do it in America? We need to ask those hard questions about what sacrifices will we make? Our advocacy to protect this wildflower here does not mean we're trying to avoid those hard questions. In Nevada itself there are two open pit mines planned so we're going to be watching those but only 5% of lithium ion batteries are recycled the right way so that has to change but lithium is different than fossil fuel because it can be reused. We just have to make sure we do it right. You can see so much more of that piece and more on "It's not too late," an Earth day special I'm hosting on hulu and ABC newslive 8:30 P.M. Eastern time.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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