Clean energy source: Lithium in the Mojave Desert

Esmeralda County, Nevada, is the only place in the country commercially producing lithium. American automakers are hoping to develop electric vehicles powered by lithium batteries.
2:49 | 04/21/21

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Transcript for Clean energy source: Lithium in the Mojave Desert
country, on the eve of president Biden's climate summit, the president is expected to make a big announcement, to commit to slashing carbon emissions in half by the year 2030. Our series of reports with ginger zee in the mojave desert, on the search for lithium. Could it help make a difference in fighting climate change and creating jobs in this country? Here's our chief meteorologist ginger zee. Reporter: Tonight, we go into the mojave desert. Searching for what's called white gold, otherwise known as lithium. It could be ground zero for America's clean energy future. Lithium powers our laptops, phones and electric vehicles. Esmeralda county, Nevada, the only place in the country commercially producing it. Here at silver peak, they're not mining rock, they're farming lithium. These brilliant blue pools come from wells that tapped underground salt aquifers, each of them nearly 500 football fields long, are rich in lithium. The sun evaporating the Brian from the ponds and that leaves lithium behind. It's the lightest metal known to man. It's very energy dense. That reactivity in nature makes it hard to come by. Reporter: Does it have an agricultural or impact to the land surrounding? We're not using water that would otherwise be used for an agricultural purpose. Reporter: There is an immense amount of lithium in the western U.S. And multiple ways to mine it. California, for example, could produce enough lithium to meet up to 40% of global demand. On the site of a proposed open pit lithium mine, a warning for the planet. Lithium is extremely important to tackling the climate crisis. We need to start implementing environmental protections in the production of lithium. Reporter: And tonight, with U.S. Automakers pouring billions into developing electric vehicles, powered by lithium batteries, researchers at uc-berkeley, saying electrifying all cars and trucks by 20235 could save consumers $2.7 trillion by 2050. Ginger is with us from Detroit tonight. And as you reported there, there seems to be a growing chorus of voices who see lithium production in the U.S. As a real opportunity to create jobs, as long as it's tackled, as that expert said, very carefully. Reporter: Yes. There is no question, David, that an open pit lithium mine, especially, can be very difficult. Our environment. Plus, when the batteries are not recycled properly, it's really bad for our planet. The U.S. Automakers are committed to doing it. GM wants to be all electric by 2035, David. All right, ginger zee, thank you for kicking off our series of reports and by the way, you can watch more of ginger's reporting in a special report, it's not too late, streaming on hulu and tomorrow night on ABC news live.

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

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