Who will benefit from the lithium land grab in California?

Lithium reserves under the Salton Sea could fuel the battery revolution. But locals are worried they’ll be left behind.

On The Carbon Copy podcast this week:

Batteries are everywhere — in our electronics, our power tools, our electric grid and our cars. And almost all those batteries are based on a lithium-ion chemistry.

To make an all-electric world possible, we’re going to need a lot of lithium. Prices are up 400 percent over 2021, and demand is expected to increase fivefold over the next decade.

The Imperial Valley in Southern California is home to the Salton Sea, a landlocked body of water that contains vast reserves of lithium. The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, has called the region the Saudi Arabia of Lithium.” If they can be mined, the reserves could completely reshape the global lithium supply chain.

But locals who live near the Salton Sea — a region heavily impacted by unemployment and pollution — worry that efforts to extract the resource are moving too fast and ultimately won’t benefit the people living there. 

This week on The Carbon Copy: California has ambitious plans to fuel the global EV boom with the Salton Sea’s lithium. But will the people who need it most get left behind?

Guests: Independent reporter Aaron Cantú, who wrote about the Salton Sea’s lithium industry for The Guardian, and Luis Olmedo, executive director of Imperial Valley nonprofit Comité Cívico del Valle.

Recommended reading:

The Carbon Copy is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.

Support for Carbon Copy comes from Climate Positive, a podcast from Hannon Armstrong, the first U.S. public company solely dedicated to investing in climate solutions. The Climate Positive podcast features candid conversations with the leaders, innovators and changemakers driving our climate-positive future. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.