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'Saudi Arabia of lithium' is in Southern California

Governor Newsom met with President Biden about his support for lithium mining and other minerals to produce EV batteries and other household items.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — President Biden's commitment to investing in production of minerals that can power electric vehicles is happening right in San Diego’s backyard, under the Salton Sea, which Governor Gavin Newsom calls the, “Saudi Arabia of lithium.”

On Tuesday, Biden met in a virtual roundtable with Gov. Newsom and business leaders involved in expanding mining, critical minerals such as, lithium that can sustain the country's supply chain.

“Without these minerals, we simply cannot function. And we're expected demand for them to increase by 400 to 600%. Over the next several decades,” said Biden.

Much of the world's lithium comes from South America or Australia and is processed in China.

Last week, CBS 8 went to Imperial Valley and showed you 8,000 feet under the Salton Sea is one of the world's largest lithium deposits, which can power electric vehicles, solar panels and household electronics to name a few.

“If it's as big as it appears to be, this is a game changer in terms of our efforts to transition to low carbon green growth and to radically change the way we produce and consume energy,” said Newsom.

Newsom says this is part of his Lithium Valley Vision outlined in the California Blueprint.

Along with the governor, Berkshire Hathaway Energy was in the virtual town hall to talk about its multimillion dollar investment that is opening in Imperial Valley in April. 

Its goal is to produce commercial grade lithium by 2026.

“We've been in this community for almost 40 years, we have been working with local educational institutions to develop the curricula that will train the workers for the lithium business of the future,” Alicia Knapp, President and CEO of BHE Renewables.

Even the lithium waste won't be thrown out.

CBS 8 interviewed the White House National Economic Deputy Director and Deputy Assistant to President Biden, Sameera Fazili about the three-billion-dollar investment in refining battery materials through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“Take mine waste and extract from it through rare earth metals and doing more work on battery recycling, and, and building out battery processing facilities here in the U.S.,” said Fazili.

There’s still a big concern.

The Imperial Valley was once a booming area but is now surrounded by dilapidated buildings, high unemployment and health issues from agriculture run off.

President Biden included Alianza Coachella Valley, the local union workers at the table.

President Bident asked Alianza Executive Director, Silvia Paz, what is her worry and hopes for lithium mining in their communities.

“The worry is that we can do this in an environmentally friendly manner, that it will not cause further environmental degradation in an area that's already suffering from it,” said Paz. “The hope is that we can really be transformative, that our community can be much more engaged from the beginning, determining where potential investments should go, that they can have a seat at the table, when we're talking about community workforce agreements, and determining what percent of labor should come from the local region.”

All of this to become more self-reliant in building a cleaner carbon footprint.

“We were going to make it in America and build it in America,” said Biden.

By November the Biden administration is expected to deliver recommendations about ways to update existing mining laws. The recommendations are expected to promote responsible mining under environmental, labor and social standards.

CBS 8 also spoke with ChargePoint, the largest online network of EV charging stations in the world on this investment as well as making EV’s accessible in different price points and charging station infrastructure.

WATCH RELATED: Treasure hidden under the Salton Sea could be inside the next car you buy (February 2022)


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