America’s electric cars need lithium so badly it may wipe out this species – by Matt McFarland (CNN Business – May 10, 2021)

Washington, DC (CNN)Fewer than 40 years after humans discovered Tiehm’s buckwheat, a Nevada plant with yellow flowers, they may drive it to extinction in pursuit of electric vehicles, a technology widely hailed as being environmentally friendly.

Environmentalists say the benefits of Tiehm’s buckwheat could be vast, but its full significance is unknown. What’s certain, they say, is that guarding Tiehm’s buckwheat is important for preserving biodiversity on Earth.

The flower is so newly discovered that it hasn’t been studied thoroughly, they say. But botanists say they’re impressed with Tiehm’s buckwheat’s ability to thrive where few species can — poor soil that’s full of boron and lithium.

That lithium in Nevada, and elsewhere in the world, increasingly has the attention of businesses and governments. Ioneer, an Australian mining company, has said it’s ready to break ground on a lithium mine later this year on the land where Tiehm’s buckwheat grows. Under the barren soils lies 146.5 million metric tons of lithium and boron. The project has been valued at $1.265 billion.

The fate of Tiehm’s buckwheat highlights the tradeoffs and tough decisions surrounding “green technologies.” Businesses that talk of helping the environment may not be above putting a species at risk of extinction. Ioneer argues that from a big-picture perspective, building its lithium mine is good for the environment. It believes the plant can survive being largely relocated, a claim the environmentalists question.

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