New Lithium-Extraction Technology Attracts Investors. But Is It Viable? – by Scott Patterson and Amrith Ramkumar (Wall Street Journal – April 21, 2022)

Developing a domestic supply is an important part of the U.S. push to expand alternative energy sources

Lithium is a key component of rechargeable batteries, and developing domestic supply is seen as an important step in a broad push for the U.S. to transition to alternative energy sources.

In February, the Biden administration unveiled plans to invest $2.9 billion to boost production of advanced batteries and strengthen the battery supply chain in the U.S., including the development of domestic supplies of lithium. Last month President Biden also invoked the Defense Protection Act to increase production of battery metals.

But newer, still-experimental lithium production and extraction methods that could help increase supplies, while attracting investors for their potential to speed up production and reduce the environmental impact compared with most current lithium-extraction methods, are so far unproven at large scale.

Current methods of lithium production mostly involve extracting the lightweight metal from hard rock or pumping the salty brines that contain lithium out of the ground into vast ponds where evaporation separates it from other elements.

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