moved to end distribution of federal pandemic-related jobless benefits even though they are funded until September, arguing that the assistance — including a $300 weekly supplement — was discouraging people from returning to work.

The latest jobs report did not reflect the cutoff’s impact because the government surveys were completed before any states ended benefits.

Staffing firms said they had not seen a pickup in job searches or hiring in states that have since withdrawn from the federal jobless programs.

Indeed surveyed 5,000 people in and out of the labor force and found that child care responsibilities, health concerns, vaccination rates and a financial cushion — from savings or public assistance — had all affected the number looking for work. Many employers are desperate to hire, but only 10 percent of workers surveyed said they were urgently seeking a job.

And even among that group, 20 percent said they didn’t want to take a position immediately.

Aside from ever-present concerns about pay and benefits, workers are particularly interested in jobs that allow them to work remotely at least some of the time. In a survey of more than 1,200 people by the staffing company Randstad, roughly half said they preferred a flexible work arrangement that didn’t require them to be on site full time.

Some employers are getting creative with work arrangements in response, said Karen Fichuk, chief executive of Randstad North America. One employer changed the standard shift to match the bus schedule so employees could get to work more easily. Others adjusted hours to make it easier for parents with child care demands.

Health and safety concerns are also on the minds of workers whose jobs require face-to-face interactions, the survey found.

Black and Hispanic workers, who were disproportionately affected by the coronavirus and by job losses, are having trouble regaining their foothold. “The Black unemployment rate is still exceptionally high,” at 9.2 percent compared with 5.2 percent for white workers, said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York.

One factor in the elevated Black jobless rate is that the ranks of Black workers employed or seeking jobs grew sharply last month. But participation in the labor force remains lower than it was before the pandemic among all major racial and ethnic groups.

Professor Holder said some people were reluctant to rejoin the labor force because of the quality and the pay of the work available.

“We don’t have a shortage of people to work,” she said. “What we don’t have are decent jobs.”

Jeanna Smialek and Ben Casselman contributed reporting.

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Colonial Pipeline Hack Shows Risk to US Energy Independence

HOUSTON — When OPEC barred oil exports to the United States in 1973, creating long gasoline lines, President Richard Nixon pledged an effort that would combine the spirit of the Apollo program and the determination of the Manhattan Project.

“By the end of this decade, we will have developed the potential to meet our own energy needs without depending on any foreign energy sources,” he said in a televised address.

His timing was off — it took more than 40 years — but the country has come pretty close to energy independence in recent years thanks to a surge in domestic shale oil and natural gas production and the harnessing of solar and wind energy.

That independence, however, is fragile. Last week, cars lined up at gas stations across much of the Southeast after the Colonial Pipeline was paralyzed by a cyberattack by a criminal group seeking a ransom. The electric grid is also coming under greater stress because of climate change. In the last year, a heat wave in California and a deep freeze in Texas forced rolling blackouts as demand for power outstripped supply.

panic buying rarely seen in decades produced shortages, and prices at the pump rose as much as 20 cents a gallon for regular gasoline in some states in a few days, according to AAA.

Mr. Yergin said that drivers who lined up at pumps to fill gas cans and even plastic bags made the situation worse. The impulse to hoard harkened back to the oil shocks of the 1970s and appeared to touch a chord in the national psyche.

“People remembered gas lines even though they weren’t born yet,” Mr. Yergin said.

Colonial Pipeline, a private company, resumed full operations over the weekend, but it will take at least several more days before many gas stations are restocked.

Energy companies will come under greater pressure from governments and investors to bulk up their defenses against cyberattacks, but those and other vulnerabilities will not be easily overcome, especially after years of underinvestment.

Upgrading the energy system will not be easy. Dozens of competing companies that operate a vast web of oil and gas wells and pumping stations, transmission lines and power plants will need coaxing to make their operations more resilient to weather and criminal attacks. Considerable funding will have to come from business and government, as well as research to keep ahead of the cybercriminals. President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan devotes $100 billion to the transmission grid.

The quest for energy independence has never been a straight line, and there have been many unfortunate twists. Reliance on Middle East oil was a major consideration in military action and diplomatic strategy, including alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia with disturbing human rights records. A half-century ago, the country shifted from burning heating oil to relying more heavily on coal, which contributed to climate change.

But the search for energy independence also led to innovation. Fracking — the hydraulic fracturing of shale oil and natural gas deposits — not only slashed energy imports but also made the United States a major exporter. Suddenly oil and gas were not a national security vulnerability but a tool to further American interests.

nearly half of the transportation fuel needs of the region.

When hurricanes hit, and refineries on the Gulf shut down, gasoline and diesel prices tend to rise along the East Coast. Normally, that is not a huge problem because companies store lots of fuel close to where it is used and trucks and barges can usually make up the difference. This time, however, uncertainty about how long it would take to restore supplies made the Colonial Pipeline’s shutdown much more disruptive.

The ransomware attack was the work of DarkSide, an extortionist ring that has been responsible for scores of attacks on companies in several countries. But it is hardly the only group that infiltrates computer systems to extort money. Others go by names like REvil, Maze and LockBit.

“The technology moves so quickly, you solve one or two or twenty possible vulnerabilities in your computer systems and the hackers find a different way to get in.” said Drue Pearce, a former deputy administrator of the federal Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The criminal groups represent a threat to industries beyond energy. But experts say energy is of particular concern because it is essential to a functioning economy. The peril is no less complex than reducing the United States’ reliance on foreign oil, said Bill Richardson, a former energy secretary.

“This is a new threat that we are not prepared for,” he said.

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Bob Koester, Revered Figure in Jazz and Blues, Dies at 88

Bob Koester, who founded the influential Chicago blues and jazz label Delmark Records and was also the proprietor of an equally influential record store where players and fans mingled as they sought out new and vintage sounds, died on Wednesday at a care center in Evanston, Ill., near his home in Chicago. He was 88.

His wife, Sue Koester, said the cause was complications of a stroke.

Mr. Koester was a pivotal figure in Chicago and beyond, releasing early efforts by Sun Ra, Anthony Braxton, Jimmy Dawkins, Magic Sam and numerous other jazz and blues musicians. He captured the sound of Chicago’s vibrant blues scene of the 1960s on records like “Hoodoo Man Blues,” a much admired album by the singer and harmonica player Junior Wells, featuring the guitarist Buddy Guy, that was recorded in 1965.

Muhal Richard Abrams and other members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, an organization formed in Chicago in 1965. The company’s recordings were not, generally, the kind that generated a lot of sales.

“If he felt something was significant, he wasn’t going to think about whether it would sell,” Ms. Koester said by phone. “He wanted people to hear it and experience the significance.”

As Howard Mandel, the jazz critic and author, put it in a phone interview: “He followed his own star. He was not at all interested in trends.”

For decades Mr. Koester’s record store, the Jazz Record Mart, provided enough financial support to allow Delmark to make records that didn’t sell a lot of copies. The store was more than an outlet for Delmark’s artists; it was packed with all sorts of records, many of them from collections Mr. Koester bought or traded for.

Charlie Musselwhite, who was a clerk at the store in the mid-1960s, told The Times in 2009, rattling off the names of some fellow blues musicians. “You never knew what fascinating characters would wander in, so I always felt like I was in the eye of the storm there.”

Mr. Mandel said part of the fun was tapping into Mr. Koestel’s deep reservoir of arcane musical knowledge.

“You’d get into a conversation with him,” he said, “and in 10 minutes he was talking about some obscure wormhole of a serial number on a pressing.”

Ms. Koester said the store held a special place in her husband’s heart — so much so that when he finally closed it in 2016, citing rising rent, he opened another, Bob’s Blues and Jazz Mart, almost immediately.

“He loved going into the studio in the days when he was recording Junior Wells and Jimmy Dawkins,” she said, “but retail was in his blood.”

an oral history recorded in 2017 by the National Association of Music Merchants. But, he told Richard Marcus in a 2008 interview for blogcritics.com, further musical exploration wasn’t easy.

“I never liked country music, and growing up in Wichita, Kansas, there wasn’t much else,” he said. “There was a mystery to the names of those old blues guys — Speckled Red, Pinetop Perkins — that made it sound really appealing. Probably something to do with a repressed Catholic upbringing.”

College at Saint Louis University, where he enrolled to study cinematography, broadened his musical opportunities.

“My parents didn’t want me going to school in one of the big cities like New York or Chicago because they didn’t want me to be distracted from my studies by music,” he said. “Unfortunately for them, there were Black jazz clubs all around the university.”

sold Delmark in 2018.

Mr. Koester’s record company played an important role in documenting two musical genres, but his wife said that beyond playing a little piano, he was not musically trained himself.

“He would say his music was listening,” she said.

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Syria’s Surprising Solar Boom: Sunlight Powers the Night in Rebel Idlib

HARANABUSH, Syria — When the Syrian government attacked their village, Radwan al-Shimali’s family hastily threw clothes, blankets and mattresses into their truck and sped off to begin new lives as refugees, leaving behind their house, farmland and television.

Among the belongings they kept was one prized technology: the solar panel now propped up on rock next to the tattered tent they call home in an olive grove near the village of Haranabush in northwestern Syria.

“It is important,” Mr. al-Shimali said of the 270-watt panel, his family’s sole source of electricity. “When there is sun during the day, we can have light at night.”

An unlikely solar revolution of sorts has taken off in an embattled, rebel-controlled pocket of northwestern Syria, where large numbers of people whose lives have been upended by the country’s 10-year-old civil war have embraced the sun’s energy simply because it is the cheapest source of electricity around.

the Islamic State lost its last patch of territory in Syria in 2019, the northwest was importing fuel from Turkey that was much purer but cost more than twice as much, now about $150 for a 58-gallon barrel of Turkish diesel, compared with $60 for a barrel from eastern Syria a few years ago.

That price spike pushed customers into the arms of solar power, said Ahmed Falaha, who sells solar panels and batteries in the town of Binnish in Idlib.

He had originally sold generators, but added solar panels in 2014. They weren’t popular at first because they produced less electricity, but when fuel prices went up, people noticed at night that their neighbors who had solar panels still had lights while they sat in the dark. Demand grew, and in 2017, he stopped selling generators.

“Now we work on solar energy day and night,” he said.

His best sellers were Canadian-made 130-watt panels that had been imported into Syria after a few years at a solar farm in Germany, he said. They cost $38 each.

For those with more to invest, he had Chinese-made 400-watt panels for $100.

His standard package for a modest home consisted of four panels, two batteries, cables and other equipment for $550, he said. Most families could use that to run a refrigerator or washing machine during the day and lights and a television at night.

As people got used to solar power, he started selling large installations to workshops and chicken farms. He recently sold his largest package yet, 160 solar panels for about $20,000, to a farmer who had nearly gone broke buying diesel to run his irrigation pump and needed a cheaper alternative.

“It is expensive at the start, but then it’s free,” Mr. Falaha said, showing a video on his phone of the solar-powered sprinklers watering a lush, green field.

Farmers who embraced solar appreciated the lack of noise and smoke, but what mattered most was price.

“Here, the last thing people think about is the environment,” Mr. Falaha said. Nearby, a colleague of his poured battery acid down the shop’s drain.

Outside of town, Mamoun Kibbi, 46, stood amid lush green fields of fava beans, eggplants and garlic.

In recent years, the price of diesel to power the family’s 40-year-old irrigation pump had gotten so expensive that it erased Mr. Kibbi’s profits. So last year he shelled out nearly $30,000 to install 280 400-watt panels on the flat roof of a defunct chicken farm.

The large swath of panels were on a seesaw base connected to a winch so he could adjust their angle to the sun through the day. When it was sunny, the system kept the pump going for eight hours. It worked less well on cloudy days, but he was pleased with how his crops looked so far.

“It is true that it costs a lot, but then you forget about it for a long time,” he said.

Most people in northwest Syria have simpler energy needs and much less money to invest. More than half of the 4.2 million people in the rebel-held area have been displaced from elsewhere, and many struggle to secure life’s basics, like healthy food, clean water and soap.

But many of the refugee families living in crowded tent camps have at least one solar panel that produces enough energy to charge their phones and power small LED lights at night. Others have three or four panels to power such luxuries as internet routers and televisions.

In the city of Idlib, Ahmed Bakkar, a former fireman, and his family had settled in the second-floor of a four-floor apartment building whose roof had been punched in by an airstrike.

The family had moved six times during the war and lost nearly everything along the way, Mr. Bakkar said. Most of the rooms in the family’s current apartment lacked windows, so he had hung blankets to block the wind. They couldn’t afford heating oil, so they burned pistachio shells to keep warm.

But he had managed to buy four used solar panels that sat on a rack on the balcony, facing the sky.

When the sun was out, they provided enough energy to pump water up to the apartment so they didn’t have to carry it up, and they charged a battery so the family could have some lights at night.

“It works for us because it’s free energy,” said Mr. Bakkar, 50.

His nephew, also Ahmed Bakkar, was less impressed.

“It is an alternative,” he said. But if Syria were more functional and the family could simply plug into the grid, “it would be better.”

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Inflation News: Consumer Prices Jump in April as Investors Worry

Consumer prices jumped at the fastest pace in more than a decade in April, surprising economists and intensifying a debate on Wall Street and in Washington over whether inflation might reach levels that would squeeze households and ultimately undermine the recovery.

Investors and politicians are worried that prices will keep climbing — potentially causing the Federal Reserve to lift interest rates sharply. That could slow economic growth and send stock prices plummeting. But some economists and central bank officials said the jump in the Consumer Price Index reflected pandemic-driven trends that would most likely prove temporary.

Stocks slumped more than 2 percent on Wednesday, their biggest decline since late February.

Hanging over the debate is America’s inflationary experience in the 1960s and 1970s, when big government spending, an oil crisis, a slow-moving Fed and the final end of the gold standard converged to send price gains to double-digit heights. The central bank got things under control only by lifting interest rates to punishing levels, at a grave cost to the housing market and ultimately the job market.

Few analysts expect a return to such huge price gains, in part because the Fed has pledged to act to keep inflation under control. But if officials are prodded to withdraw economic support quickly in order to prevent another “Great Inflation,” it could spur a downturn, as sudden Fed changes have done in the past.

showed that job gains slowed sharply in April, vastly disappointing economists’ expectations.

“We have not made substantial further progress toward our labor market objective,” Mr. Clarida said Wednesday, speaking to business economists on a webcast.

Fed last year redefined its 2 percent inflation target to make it clear that it will aim for periods of slightly faster price gains to make up for months of slow ones.

Fed officials have been clear in recent weeks that as inflation pops, they need to focus on both risks: that it might take off, but also that it might sink back down after a 2021 reopening jump.

“The Fed has a fundamentally different framework. I mean, we cannot apply the playbook of the Fed in the previous recovery to what’s happening now,” said Jean Boivin, head of the BlackRock Investment Institute. “I think each time we get a number that surprises in the upside, we get an extrapolation, too much extrapolation, into a Fed tightening coming sooner.”

Matt Phillips, Jim Tankersley and Ella Koeze contributed reporting.

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Cracked Lake Bed Is a Stark Symbol of Taiwan’s Drought. Influencers Take Notice.

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Sun Moon Lake was once a popular tourist spot in Taiwan. But now the bottom of the lake is Instagram-famous for a grim reason: one of the worst droughts to hit the island in decades.

The parched lake bed — cracks snaking across the ground as far as the eye can see — has drawn the attention of influencers, who have trekked to the site to take visually arresting photos of the terrain and post them online.

But the situation is dire. Residents have prayed to the god Matsu for rain after a monthslong drought dried up the island’s reservoirs. Some parts of the lake have begun to grow grass, and jetties that normally float are sitting on dry mud. Tour boats sit idle.

“Our business is 90 percent less than last year,” said Wang Ying-shen, chairman of a group for businesspeople who rent boats to visitors.

putting pressure on the island’s semiconductor industry. More than 90 percent of the world’s manufacturing capacity for the most advanced chips is in Taiwan.

Farmers who need to flood paddies to raise rice, lotus root and other thirsty crops have been hit hard. “The lotus flowers and seeds I planted don’t produce well,” said Chen Chiu-lang, a farmer in the southern city of Tainan, standing in a dry paddy field.

Households in areas under top-level restrictions go without running water two days a week. They include Taiwan’s second-biggest city, Taichung, with 2.8 million people; Hsinchu, one of the biggest global enters for semiconductor manufacturing; and Tainan and Kaohsiung in the south. The economics minister, Wang Mei-hua, has warned that restrictions might be tightened.

The authorities are drilling extra wells, and military planes are dumping cloud-seeding chemicals in hopes of triggering downpours. The economy ministry allocated 2.5 billion New Taiwan dollars ($88 million) in March to drill wells and build emergency seawater desalination facilities.

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The Lithium Gold Rush: Inside the Race to Power Electric Vehicles

Atop a long-dormant volcano in northern Nevada, workers are preparing to start blasting and digging out a giant pit that will serve as the first new large-scale lithium mine in the United States in more than a decade — a new domestic supply of an essential ingredient in electric car batteries and renewable energy.

The mine, constructed on leased federal lands, could help address the near total reliance by the United States on foreign sources of lithium.

But the project, known as Lithium Americas, has drawn protests from members of a Native American tribe, ranchers and environmental groups because it is expected to use billions of gallons of precious ground water, potentially contaminating some of it for 300 years, while leaving behind a giant mound of waste.

“Blowing up a mountain isn’t green, no matter how much marketing spin people put on it,” said Max Wilbert, who has been living in a tent on the proposed mine site while two lawsuits seeking to block the project wend their way through federal courts.

Electric cars and renewable energy may not be as green as they appear. Production of raw materials like lithium, cobalt and nickel that are essential to these technologies are often ruinous to land, water, wildlife and people.

That environmental toll has often been overlooked in part because there is a race underway among the United States, China, Europe and other major powers. Echoing past contests and wars over gold and oil, governments are fighting for supremacy over minerals that could help countries achieve economic and technological dominance for decades to come.

Developers and lawmakers see this Nevada project, given final approval in the last days of the Trump administration, as part of the opportunity for the United States to become a leader in producing some of these raw materials as President Biden moves aggressively to fight climate change. In addition to Nevada, businesses have proposed lithium production sites in California, Oregon, Tennessee, Arkansas and North Carolina.

But traditional mining is one of the dirtiest businesses out there. That reality is not lost on automakers and renewable-energy businesses.

“Our new clean-energy demands could be creating greater harm, even though its intention is to do good,” said Aimee Boulanger, executive director for the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, a group that vets mines for companies like BMW and Ford Motor. “We can’t allow that to happen.”

assembled by Bloomberg, and a hint of the frenzy underway.

Some of those investors are backing alternatives including a plan to extract lithium from briny water beneath California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea, about 600 miles south of the Lithium Americas site.

At the Salton Sea, investors plan to use specially coated beads to extract lithium salt from the hot liquid pumped up from an aquifer more than 4,000 feet below the surface. The self-contained systems will be connected to geothermal power plants generating emission-free electricity. And in the process, they hope to generate the revenue needed to restore the lake, which has been fouled by toxic runoff from area farms for decades.

Businesses are also hoping to extract lithium from brine in Arkansas, Nevada, North Dakota and at least one more location in the United States.

The United States needs to quickly find new supplies of lithium as automakers ramp up manufacturing of electric vehicles. Lithium is used in electric car batteries because it is lightweight, can store lots of energy and can be repeatedly recharged. Analysts estimate that lithium demand is going to increase tenfold before the end of this decade as Tesla, Volkswagen, General Motors and other automakers introduce dozens of electric models. Other ingredients like cobalt are needed to keep the battery stable.

Even though the United States has some of the world’s largest reserves, the country today has only one large-scale lithium mine, Silver Peak in Nevada, which first opened in the 1960s and is producing just 5,000 tons a year — less than 2 percent of the world’s annual supply. Most of the raw lithium used domestically comes from Latin America or Australia, and most of it is processed and turned into battery cells in China and other Asian countries.

In March, she announced grants to increase production of crucial minerals. “This is a race to the future that America is going to win,” she said.

So far, the Biden administration has not moved to help push more environmentally friendly options — like lithium brine extraction, instead of open pit mines. The Interior Department declined to say whether it would shift its stand on the Lithium Americas permit, which it is defending in court.

Mining companies and related businesses want to accelerate domestic production of lithium and are pressing the administration and key lawmakers to insert a $10 billion grant program into Mr. Biden’s infrastructure bill, arguing that it is a matter of national security.

“Right now, if China decided to cut off the U.S. for a variety of reasons we’re in trouble,” said Ben Steinberg, an Obama administration official turned lobbyist. He was hired in January by ​Piedmont Lithium, which is working to build an open-pit mine in North Carolina and is one of several companies that have created a trade association for the industry.

Investors are rushing to get permits for new mines and begin production to secure contracts with battery companies and automakers.

Ultimately, federal and state officials will decide which of the two methods — traditional mining or brine extraction — is approved. Both could take hold. Much will depend on how successful environmentalists, tribes and local groups are in blocking projects.

370 feet.

Mr. Bartell’s biggest fear is that the mine will consume the water that keeps his cattle alive. The company has said the mine will consume 3,224 gallons per minute. That could cause the water table to drop on land Mr. Bartell owns by an estimated 12 feet, according to a Lithium Americas consultant.

While producing 66,000 tons a year of battery-grade lithium carbonate, the mine may cause groundwater contamination with metals including antimony and arsenic, according to federal documents.

The lithium will be extracted by mixing clay dug out from the mountainside with as much as 5,800 tons a day of sulfuric acid. This whole process will also create 354 million cubic yards of mining waste that will be loaded with discharge from the sulfuric acid treatment, and may contain modestly radioactive uranium, permit documents disclose.

A December assessment by the Interior Department found that over its 41-year life, the mine would degrade nearly 5,000 acres of winter range used by pronghorn antelope and hurt the habitat of the sage grouse. It would probably also destroy a nesting area for a pair of golden eagles whose feathers are vital to the local tribe’s religious ceremonies.

a lawsuit to try to block the mine.

At the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation, anger over the project has boiled over, even causing some fights between members as Lithium Americas has offered to hire tribal members in jobs that will pay an average annual wage of $62,675 — twice the county’s per capita income — but that will come with a big trade-off.

“Tell me, what water am I going to drink for 300 years?” Deland Hinkey, a member of the tribe, yelled as a federal official arrived at the reservation in March to brief tribal leaders on the mining plan. “Anybody, answer my question. After you contaminate my water, what I am going to drink for 300 years? You are lying!”

The reservation is nearly 50 miles from the mine site — and far beyond the area where groundwater may be contaminated — but tribe members fear the pollution could spread.

hiring a lobbying team that includes a former Trump White House aide, Jonathan Slemrod.

Lithium Americas, which estimates there is $3.9 billion worth of recoverable lithium at the site, hopes to start mining operations next year. Its largest shareholder is the Chinese company Ganfeng Lithium.

CalEnergy, and another business, Energy Source, have tapped the Buttes’ geothermal heat to produce electricity. The systems use naturally occurring underground steam. This same water is loaded with lithium.

Now, Berkshire Hathaway and two other companies — Controlled Thermal Resources and Materials Research — want to install equipment that will extract lithium after the water passes through the geothermal plants, in a process that will take only about two hours.

Rod Colwell, a burly Australian, has spent much of the last decade pitching investors and lawmakers on putting the brine to use. In February, a backhoe plowed dirt on a 7,000-acre site being developed by his company, Controlled Thermal Resources.

“This is the sweet spot,” Mr. Colwell said. “This is the most sustainable lithium in the world, made in America. Who would have thought it? We’ve got this massive opportunity.”

unemployment rate of nearly 16 percent.

“Our region is very rich in natural resources and mineral resources,” said Luis Olmedo, executive director of Comite Civico del Valle, which represents area farm workers. “However, they’re very poorly distributed. The population has not been afforded a seat at the table.”

The state has given millions in grants to lithium extraction companies, and the Legislature is considering requiring carmakers by 2035 to use California sources for some of the lithium in vehicles they sell in the state, the country’s largest electric-car market.

But even these projects have raised some questions.

Geothermal plants produce energy without emissions, but they can require tens of billions of gallons of water annually for cooling. And lithium extraction from brine dredges up minerals like iron and salt that need to be removed before the brine is injected back into the ground.

Similar extraction efforts at the Salton Sea have previously failed. In 2000, CalEnergy proposed spending $200 million to extract zinc and to help restore the Salton Sea. The company gave up on the effort in 2004.

opened demonstration projects using the brine extraction technology, with Standard Lithium tapping into a brine source already being extracted from the ground by an Arkansas chemical plant, meaning it did not need to take additional water from the ground.

“This green aspect is incredibly important,” said Robert Mintak, chief executive of Standard Lithium, who hopes the company will produce 21,000 tons a year of lithium in Arkansas within five years if it can raise $440 million in financing. “The Fred Flintstone approach is not the solution to the lithium challenge.”

Lilac Solutions, whose clients include Controlled Thermal Resources, is also working on direct lithium extraction in Nevada, North Dakota and at least one other U.S. location that it would not disclose. The company predicts that within five years, these projects could produce about 100,000 tons of lithium annually, or 20 times current domestic production.

Executives from companies like Lithium Americans question if these more innovative approaches can deliver all the lithium the world needs.

But automakers are keen to pursue approaches that have a much smaller impact on the environment.

“Indigenous tribes being pushed out or their water being poisoned or any of those types of issues, we just don’t want to be party to that,” said Sue Slaughter, Ford’s purchasing director for supply chain sustainability. “We really want to force the industries that we’re buying materials from to make sure that they’re doing it in a responsible way. As an industry, we are going to be buying so much of these materials that we do have significant power to leverage that situation very strongly. And we intend to do that.”

Gabriella Angotti-Jones contributed reporting.

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