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Lithium in a California Lake Could Help U.S. Gain Energy Autonomy

Deep in the Southern California desert, a massive drill rig taps into what could be the energy of the future.

Temperatures in the region can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and residents live under the threat of toxic dust caused by decades of agricultural runoff depositing chemicals into the Salton Sea, a saltwater lake.

But in the brine lies lithium, a key ingredient for electric vehicle batteries, and the billion-dollar drilling project promises to not only transform an impoverished region, but also help the United States gain energy independence.

Newsom Voices Pledge to Lithium Valley

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday, Jan. 10 announced a commitment to incentivize and spur development of the state’s lithium reserves around the Salton Sea.

“We have what someone described as the Saudi Arabia of lithium here in the state of California down in Imperial County near the Salton Sea,” Newsom said on Monday as he unveiled his budget proposal for 2022-2023 dubbed “The California Blueprint.”

California Wants Its Imperial Valley to Be ‘Lithium Valley’

Dust storms laced with toxins sweep across California’s Imperial County, where mud volcanoes spit and hiss near the shores of the slowly shrinking lake known as the Salton Sea. The county is one of California’s poorest, most of its jobs tied to a thin strip of irrigated land surrounded by desert. San Diego and the Golden State’s prosperous coast lie only 100 miles away across a jumble of mountains, but it might as well be another world.