Major lithium discovery in fracking wastewater leaves the left facing EV 'irony'

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The discovery of the potential for thousands of tons of lithium to be extracted annually from wastewater generated by fracking in the Marcellus Shale leaves proponents of a green energy future at a crossroads, Republicans said Thursday.

A University of Pittsburgh study suggested processing byproducts from natural gas production in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale basin could potentially meet nearly half of U.S. lithium needs. The typical electric vehicle (EV) requires nearly 18 pounds of lithium to power its battery. That figure grows exponentially for Teslas, according to reports.

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., who represents much of the Marcellus territory, told Fox News he wants to see those on the left change their tune.

"Now nearly 40% of our nation’s domestic need for lithium can be found right here as a byproduct of fracking," he said. "I fully expect every single Democrat to join Republicans in supporting domestic natural gas development."

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"[There are] 100,000 union jobs the industry supports in Pennsylvania alone," Reschenthaler said, while criticizing progressives in the Democratic Party for opposing the same fossil fuel speculation that led to the reported lithium boom.

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"Under the Biden administration, Republicans have fought to unleash American energy while Democrats increased our dependence on China and other foreign adversaries with their disastrous rush-to-green agenda," he said.

In the study, published in Nature's "Scientific Reports," estimates of annual lithium yields from Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale totaled 1,278 tons. The Marcellus Shale range covers large swaths of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.

One of the researchers, Justin Mackey, told KDKA that in addition to supplying substantial amounts of lithium, processing the wastewater in that way "reduce[s] the cost of remediating and handling" it, adding there may likely be similar lodes of lithium in West Virginia and Ohio shale deposits that could lead to an "economic boom."

One top Pennsylvania state lawmaker expressed delight at the discovery and, like Reschenthaler, called on Democrats to come to the table.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the GOP's 2022 gubernatorial nominee, said common ground should be found on the prospect of fracking to produce both natural gas and electric battery components.

Doug Mastriano PA
Doug Mastriano

"The great irony is the same climate extremists who oppose harvesting fossil fuels under all circumstances are dependent on lithium for solar panels and for the battery components they need for things like electric cars, which often are powered on electricity generated by natural gas," he said.

"Fracking may provide the cleanest, most environmentally friendly way to produce natural gas energy and harvest the domestic lithium we need for the green future endorsed by my colleagues on the extreme left."

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican who has battled the Biden administration over its stringent energy regulatory adjustments, said "what America needs most is more energy, not less," and that the Pennsylvania lithium discovery has the potential to change the U.S. energy game.

"We also need to store the energy for when the wind's not blowing and the sun isn't shining. If we can develop lithium, an essential component of EVs and batteries, as a byproduct of legacy oil and gas production, that is a win-win for America," he said.

Pennsylvania's senior senator, Democrat Bob Casey Jr., struck a positive tone over the development, highlighting the potentially multifaceted value of such mineral lodes.

"This is an opportunity to source a critical mineral right here at home to both support American jobs and manufacturing, as well as reduce our reliance on countries like China," Casey said.

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"I am interested in learning more about the potential lithium can bring to Pennsylvania’s economy."

Fox News Digital reached out to several other top Democrats, including Green New Deal co-sponsors Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., for comment about their stance on obtaining EV components from fossil fuel-based sources but did not receive responses.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., told Fox News Digital the lithium discovery is a "significant development" but added there is still a "moral obligation to wean ourselves off dirty fossil fuels and raise the bar on mining domestically and internationally."

"Sourcing lithium and other critical minerals from waste could potentially reduce the environmental footprint of our mineral supply chains, but it must be done responsibly. It’s critical that we align our environmental regulations with legislation that will ensure the safeguarding of local ecosystems and communities from the adverse impacts of irresponsible mining and fossil fuel extraction," Grijalva said.

Requests for comment were also sent to other relevant lawmakers, including Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and Senate Energy Chairman Joe Manchin, I-W.V., whose states comprise part of the Marcellus range.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said technology like hydraulic fracturing has made the U.S. the "world's leading oil and natural gas producer."

"It appears these technologies may also have the potential to unlock significant amounts of lithium, a mineral needed in batteries for electric cars."

In addition to lithium exploration, some lawmakers have in past years called for the U.S. to step up its game on the prospecting of rare earth minerals that are otherwise sourced from China and Africa and also needed for green technologies and telecommunications.

In 2018, Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., told Fox News that his Hazleton area, once the epicenter of coal mining, should be further utilized and explored.

"Studies have shown the Appalachian coal fields in Pennsylvania contain some of the highest concentrations of REEs (rare earth elements) in the country," Barletta said.

"Researchers have found ways to extract REEs from Appalachian coal byproducts that are more environmentally friendly than traditional methods and require less energy," he wrote at the time.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment for this story.


Original article source: Major lithium discovery in fracking wastewater leaves the left facing EV 'irony'