Two news articles caught my attention this past month. The first one described a proposed lithium mine in northern Nevada. Lithium is a key component used for large storage batteries in electric vehicles and for energy storage.
Of main concern was the potential impacts to nearby rural communities including traffic, noise, nighttime lighting, air and water quality, and the effect that an influx of numerous workers would have on rural communities. These same impacts could play out at other sites throughout the western U.S. and in Utah where lithium deposits may be found.
If the dream of an electric vehicle transportation fleet is to become reality, these impacts must be addressed.
The second article was an opinion piece by Mr. Thom Carter, Energy Advisor to Governor Spencer Cox, who wrote about the need for extractive energy and mining operations to keep an “all of the above” energy mix of renewable and non-renewable energy projects active in Utah. He provided the message that “keep it in the ground” was not possible if we wish to produce the critical minerals necessary to manufacture solar panels, wind turbines, and all the energy storage and power transmission infrastructure to keep renewable energy moving. His premise is that “advocating for renewable energy sources also means maintaining, if not expanding, our mining infrastructure.” I totally agree with his point of view.
The bottom line is that the development of renewable and non-renewable energy and the production of critical minerals is not a zero-sum scenario vis-à-vis the importance of climate change, public land management, environmental impacts, or economic benefits to rural communities. It is not one or the other of two competing alternatives, because the goal of a more livable world for people relies on those materials that we can extract from the earth. All considerations must be weighed in the balance to produce the best possible outcome for Utah citizens.
Division of Oil, Gas and Mining staff attempts to perform its regulatory function in this manner. We do not pick winners and losers in the extractive industries based on political or ideological preference. Our decision-making on permit approvals and compliance enforcement are science and logic-based and designed to achieve acceptable outcomes for responsible development. I truly believe that we can find innovative solutions to many of the challenges facing humanity as we work collaboratively to achieve a better quality of life through energy and mineral development.