In an ancient and now extinct supervolcano sitting in northern Nevada lies a treasure that its seekers call "white gold." This metal isn't to trade or to make jewelry out of -- it's lithium, and its value lies in its role in potentially slashing the world's carbon emissions. President Joe Biden's plan to transform the US to clean, low-carbon economy energy depends on switching to electric vehicles, and that means replacing gas with batteries, which are made from critical minerals like lithium.
But in the US, doing so is not without controversy. Lithium is a key ingredient for the big, rechargeable batteries that power electric vehicles and store energy generated by solar panels and wind turbines -- keeping that energy in use even when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing. Obtaining these minerals, which some call the new "white gold," is part of the latest worldwide rush to produce clean energy. Earlier this year, the Biden administration released a strategic plan from several federal agencies detailing how it planned to improve the entire supply chain for critical minerals like lithium -- from extracting it from US mines to putting it in batteries, to recycling and reusing these batteries.