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ABC’s Ginger Zee examines the keys to America’s clean energy future


ABC’s Ginger Zee examines the keys to America’s clean energy future



>> FOR AN ENTIRE CENTURY, WE HAVE REALLY KNOWN ONLY ONE WAY. >> OIL MUST COST MORE. >> COAL, OIL, AND GAS HAVE HEATED OUR HOMES, POWERED INDUSTRIES, AND FUELED OUR VEHICLES. THEY GAVE US FREEDOM, BUT THAT FREEDOM CAME AT A COST. FO FUELS, WHILE PROPELLING US FORWARD, THEY ACTUALLY PUSHED US BACK. >> THIS IS A MAJOR INVESTMENT IN CLEAN ENERGY CARS. >> SO, AS WE COME TO THE FORK IN THE ROAD THAT IS OUR NEW ENERGY FUTURE, THE QUESTION REALLY BECOMES, CAN WE TRULY ELECTRIFY OUR WORLD? WITHOUT SCREWING IT ALL UP. >> WE ARE AT A REAL TURNING POINT. LIKE THE MOMENT THE HORSE AND BUGGIES LOOKED AT THE MODEL T SIDEWAYS. AND CANDLEROCK ARE SMALLEST HAVE BEEN POUTING WHEN EDISON TURNED THOSE LIGHTS ON. BUT AT THIS JUNCTURE, WE NOW HAVE ADAPTED AND INNOVATED AND MANY BELIEVE WE HAVE TO CHANGE, FAST. NOT ONLY THE RAPID SHIFT TO RENEWABLES THAT SCIENTISTS SAY NEEDS TO HAPPEN TO CURB THE RAPID WARMING OF OUR PLANET, BUT IT IS ALSO ABOUT THOSE BATTERIES THAT THE RENEWABLES WILL BE CHARGING. IT IS A RACE TO FIND EACH COMPONENT, LIKE LITHIUM, NICKEL, AND COBALT. WE HAVE GOT TO DO IT QUICKLY. SOURCE THEM ETHICALLY. AND DO IT HERE IN OUR COUNTRY. WE ALSO HAVE TO FOCUS ON RECYCLING THOSE PRECIOUS METALS, AND MAYBE, JUST MAYBE WE WILL FIND THEM WHILE EXPLORING THE DEPTHS OF OUR PLANET FOR WHAT COULD BE A FARFETCHED ANSWER. BUT OUR ENERGY FUTURE BEGINS BY GOING BACK. JUST SO WE CAN GO FORWARD. >> WATCH THESE TRIPS HERE. >> IN THE DEPTHS OF THIS NARROW, WINDING TUNNEL SET A VITAL MINERAL THAT COULD ONE DAY HELP POWER OUR RENEWABLE FUTURE. >> IT IS RED, THAT TELLS YOU YOU ARE GOING DEEPER. >> OUTSIDE OF THAT TUNNEL, THE ROLLING ROCKY MOUNTAINS OF CENTRAL IDAHO. FLANKED BY MILES, AND MILES OF BEAUTIFUL SCENERY, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, THIS LAND IS JUST LUXURIATING IN THE LACK OF HUMAN INTERACTION. SAY THAT TUNNEL, THE MUD SWALLOWING OUR BOOTS. HERE, THERE IS ONE GOAL. >> YOU CAME HERE FOR THE COBALT. >> WE CAME HERE FOR THE COBALT. >> THERE IS COBALT IN THESE HILLS. >> COBALT IS AN ANCIENT MATERIAL THAT IS NOW BREATHING NEW LIFE INSIDE THIS MOUNTAIN. >> IT IS LIKE SHOES ARE ON ADVENTURE. >> IT IS NOT THE FIRST TIME COBALT HAS MADE AN IMPRINT ON THIS PART OF IDAHO. COBALT HAS BEEN MINED IN THIS AREA FOR A CENTURY, STARTING IN THE 1940S TO BUILD JET ENGINES DURING THE COLD WAR. >> STAND CLEAR OF JET INTAKES AND JET EXHAUST. >> COBALT IS NOW DEEMED CRITICAL BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT. IT IS ONE OF 50 CONSIDER IT ESSENTIAL FOR THE U.S. ECONOMY, AND NATIONAL SECURITY. >> WITHOUT THESE MINERALS, WE SIMPLY CANNOT FUNCTION. >> COBALT, SO INTEGRAL HERE THERE WAS AN ENTIRE TOWN NAMED FOR IT. THIS WIDE OPEN FIELD RUNNING AROUND PANTHER CREEK USED TO BE THE TOWN OF COBALT. THERE USED TO BE 250 PEOPLE LIVING HERE, GROCERY STORES, SCHOOLS, DANCE HALLS, EVEN A MOVIE THEATER. FROM THE 1950S TO THE 19 80S, THE PEOPLE WHO LIVED HERE MOSTLY WORKED AT THE MIND. BUT NOW IT IS A STARK REMINDER OF JUST HOW TRANSIENT MINING CAN BE. >> AND RIGHT HERE, THIS IS PANTHER CREEK. >> FOLLOW THIS WINDING CREEK UP THE MOUNTAIN FROM WHAT WAS THE TOWN OF COBALT AND YOU WILL FIND THE MIND WHERE IT ALL BEGAN, BLACKBIRD. >> WHAT AM I LOOKING AT? >> THAT IS THE FORMER THAT — IS WHAT WE WOULD REFER TO A SURFACE MINING. >> FROM THE EARLY 1900S TO THE EARLY 80S, BLACKBIRD WAS GROUND ZERO FOR COBALT MINING IN THE UNITED STATES. AND SURFACE MINING, A PRACTICE INVOLVING AN OPEN PIT TO GATHER, AND MINE COBALT. THAT WAS COMMONPLACE AT THE TIME, AND HARDLY REGULATED. >> THERE IS A LOT MORE REGULATION NOWADAYS WHEN WE TALK 50S AND 60S, THAT WAS NOT THAT MUCH REGULATION AROUND IT. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACTUALLY ASKED FOR THE MINE TO HAPPEN, AND PRODUCE, PRODUCE, PRODUCE. SO CORNERS WERE CUT TO BE ABLE TO PRODUCE THAT COBALT. >> BOTH ABOVE THE SERVICE, AND BELOW, WATER FLOAT OVER THESE EXPOSED METALS AND THEN CARRY THE TOXIC MATERIAL INTO NEARBY STREETS, KILLING CRITICAL FISH POPULATIONS AND LEAVING THE LAND IN RUIN. NO ONE MINDS HERE ANYMORE, THEY HAVEN’T SINCE 1982, AND A DECADE AFTER THE MINE SHUT DOWN THE EPA PROPOSED ADDING THE SIGHT TO A LIST OF THE MOST CONTAMINATED PLACES IN THE COUNTRY. NOW, BLACKBURN HAS A NEW OWNER. CANADIAN-BASED COMPANY, GLEN CORE. >> THE LEGACY SITE IS A SIGHT THAT OPERATED. AND NO LONGER OPERATES. BUT WE STILL HAVE AN ENVIRONMENTAL OBLIGATION. >> HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET SOMETHING LIKE A WATERSHED RESTORED AFTER A BLACK BIRD? >> MY EXPERIENCE TELLS ME DECADES AND DECADES. >> THE LEGACY OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION FROM BLACKBIRD IS WELL KNOWN. >> WE HAVE HAD THE LOCAL POPULATION OF SALMON GO EXTEND FROM THE IMPACT OF MINING. >> FROM COBALT MINING AS WELL? >> COBALT MINING SPECIFICALLY. >> WAS BLACKBIRD THE SITE? >> IT WAS. >> AFTER DECADES OF WORK FROM INDIGENOUS GROUPS AND LOCAL RESTORATION CREWS, THE STREAMS ARE JUST NOW RECOVERING. >> WE HAVE COME A LONG WAY WITH OUR ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS TO HELP PROTECT OUR WATERWAYS FOR BOTH PEOPLE, AND FOR WILDLIFE. BUT THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT WE NEED TO KEEP IN OUR MINDS AS WE MOVE FORWARD WITH THIS BIG MINERAL RUSH. >> HERE IS THE WILD PART, JUST ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THAT HISTORIC COBALT BLUNDER SITS WHAT COULD BE THE FUTURE OF DOMESTIC COBALT MINING. WITH A COMPANY CALLED — >> THE MINE IS ABOUT 22 MILES WEST THAT WAY, BUT WE ARE NOT PROS SO IT IS NOT GOING TO BE AN EASY DRIVE TO GET THERE. WE ARE SURROUNDED BY ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS SCENERY, PUT INSIDE THESE MOUNTAINS IS A CRITICAL MINERAL. >> THAT IS RIGHT. THERE IS AN AMAZING SUPPLY IN THE CENTRAL PART OF IDAHO. IDAHO HAS ONE OF THE BEST KNOWN MINERALIZATION’S OF COBALT IN THE WORLD. >> IN 2019, THE U.S. PRODUCED 500 TONS OF COBALT. BUT THAT WAS NOT FROM DIRECT COBALT MINING, IT WAS A BYPRODUCT OF OTHER MINING MATERIAL. BUT NOW IS THE NEED FOR EVS AND BATTERY STORAGE SORE, WE NEED SIGNIFICANTLY MORE COBALT. JERVOIS BELIEVES THEY CAN QUADRUPLE PRODUCTION, BUT THAT IS STILL ONLY 10% OF OUR COUNTRIES DEMAND. >> GOING INTO THE SIDE OF THE MINE LIKE THIS IT IS A VERY DIFFERENT OPERATION THAN AN OPEN PIT. >> THAT IS UNDISTURBED FOREST RIGHT ABOVE US. IT IS UNDISTURBED FOR US JUST BELOW AS. SO OUR ONLY DISTURBANCES THIS SPACE, AND THIS PORTAL, AND THE SURFACE FACILITIES WE WILL SEE ON TOP. >> THAT IS WAY LESS IMPACTFUL ON THE SURFACE PRODUCTION. YOU ARE NOT BLOWING UP THE MOUNTAIN. YOU ARE KEEPING THE MOUNTAIN, YOU ARE PUTTING TUNNELS AND IT. >> THAT’S RIGHT. WHAT WE WILL DO AT THE END IS ALL OF THIS GETS BUILT, WE KEPT THAT PORTAL, WE WILL PUT THE SLOW BACK, AND WE CAN RE-VEGETATED AND NOBODY WILL EVER KNOW IT IS HERE. >> THIS NEW JERVOIS PROJECT WILL BE THE ONLY MINE IN THE UNITED STATES EXCLUSIVELY FOCUSED ON COBALT. THE FIRST IN OUR COUNTRY IN ALMOST 30 YEARS. >> WE HOPE TO BE HERE FOR TEN OR MORE YEARS, AT THE MOMENT WE ARE PERMITTED FOR SEVEN YEARS. >> I FIRST, IT IS JUST A DISTANT HOME. BEYOND THAT VAN THAT CARRIES A DIESEL FUMES OUT OF THE MINE IT GETS EERILY QUIET, UNTIL — >> WHAT THEY ARE DOING HERE IS LIKE A LAB. >> IT IS, IT IS A LITTLE BIT, IT IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR US TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR BODY. SO WE DRILLED A NUMBER OF HOLES HERE. EACH ONE OF THOSE HOLES PENETRATES OUR BODY AND TELLS US SOMETHING ABOUT HOW MUCH COBALT AND COPPER AND THE WIDTH, THE THICKNESS OF THAT. WHAT WE DO WITH THAT INFORMATION IS ALL OF THAT DATA GETS PUT INTO REALLY SOPHISTICATED COMPUTER MODELS THAT WE USED TO MODEL THE OR BODY SO THAT WHEN WE GO TO MINE AND WE HAVE THE BEST PREDICTION WE CAN FIND OF WHAT IS IN FRONT OF US. >> IT TAKES A LOT TO DO THIS. IT IS NOT EASY. >> IT IS NOT EASY AND IT IS VERY TECHNICAL. >> WHAT WE ARE SEEING, IT IS STILL WORTH IT TO GO IN THERE AND GET, IT RIGHT? >> ABSOLUTELY. >> BECAUSE COBALT, ESPECIALLY, NOW HAS HAD SUCH A RISE. >> IT HAS HAD A RISE. IT IS A VERY VOLATILE MEDAL BECAUSE OF THE WAY THE MARKET WORKS. BUT IT HAS HAD A RISE. WE BELIEVE IT IS GOING TO CONTINUE TO BE IN DEMAND. >> WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR THEM, YOU HAVE GOT YOUR FLASHLIGHT OUT? SOMETIMES WHAT WE CAN SEE AS MINERALIZATION IN THIS. BUT YOU CAN START TO SEE IN THE STRUCTURE HERE THAT LAYER, SO YOU CAN START TO SEE THE STRUCTURES AND HOW THE ROCK HAS BEEN TIPPED UP BY THE FORMATION OF THE MOUNTAINS, OR MINERALIZATION OCCURS ALONG THESE SEAMS. >> IT IS A FASCINATING ADVENTURE TO KIND OF NAVIGATE THAT’S LABYRINTH OF TUNNELS. THEY ANTICIPATE 40,000 FEET OF TUNNELS WHEN YOU ARE DONE. AND THEY ARE THINKING THEY ARE GOING TO FIND ENOUGH COBALT TO HELP POWER AND CREATE 2.8 MILLION ELECTRIC VEHICLE BATTERIES. >> THE DEMAND FOR ELECTRIC CARS AND BETTER BATTERIES IS MAKING MINERALS LIKE COBALT HIGHLY IN DEMAND AROUND THE GLOBE. >> MORE THAN TWO THIRDS OF THE WORLD COMES FROM THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO. CHINA HAS BEEN VERY STRATEGIC AND WORKING WITH PARTNERS AND THE CONGO TO SECURE THE RIGHTS TO THOSE MINDS. THEY CURRENTLY OWN 15 OF THE 19 COBALT PRODUCING MINDS. THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF REPORTS OF CHILD AND FORCED LABOR AS WELL. >> AN URGENT REMINDER THAT WE NEED TO DO IT RIGHT AND DO IT HERE. THIS IS A RARE ISSUE THAT IS UNITING BOTH PARTIES. >> FOR OUR NATIONAL AND ECONOMIC SECURITY, WE CANNOT AFFORD TO RELY ON COUNTRIES SUCH AS RUSSIA AND CHINA. IT IS CLEARLY TIME FOR US TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT EXPANDING DOMESTIC MINERAL PRODUCTION. >> RELYING ON COMPANIES LIKE THIS AND OVERSIGHT FROM STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS TO DO IT BETTER THIS TIME AROUND. >> WE ARE USING ADVANCED TOOLS LIKE AUTONOMOUS DRONES FOR SERVING. THESE KIND OF TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE IN HOW WE ARE ABLE, IN A SOCIALLY RESPONSE AWAY, EXTRACT MINERALS FROM THE EARTH. >> THE MINE HAS PERMITS FROM THE STATE OF IDAHO, THE EPA, AND THE U.S. FORCE SERVICE. THEY ALL FOUND THAT THEIR PLANS FOR TREATING THEIR WASTEWATER AND RESTORING THE AREA WHEN MINE CLOSES WHERE MINIMIZE, BUT NOT COMPLETELY ELIMINATE THE HARM TO THE ENVIRONMENT. >> THERE IS SO MUCH BEAUTY, PART OF THAT IS BEAUTIFUL TOO IN NATURE, WE HAVE TO HAVE THAT. WHEN WE LOOK UP HERE AND WE TURNED THE MINE, WHAT IS THE FEELING THAT YOU GET? >> I GET EXCITED. IT’S NOT BECAUSE I DON’T SEE THE IMPACT THAT THIS IS HAVING ON THE LAND, IT’S ABOUT THE FACT THAT I’M EXCITED TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR IT. I THINK WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO CONTINUE TO DO WHAT IS CHALLENGING. WE DON’T DO THIS BECAUSE IT IS EASY. WE DO THIS BECAUSE IT IS INCREDIBLY HARD AND WE WANT TO SEE IT ON RIGHT. >> LOTS OF EXCITEMENT THERE WE DON’T HAVE A TON OF ANY OF THOSE IN THIS COUNTRY. >> THE UNITED STATES IS ACTUALLY MORE THAN 50% IMPORT RELIANT FOR EVERY SINGLE BATTERY MINIMAL EXCEPT FOR LITHIUM. WE ONLY HAVE ONE COMMERCIALLY OPERATING LITHIUM-ION IN THE U.S. TODAY. EVEN IF WE START DIGGING NEW MINDS AT HOME, WE AREN’T YET MAKING THE BATTERIES. IN 2020, MORE THAN 90% OF LITHIUM ION BATTERY PRODUCTION HAPPENED OUTSIDE THE U.S.. AMERICAN AUTOMAKERS AND U.S. GOVERNMENT INTEND TO CHANGE THAT. >> WE NEED TO EMBRACE ALL THE TOOLS AND TECHNOLOGIES TO HELP FREE US FROM OUR DEPENDENCE ON FOSSIL FUELS. MOVE US TOWARD A MORE HOMEGROWN CLEAN ENERGY. >> ONCE THE BATTERIES ARE MADE IN AMERICA, THERE HAVE TO BE TESTED, WHICH TAKES US HERE. RIGHT NEXT TO A 66 ACRE SOLAR FIELD FILLED WITH GRAZING SHEEP AND DONKEY, YOU’LL FIND A PLACE WHERE THEY WANT TO GET THE AMERICAN MADE BATTERY RIGHT. >> WE ARE HEADING INTO THE GROUP OF AMERICA. HERE, WE TEST HIGH VOLTAGE BATTERIES. >> THE CLIMATE CHAMBER IS OPENING. AND HOW IS THE IDEA FOR DOING? >> INSIDE HERE NOW, IT — MINUS 50? OH MY GOODNESS. THEY ARE TESTING THE EXTREME. >> WE ARE IN TENNESSEE AND THIS FACILITY TEST BATTERIES FOR DURABILITY, EFFICIENCY, AND EVEN DISASTER. YOU HAVE TANKS THAT YOU ARE KIND OF SIMULATING FLASH FLOODING WHERE SOMEONE WOULD DRIVE THE BATTERY RIGHT THROUGH WATER WHICH WE KNOW PEOPLE DO. >> WE TAKE THE BATTERY THAT IS FULL OF WATER, THEN WE CHECK TO MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS IN. >> THERE IS A LOT OF PEOPLE ACTUALLY WORRIED ABOUT THE APPLICATION OF BATTERIES, CAN’T HAPPENED IN TIME? >> I THINK IT IS A GROWING SECTOR OF TIME. THIS GROWTH WILL HAPPEN. >> BUT, IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE THE BATTERY THAT POWERS AND EV CAN FIT IN YOUR HANDS. WE ARE WORKING ON A BATTERY WHICH IS NOT FLAMMABLE, WHERE WE CAN INTRODUCE DANCE MATERIAL ON EARTH. THAT IS CONSIDERED THE HOLY GRAIL OF MATERIAL. IF WE CAN ACCOMPLISH THAT, WE CAN MAKE BATTERIES THAT ARE ALL CAN POTENTIALLY HAVE CARS THAT GO 400 MILES. IT IS A TALL ORDER. NO MATTER IF THEY ARE SOLID OR LIQUID WITH THE, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS MORE EVS WILL NOW HIT THE ROAD. I’M INSIDE FORCE ALL ELECTRIC MANUFACTURING FACILITY. THIS F-150 HAS A 220 MILE RANGE, THEY HAVE A GUARANTEE ON THE BATTERY FOR EIGHT YEARS, A LOT OF FOLKS WORRY ABOUT THAT. THIS BATTERY CAN ACTUALLY BE USED AS A GENERATOR FOR YOUR HOME OR TO BOOST ANOTHER FRIEND WHO HASN’T EV. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THEY DO EVENTUALLY DIE? THANKFULLY, THE INCREDIBLE VALUABLE CONTENT IS RECYCLABLE. IF YOU TAKE A LOOK AROUND YOU, ANYTHING THAT IS NOT GROWN WITH THAT WAS MIND AT ONE POINT IN TIME. WE ALL HAVE THOSE MEDALS IN OUR POCKETS, LITERALLY. OUR PHONES, OUR COMPUTERS, AND THE EVS ON THE ROADS NOW. WHAT CYCLING IS GOING TO HAVE TO BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION NO MATTER WHAT. THE U.S. DOES GET SOME COBALT AND OTHER MINERALS FROM RECYCLING, BUT NOT ENOUGH YET. THESE ARE FROM TESLA. THAT IS WHAT LINING UNDER MY TESLA BATTERY? >> CORRECT. ONE STUDY SAYS THAT THE MATERIALS COULD PROVIDE THE MATERIAL NEW BATTERIES BY 2040. A COMPANY CALLED REDWOOD MATERIALS IN NEVADA HAS CONTRACTS WITH ALMOST ALL OF THE MAJOR AUTOMAKERS TO RECYCLE THEIR BATTERIES BEGINNINGS NEXT YEAR. FOR THE LAST CENTURY, WE HAVE ONLY KNOWN TO WASTE RECYCLE LITHIUM BATTERIES, BURN THEM OR YOU ACID TO BREAK THEM DOWN. SCIENTISTS AT PRINCETON SAY THAT IS JUST INEFFICIENT AND ENVIRONMENTALLY TAXING, ALSO IT COSTS A LOT. >> THAT’S IS THE MOST AGGRESSIVE WAY TO RECYCLED MATERIALS. USING PLASMA. >> THE BETTER GET STABILIZED IN THIS MACHINE. IT COMBINES WITH A CHEMICAL LIQUID. THEN, MIXED WITH A POWDER. AND THEN EACH MINERAL COMPONENT IS SEPARATED FOR RESALE. THEY SAY THAT THIS PROCESS IS MORE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY, AND COST EFFICIENT. BUT EVEN IF WE WERE TO RECYCLE EVERY LITHIUM BATTERY IN OUR JURORS, CABINETS, AND PILES OF YOU WASTE, WE ARE STILL GOING TO NEED VIRGIN MINERALS. AND THE HUNT FOR THOSE MINERALS IS GETTING DEEP. AND URGENT. SO URGENT, THAT THE NEXT FRONTIER OF COBALT, AND NICKEL MAYBE FAR FROM THAT MOUNTAINTOP IN IDAHO. BUT INSTEAD, AND ONE OF THE MOST REMOTE, SEEMINGLY UNENDING AND UNTOUCHED PARTS OF OUR WORLD. 15,000 FEET BELOW THE DEEP BLUE OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN SERVICE LIES WHAT COULD BE A SILVER BULLET, OR THE NEXT ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHE. >> I HAVE BEEN READING ABOUT THESE FOR A LONG TIME, CAN I HOLD IT? I READ IT WAS POTATO LIKE. I FEEL LIKE THIS IS SMALLER THAN I EXPECTED. IS THIS AN AVERAGE SIZE? >> THIS IS AN AVERAGE SIZE. THIS WOULD BE ABOUT FOUR OR 5 MILLION YEARS OLD. >> FOUR OR 5 MILLION YEARS OLD? AND INSIDE HERE IS WHAT? >> INSIDE THERE IS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO BUILD AN ELECTRIC VEHICLE BATTERY, SO IT IS FULL OF NICKEL, AND COBALT, AND COPPER, AND — >> THIS LUMPY, BLACK, TANGERINE SIZED ROCK IS CALLED A NODULE. AND THE METALS COMPANY WANTS TO MIND THEM FROM THE DEEP SEA. >> WE HAVE THREE AREAS IN THIS REGION KNOWN AS THE — AND WE IDENTIFIED 1.6 BILLION TONS ON TWO OF OUR AREAS. THAT IS ENOUGH TO BUILD 280 MILLION MID SIZED BATTERIES. >> THE CCZ IT’S A HUGE AREA IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN. TO GIVE YOU SOME PERSPECTIVE, IT IS ABOUT THE SIZE OF THE LOWER 48. 200 MILES WEST OF MEXICO, IT HAPPENS TO BE ONE OF THE DEEPEST PARTS OF THE OCEAN. PLUMMETING 12,000 TO 18,000 FEET. SOME SAY IT IS LESS EXPLORED THAN THE SURFACE OF MARS. AND WEIGHED DOWN THERE, ON THAT OCEAN FLOOR SIT MILLIONS OF THESE VALUABLE MILL NEURAL RICH NODULES. WE WANT TO ELECTRIFY AMERICA. WE WANT TO ELECTRIFY THE WORLD. BUT WE DO NOT HAVE THE CAPACITY TO DO IT AS IT IS. >> THAT IS RIGHT. PEOPLE HAVE NOT GIVEN A LOT OF THOUGHT TO WHERE THOSE METALS COME FROM. IF YOU WANT TO BUILD AN ECOSYSTEM THAT CAN MAKE AMERICAN BATTERIES WITH SECURE SUPPLIES OF BATTERY MATERIALS, THEN THIS IS ONE OF THE FEW RESOURCES ON THE PLANET THAT COULD ACTUALLY SERVICE AMERICAN INDUSTRY IN A VERY SHORT TIME. WHAT WE HAVE TO DO IS LOOK ON PLANET EARTH AND SAY WHERE IS THE RESORTS WITH THE LIGHTEST PLANETARIUM HUMAN TOUCH, AND THIS IS THE ONE. >> NOT EVERYONE AGREES. >> MY NAME IS MATTHEW GIULIANI, I AM A COFOUNDER AND THE POLITICAL, AND POLICY ADVISER OF THE DEEP SEA CONSERVATION COALITION. THEY LEAD COMPANY, IT IS CALLED THE METALS COMPANY, IT IS PUSHING A NARRATIVE THAT IT IS BETTER TO GO INTO THE DEEP SEA, AND THE DEEP SEA IS A QUOTE, DESERT. SCIENTISTS ARE SAYING IT IS STEAMING WITH LIFE. ALL KINDS OF DIFFERENT SPECIES, WE ARE STILL DISCOVERING THEM. BUT THE IDEA THAT THE WORLD HAS TO MINE IS A FALSE ASSERTION. THE WORLD DOES NOT HAVE TIMELINE IN THE DEEP SEA TO GET THE MINERALS NEEDED TO TRANSITION TO MINERAL ENERGY. THEY ARE PUSHING US THERE BECAUSE I WANT TO MAKE MONEY. >> ANY COMPANY THAT WANTS TO MIND THE DEEP-SEATED STILL HAS TO WAIT FOR FINAL APPROVAL. >> THE LARGEST MINERAL DEPOSITS IN THE DEEP OCEAN ARE IN THE INTERNATIONAL WORLD OF THE OCEAN. IN ORDER TO BE ABLE TO MIND THERE, A COMPANY OR A COUNTRY NEEDS TO GET A PERMIT, OR A LICENSE FROM AN ORGANIZATION CALLED THE INTERNATIONAL SEAMEN AUTHORITY. >> THE INTERNATIONAL SEABED AUTHORITY WHICH THE U.S. IS NOT A MEMBER OF HAS NOT YET DRAFTED A NEW REGULATION ON HOW TO MONITOR DEEP SEA MINING. >> THEIR JOB IS TO GOVERN INTERNATIONAL WATERS. THEY ARE THE BODY MADE UP OF 167 COUNTRIES. PLUS THE EUROPEAN UNION, WHO WILL REGULATE US WHEN WE ARE IN DISTANCE. THE INTERNATIONAL SEABED AUTHORITY IS IN THE FINAL THROWS OF PUTTING THE LAST PIECE OF THE JIGSAW TOGETHER, AND THAT IS WHAT IS KNOWN AS THE EXPLOITATION CODE. THAT WILL CONTAIN ALL OF THE RULES IN WHICH WE WILL BE REGULATED. >> WHY IS THE UNITED STATES NOT IN IT? >> IT IS A POLITICAL FOOTBALL. THEY ABIDE BY THE RULES, THEY FUND PART OF THE GOVERNING BODY, BUT THEY JUST HAVE NOT RATIFIED BETWEEN THE HOUSES. >> WHO IS GOING TO POLICE SET? THERE IS A REGULATOR. BUT WE ARE BUILDING SOMETHING THAT WE KNOW IS OUR ADOPTIVE MANAGING SYSTEM, AND THAT WILL PROVIDE THE REGULATOR, AND ALSO PARTS OF CIVIL SOCIETY WITH EYES AND EARS TO SEE EXACTLY WHAT WE ARE DOING. >> SO YOU WOULD EXPECT TO BE ABLE TO START OPERATIONS? >> THAT WOULD MEAN THAT WE COULD SUBMIT OUR APPLICATION, AND THEY WILL RECEIVE OUR APPLICATION AND IT WILL TAKE THEM ABOUT 11 MONTHS TO GO THROUGH THE ASSESSMENT PROCESS. >> YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES. >> NO, BUT WE HAVE A VERY STRONG LEAD ON EVERYONE ELSE. >> BUT THE COMPANY IS ALREADY MOVING FORWARD. THEY GOT THE GREEN LIGHT TO TEST THEIR TECHNOLOGY, AND COLLECT NODULES. IT IS ALL HAPPENING WHILE AN INDEPENDENT TEAM OF SCIENTISTS ON BOARD THEIR SHIPS STUDY THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT. >> WE HAD A SHIPS THAT WILL STAY AT SEA. AND IT WILL BE WITH PEOPLE WHO OPERATE HARVESTERS ON THE SEA FLOOR. NOW, IN TIME, THOSE BOATS WILL BEAT ROBOTIC. BUT FOR THE MOMENT, WE HAVE A HARVESTER ON THE SEA FLOOR, IT MOVES ALONG LIKE YOU WOULD HARVEST A — EXCEPT THE NODULES PUT IT INTO A IN THE AIR RISE OR. AND THEN THE BOAT OFF-LOADS THEM EVERY FEW DAYS ONTO A CARGO VESSEL, WHICH WILL THEN TAKE IT TO OUR PROCESSING CENTER. >> EVEN IF THE TECHNOLOGY CHECKS OUT, AND REGULATIONS ARE FINALIZED, IT COULD BE YEARS BEFORE A FULL SCALE MINING IS UNDERWAY. >> YOU SHOULD NOT GO IN AND TRASH AN AREA OF THE GLOBE ABOUT WHICH WE KNOW HARDLY ANYTHING. UNTIL WE HAVE DONE THE PROPER RESEARCH. >> HIGH PROFILE FIGURES LIKE SEVERAL OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE CALLED FOR A — DEEP SEA MINING. THEY WANT MORE RESEARCH. >> IF WE WERE ALLOWED TO GO AHEAD, MINING WOULD DESTROY ANCIENT DEEP SEA HABITATS. THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT THIS IS AN INDUSTRY THAT WE CAN STOP BEFORE IT STARTS. >> THE MINING COMPANIES ARE LOOKING AT WHAT WOULD REQUIRE MASSIVE ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE IN THE DEEP OCEAN. MUCH OF WHICH WE WOULD NOT REALLY KNOW OCCURRED BECAUSE WE DO NOT KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT WHAT LIVES IN THE DEEP OCEAN. WORST-CASE AN AERIAL FOR THE ENVIRONMENT WOULD BE DRIVING SPECIES EXTINCT BEFORE WE EVEN KNOW THEY EXIST. >> THE CCZ HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS ONE OF THE MOST BIODIVERSE PLACES IN THE WORLD. WE DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT LIFE AT THESE DEPTHS, BUT SCIENTISTS DO KNOW THAT THE SOUGHT AFTER NODULES IN THIS AREA ARE ALSO HOME TO HUNDREDS OF SPECIES, LIKE THE NICKNAMED GUMMY SQUIRREL. RESEARCHERS HAVE FOUND THAT MINING OPERATIONS ARE LIKELY TO DISTURB SEDIMENT ON THE OCEAN FLOOR, AND GENERATE NOISE THAT WOULD TRAVEL FOR HUNDREDS OF KILOMETERS. THOSE IMPACTS AND SUCH AS SENSITIVE ECOSYSTEMS ARE RAISING CONCERNS ABOUT MASS EXTINCTION. >> SAY THAT YOU FIND OUT THAT WE HAVE BEEN — YOU WOULD TURN AROUND AND STOP? >> WE HAVE ALWAYS HAD OF THE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE POINTS TO THE FACT THAT WE SHOULD NOT BE DOING THIS, THEN WE STOP. THAT IS PART OF EXPLORATION, RIGHT? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE PREPARED TO TAKE THESE DECISIONS. >> WE SHOULD LEARN BY NOW FROM OUR PAST MISTAKES. THERE IS A LOT OF VALUE TO KEEPING IT NATURAL, EXPLORING IT, UNDERSTANDING WITH THE DEEP OCEAN IS, HOW IT CONTRIBUTES TO PLANETARY, REGULATORY PROCESSES LIKE REGULATING OUR CLIMATE, OR REGULATING BIO DIVERSITY AND SPECIES, AND ECOSYSTEM FUNCTIONING, RATHER THAN GOING IN BLIND, EXTRACTING METALS UNTIL WE CAN’T GET ANY MORE, BUILD CARS, AND THEN OOPS, IN 30, 50, 100 YEARS, FUTURE GENERATIONS WILL SAY THAT WAS A BIG MISTAKE. WHY DID THEY DECIDE TO DO THAT? DIDN’T THEY KNOW BETTER? WE NEED THE FORESIGHT TO SAY LET’S PREVENT THIS PROBLEM FROM HAPPENING BEFORE IT STARTS TAKING PLACE. >> FOLKS ON THE OTHER SIDE WOULD SAY WELL, WE DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE ECOSYSTEMS YET. AND YOU ARE SAYING WE DO KNOW A LOT. HOW DO WE KNOW HOW MUCH WE KNOW? OR DO WE JUST HAVE TO FIND OUT? >> WE JUST HAVE TO FIND OUT. THIS IS THE ISSUE. BECAUSE THERE ARE SOME ORGANIZATIONS WHO DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE THAT WE DON’T NEED THE METALS. SO THEY ARE JUST TRYING EVERYTHING TO SAY STOP. THEIR VIEW IS, EXTRACTING INDUSTRIES, THEY ARE BAD, WE SHOULD CLOSE THEM DOWN. BUT OF COURSE, IT IS NOT THAT EASY. >> SO MAJOR AUTOMAKERS LIKE GOOGLE AND MICROSOFT HAVE PLEDGED TO NOT USE MINERALS MINED FROM THE DEEP SEA UNTIL IT IS CLEARLY DEMONSTRATED THAT SUCH ACTIVITIES COULD BE MANAGED IN A WAY THAT ENSURES THE EFFECTIVE PROTECTION OF THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT. >> WE ARE CALLING FOR A MORATORIUM ON THE PROCESS. NOT BECAUSE OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS, SCIENTIFIC CONCERNS, THE FACT THAT THE INTERNATIONAL SEABED AUTHORITY IS NOT FIT FOR IT. >> WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE SAYING WE DO NOT NEED THESE? >> THEY ARE WRONG. THEY WILL BE NO SINGLE CHEMISTRY THAT WILL WIN THE DAY. IT WILL BE A COMBINATION OF NICKEL AND COBALT BOUNDARIES, SO WHEN YOU START ADDING UP HEAVY TRANSPORTATION, GRID STORAGE, WE NEED A LOT OF THESE METALS. >> SO, WHAT DO WE DO? OPEN UP DEEP SEA MINING POTENTIALLY MAKING A SIGNIFICANT DENT IN CLIMATE CHANGE? BUT KNOWING THAT THERE IS A YET TO BE DETERMINED ENVIRONMENTAL COST? OR, WAIT. >> IF THIS TOOK 45 MILLION YEARS, THERE HAS TO BE SOME IMPACT THAT WE WOULD HAVE IF WE WORK SCOOPING THINGS UP. >> THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS — LET’S START WITH THAT. THE QUESTION IS, WHAT IS THIS IMPACT, HOW CAN WE MITIGATE THOSE IMPACTS, AND HOW DOES THAT COMPARE TO THE KNOWN IMPACTS OF LAND BASED ACTIVITY? I THINK THAT IS A DECISION THAT SOCIETY IT IS GOING TO HAVE TO FACE. >> SO, AS WE SAID AT THIS FORK IN THE ROAD, ON THE CUSP OF OUR NEW ENERGY FUTURE, WHAT IS THE RIGHT MOVE? WE HAVE ALREADY GONE BACKWARD TO GO FORWARD. WE KNOW WHERE WE NEED TO GO. BUT WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET THERE? WE DO NOT HAVE A WHOLE LOT OF TIME TO FIGURE IT OUT.

ABC’s Ginger Zee examines the keys to America’s clean energy future

“Lit: America’s Future” looks at the race to find the critical minerals like cobalt, lithium and nickel, which are essential for creating batteries that power today’s technology and cars. Watch the special in the video player above.

“Lit: America’s Future” looks at the race to find the critical minerals like cobalt, lithium and nickel, which are essential for creating batteries that power today’s technology and cars. Watch the special in the video player above.



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