If you follow tech news, it’s pretty hard to miss stories reminding us of the tremendous potential that lithium-ion batteries have in store for the world – longer times to gaze into our dazzling new smartphones and longer distances to travel in our cutting-edge electric cars without a re-charge. And yet, most of us probably don’t think too much about the environmental cost of mining all of this lithium. In Australia and South America where 80-90 percent of the world’s raw lithium comes from, the extraction process is dirty and energy intensive. This week on Sea Change Radio, we speak to Sammy Roth of the Los Angeles Times about the promise of extracting lithium in a much cleaner way right here in the US. We learn about plans to extract lithium from the Salton Sea geothermal fields in the Southern California desert, how this process will be viewed by environmentalists and what it could mean for the lithium industry.
What do you get when you combine the contoured and colorful aesthetic of Gaudi with the sensibility of an ecological innovator? You might get my guest today on Sea Change Radio. Michael Reynolds’s vocation, Earthship Biotecture, represents something of a revolution in architecture. Using what most architects would consider trash, Reynolds began working in the 1970s to create experimental homes that were designed to be completely energy self-sufficient.
Due to the experimental nature of the projects, and the fact that many of the methods he was using in his buildings were untested, Reynolds ended up losing his credentials as an architect. So he renamed what he does – it’s not architecture, it’s Earthship Biotecture. Now that he has been at it for several decades, Reynolds has perfected methods for solar heating, geothermal cooling, and greywater capture, all using materials with low or even negative environmental impact. He’s heralded among many environmentalists as a visionary, and joins host Alex Wise today from his New Mexico home.
Humans have been capturing and using geothermal heat from the earth for a very long time. Geothermal energy was being used in China back in the 3rd Century BC and the Ancient Romans, of course, used it to heat their baths and their buildings. Now, in the 21st Century, geothermal power comprises a significant portion of the energy grid in countries ranging from the Philippines to Nicaragua. This week on Sea Change Radio, host Alex Wise talks with Karl Gawell, Executive Director of the Geothermal Energy Association, an organization that advocates for the expansion of geothermal for electricity production. He explains how geothermal works, tells us who the major players are in the industry, and talks about what needs to happen to move the United States toward fully embracing this ancient but largely untapped resource.