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CNN 10

Lockdowns In China Affect Goods Supplies Worldwide; Part Of California Could Harbor Huge Amounts Of Lithium; A Startup Aims To Fling Rockets Toward Space. Aired 4-4:10a ET

Aired May 12, 2022 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN 10 ANCHOR: Hi. I`m Carl Azuz for CNN 10.

The United States imports more goods from China than any other nation. Between 18 and 19 percent of the goods brought into America come from

China, the Asian country`s been the world`s largest exporter of goods since 2009, according to Investopedia. It`s known as the world`s factory.

China is able to make things at lower cost than other countries and that can result in lower prices people have to pay. But the downside is that

when there are supply problems in China, like there are now, they can ripple around the world.

We`ve reported on the communist country`s strict zero COVID policy. While other nations have moved toward living with the virus, China continues to

apply large scale lockdowns and mass testing policies whenever cases are detected. The country says this policy quote puts life first and that it`s

effective at keeping coronavirus from spreading.

But critics say it goes too far, that it`s hurting that country socially and economically, and that it`s time for China to change it. Right now,

there`s either a full or partial lockdown in more than 30 Chinese cities. As many as 214 million people have been affected.

There`s no sign China will make any changes and with strict containment rules in place in cities like Shanghai, which is China`s financial center,

manufacturing output is only a fraction of what it normally is, and unused factories have been turned into quarantine centers.

Despite protests from some Chinese workers what this means for businesses that are oceans away is that wait times for products are months longer than

usual. Companies from Apple to General Electric say supply problems in China are hurting businesses in America and some small companies that

depend on China to make their goods are afraid of going out of business.

Prices on Chinese products are expected to rise around the world. Some experts predict that Chinese supply chain problems could get worse this

year than they were in 2021, and that businesses may look to manufacture their products in other countries.


AZUZ (voice-over): Ten-second trivia:

What is the lightest metal on Earth?

Titanium, lithium, aluminum or magnesium?

Of all the metals, lithium is the lightest.


AZUZ: Of all the cars, SUVs and trucks in America, less than one percent of them are electric. That`s according to the Reuters News Agency. But the

U.S. government says sales of electric and hybrid cars are growing almost doubling from 308,000 in 2020 to 608,000 in 2021. Like gas powered

vehicles, they have their pros and cons.

Electrics are less pollutive to drive than other cars and you can charge them at home without going to the gas station. But charging stations are

generally harder to find and it takes a lot longer to charge an EV than it does to gas up an internal combustion engine. EVs are quieter and require

less maintenance, but they`re more expensive to buy and their battery packs are expensive to replace, while it`s far less likely you`d replace the

engine of a gas powered car.

Still, with sales on the rise, one thing electric car makers need is lithium. It`s the lightest of the metals and a crucial part of the

batteries for computers, smartphones and electric cars. But mining and refining lithium can threaten the natural environment and contribute to

pollution. So there`s a trade-off there.


PETER VALDES-DAPENA, SENIOR AUTO REPORTER, CNN BUSINESS: Eight thousand feet beneath my feet, there`s enough lithium to power America`s electric

car industry into the foreseeable future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a treasure potentially worth billions of dollars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He takes us to a remote part of California near the border with Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a billion-dollar project promising to transform this region.

VALDES-DAPENA: Now what some people are calling California`s lithium valley is an economic and environmental wasteland but it could be on the

cusp of a boom like this area hasn`t seen in 60 years.

It`s not like any big secret, it`s not like people didn`t know there was lithium in the groundwater here before, just wasn`t worth enough to bother

getting it out. But now with lithium prices going through the roof companies that before were just concentrating on geothermal energy are

seeing even more potential in the metal that`s in the water.

Geothermal companies like energy source that has operations in the southern tip of the Salton Sea and is modifying its facilities for lithium


Why is there so much lithium in the ground here?

DEREK BENSON, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, ENERGYSOURCE MINERALS: So geologically, this is, you know, an interesting place. Colorado River has

cut canyons in the west -- all of that mineral, all of those deposits have made their way here.

VALDES-DAPENA: I have heard that there is theoretically at least enough lithium in this area to supply all the electric cars in America for some


BENSON: There certainly is a lot of lithium potential here at the Salton Sea. You could -- you could calculate approximately, you know, a little

over a hundred thousand tons per year of lithium, you know, battery products. That`s quite a lot and certainly more than the us consumes right

at the moment. I think there`s a realistic opportunity to potentially double that.

VALDES-DAPENA: Geothermal facilities will use a method of extraction where they will both create geothermal power and collect the valuable lithium

from the hot brine deep below. This involves drawing the lithium from the brine after it has completed its journey to help produce electricity. It`s

clean energy making clean energy, and the kind of investment and opportunity that could transform a region that only a half century ago was

full of such promise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the story of the miracle sea in the desert, the Salton Sea.

FRANK RUIZ, SALTON SEA PROGRAM DIRECTOR, AUDUBON: If you were -- you came here during the `50s and `60s, you will find most likely people from

Hollywood, the luminaries from southern California coming to boat and playing golf. And only 50 years later, this is what we have. It went from

being the western Riviera to being one of the worst nightmares environmentally and public health-wise.

VALDES-DAPENA: What happened?

RUIZ: We started losing water. The water became more saline. There were massive fish die offs we have more water being evaporated leaving more salt

behind and other elements. The sea is an example of what is happening uh much all around the West.

VALDES-DAPENA: While the geothermal companies are ramping up testing and facilities for regular lithium production, automakers from around the

country are visiting the area and staking claim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The automaker says it plans to be carbon neutral by 2040.

VALDES-DAPENA: If automakers hope to fulfill their EV ambitions over the next decade, some like General Motors are cutting deals with local

geothermal companies as a way to ensure their lithium supply chains.

ROD COLWELL, CHIF EXECUTIVE OFFICER AND DIRECTOR, CONTROLLED THERMAL RESOURCES: Mary Barra`s leadership and more the sustainability side and

localizing of minerals, the federal administration really advanced that relationship. So, you know, stage one is 20,000 ton per year lithium

hydroxide facility, which will go to General Motors. And beyond stage one, we`re looking at another hundred thousand for stage two.

VALDES-DAPENA: And you would then ship that to a battery manufacturer?

COLWELL: Yes. So, at the moment, there`s no real sort of the precursor or cathode manufacturers in the United States. So, currently that would be the

case which is a bit of a crying shame. I mean to put it on a truck, put it on a ship, send it to South Korea or China and then send it back as a as a

cathode active material.

The opportunity really is a blank canvas out here to co-locate those facilities would make commercial sense.

VALDES-DAPENA: And that opportunity is quickly being fulfilled. Already Italvolt has announced plans to build a massive battery production facility

in the valley they could supply batteries for up to 650,000 EVs a year, and create possibly 2,500 jobs in the area.

What are your fears in terms of if it`s not done right? How could it be done wrong?

RUIZ: Not being able to provide the benefits, you know, they are -- they claim to at least -- you know, they`re promising to provide and the kind of

jobs, you know, for the community, direct and in-direct benefits to the Salton Sea.

If all the conditions are played correctly, this can be really good for the economy. This can be really good for the region. Nationwide, it can be a

catalyst. If it is done right, it can be really good.



AZUZ: Launching a rocket typically takes a lot of fuel. What if instead of blasting off, you were to spin the rocket around and around so fast that

you could then fling it towards space. That`s the idea behind Spin Launch, a startup company that uses a centrifuge, a sort of high-tech slingshot to

get a rocket up to 5,000 miles per hour and then release it.

After it`s in the sky is when its engines would fire up and carry it to suborbital space. If this gets off the ground, so to speak, the company

hopes it`ll be a lower cost launch option.

So, is this the central future of space travel? When it gets up to speed, will folks one day say may the centripetal force be with you? Or is it a

slingshot in the dark that makes head spin but otherwise fails to catapult changes in Star Treks. It`s certainly space food for thought on your launch


I`m Carl Azuz.

You or some of you anyway are watching from Derby, Vermont. Shout-out to North Country Union Junior High School.

We will fling another show your way tomorrow.