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Sparks

ExxonMobil Is Getting into Lithium

Ready or not, here comes Mobil Lithium.

An Exxon sign.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

ExxonMobil on Monday announced plans to produce lithium in an area of southern Arkansas known for its vast deposits of the mineral, a key material in the manufacture of electric vehicle batteries. The company aims to begin producing battery-grade lithium in 2027 in a 120,000-acre area known as the Smackover formation, “using conventional oil and gas drilling methods” from depleted oil wells. The ore would then be processed nearby, and sold as, imaginatively, Mobil Lithium.

An oil company’s desire to, in its words, “supply the manufacturing needs of well over a million EVs per year” by 2030 might seem akin to, well, a cigarette company getting into the vaping business. As Dan Becker of the Center for Biological Diversity toldThe New York Times, “[Lithium production is] an infinitesimal fraction of what Exxon does and most of what it does is dreadful.” But, he added, “we do need lithium, and it’s better that it comes from a spoiled industrial site where oil drilling used to take place than from a pristine place.”

ExxonMobil’s announcement comes just weeks after its $60 billion acquisition of Pioneer Natural Resources, a deal that will allow it to produce 2 million barrels of oil per day in the Permian Basin, the rich oil field stretching from west Texas to eastern New Mexico. As Heatmap’s Matthew Zeitlin noted at the time, ExxonMobil is also investing heavily in carbon-capture infrastructure and a Texas hydrogen plant. As it continues to expand across the southern United States, with ventures both clean and extremely dirty, ExxonMobil seems to be hedging its bets against an unpredictable energy future.

Jacob Lambert profile image

Jacob Lambert

Jacob is Heatmap's founding multimedia editor. Before joining Heatmap, he was The Week's digital art director and an associate editor at MAD magazine.

Beryl making landfall in Texas.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Hurricane Beryl, ahem, barreled into America’s Gulf Coast as a Category 1 storm, and whenever something like that happens the entire global energy industry holds its breath. The Gulf of Mexico is not just a frequent target and breeding ground for massive storms, it is also one of America’s — and the world’s — most important energy hubs. Texas and Louisiana contains giant oil and gas fields, and the region is home to about half of the United States’ refining capacity.

At least so far, the oil and refining industry appears to have largely dodged Beryl’s worst effects. The storm made landfall in Matagorda, a coastal town between Galveston and Corpus Christi, both of which are major centers for the refinery industry. Only one refinery, the Phillips 66 facility in Sweeny, Texas, was in the storm’s cone, according to TACenergy, a petroleum products distributor. Phillips 66 did not respond to a request to comment, but Reuters reported that the Sweeny facility as well as its refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana were powered and operating. Crude oil prices have seen next to no obvious volatility, rising to $83.88 a barrel on July 3 and since settling around $82.84.

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Blue
Sparks

Climate Scored Some Quasi-Victories in Europe

What parliamentary elections in France and the U.K. mean for everyone else.

A voter and wind turbines.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

While America has been distracted by its suddenly-very-real upcoming election, two other important political stories have been unfolding across the pond. The results of last week’s parliamentary votes in France and the United Kingdom have the power to sway global climate policy — and they might even contain lessons for the U.S. about the rise (or fall) of the far-right.

What happened in France?

In June, French President Emmanuel Macron called snap elections, and the far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen was widely expected to achieve a majority in the country’s 577-seat National Assembly. Instead, the New Popular Front, a hastily-formed alliance between the hard left, Greens, and Socialists, came out on top in a runoff, followed by the centrist Ensemble (which includes Macron’s Renaissance party) and the National Rally in a distant third. Because no party won the 289 seats needed to gain control of the chamber, the left and center now have to form a coalition government, which means ideological compromise — something that’s distinctly un-French. “We're not the Germans, we're not the Spanish, we're not the Italians — we don't do coalitions,” one French political commentator toldSky News.

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Green
President Biden.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

In an altogether distressing debate in which climate was far from a main focus, the two candidates did have one notable exchange regarding the Paris Agreement. The 2015 treaty united most countries around the world in setting a goal to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, with 1.5 degrees as the ultimate target.

After Trump initially dodged a question about whether he would take action to slow the climate crisis, he then briefly noted “I want absolutely immaculate clean water and I want absolutely clean air. And we had it. We had H2O.”

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