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State Moving to Be ‘Lithium Capital of America,’ Governor Says

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Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders told energy industry policymakers Friday that Arkansas is “moving at breakneck speed to become the lithium capital of America.”

In her speech to the Energy Council, the governor pointed to south Arkansas as a longtime energy powerhouse now poised to siphon lithium from brine in the oil fields that put towns like El Dorado, Magnolia and Smackover on the energy map a century ago.

South Arkansas, she said, is “home to one of North America’s largest brine processing industries. And new technology allows us to siphon lithium from that brine.

“Brine lithium is critical for batteries and other energy products, and I’m not being dramatic when I say this has the potential to transform the region and our entire state.”

Her remarks to the council, a non-partisan legislative organization founded in 1975 with Arkansas as one of its original five members, said companies are making “massive investments” in south Arkansas.

“And once they fully scale up operations, they estimate that our state could produce 15% of the entire world’s lithium supply,” Sanders said a day after Standard Lithium of Canada announced buying a 118-acre parcel in Lafayette County where it plans to build a $1.3 billion lithium production plant. Standard also plans to build a smaller $365 million lithium facility at one of Lanxess AG’s bromine production plants in the brine fields south of El Dorado.

Koch Industries of Wichita and its subsidiaries have put at least $100 million behind Standard’s projects, and Exxon-Mobil of Houston reportedly spent $100 million on brine leases in the same area earlier this year.

“This is not south Arkansas’ first rodeo being an energy powerhouse,” Sanders said. “Towns like El Dorado, Magnolia and Smackover were built on oil and gas drilling, and our state still produces 4 million barrels of oil and 400 billion cubic feet of natural gas each year. I believe that these industries can continue to coexist and thrive. After all, whether it’s lithium, oil, or natural gas, it translates to new jobs and new businesses for Arkansas.”

Sanders found a receptive audience in the Energy Council, previously known as the Southwest Regional Energy Council because its original members were Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. Today it has 15 states and two Canadian provinces as members.

The governor thanked the lawmakers and lobbyists for their work, and criticized the Biden administration for policies that she called an “all-out attack” on American energy independence.

“President Biden seems to have a vendetta against the energy industry, which explains why gas prices have surged under his leadership.” She cited his policy choices have hurt the industry, “killing the Keystone Pipeline, a near moratorium on oil and gas drilling on federal lands, and a $6 billion tax on natural gas producers.”

She said state leaders can push back.

“We can grow our own energy industries, we can invest in the energy workers of tomorrow. And together, we can bring energy independence back to this country.”

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