America Just Hit the Lithium Jackpot | Electricity Grid Becomes a Target for Domestic Extremists | Mesh Networks Come to the U.S. Border, and more

America Just Hit the Lithium Jackpot  (Ross Andersen, The Atlantic)
About 16.4 million years ago, magma surged through a raised mound near Nevada’s present-day border with Oregon and began spreading an unholy orange glow outward over the region. At the time, landscape-spanning lava flows regularly gurgled and hissed across the area, releasing enough carbon dioxide to warm the Earth’s atmosphere. This particular eruption was special, though, at least according to a paper published late last month in Science Advances, which claims that underneath the volcano’s extinct crater is a thick brown clay that is shot through with what could be the largest-known lithium deposit on the planet. If the discovery holds up, and the lithium is easy to extract and refine—both big ifs—this ancient geological event could end up shaping contemporary geopolitics, and maybe even the future of green energy.
Lithium is a blessing nearly as old as time itself. Immediately after the Big Bang, the universe was a dark and roiling plasma, too hot and chaotic for stable nuclei to form. It needed to expand and cool for a few minutes before it could begin generating atoms. Most of these primordial particles were hydrogen and helium, but for every 10 billion or so of hydrogen, a lone lithium atom would pop into existence. A thin mist of this lightest of all metals soon stretched across the entire cosmos. Much of it was later destroyed by various cosmic processes, but fortunately the universe has since made more and deposited it, as a kind of endowment, into the clouds of gas and dust that condense into stars and their orbiting planets.
If current technological trends continue apace, lithium could one day be as important to a nation’s economy as steel was during the 20th century. China seems to have foreseen this coming surge in demand well before America’s energy companies or policy makers did. Chinese companies have discovered large lithium deposits in the arid Qinghai province, northeast of Tibet, while mineral processors are buying up lithium ore from mines in Australia, Chile, and Bolivia. The new deposit in Nevada could eventually shift that balance of power, but it won’t be out of the ground and inside batteries manufactured in America for a long time.

Airports Increase Resilience to Power Outages as Electricity Grid Becomes a Target for Domestic Extremists  (Kylie Bielby, HSToday)
The electricity grid is susceptible to disruptions from aging infrastructure, extreme weather events, cyber and physical attacks, and other risks that can damage electrical infrastructure and communications systems, resulting in power outages that can affect airport operations.
One 2017 outage at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport led to about 1,200 flight cancellations and cost an airline around $50 million. More recently, in February 2023, an outage at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport resulted in flight cancellations and delays and also disrupted various services and equipment in the affected terminal.
In December, we reported that while domestic attacks on electric infrastructure are not common, they do seem to be on the rise and have become a particular target of far right and domestic extremists.

Can You Hear Me Now? Mesh Networks Could Become Standard at the U.S. Border  (Lauren C. Williams, Defense One)
Border patrol agents may soon rely on radio-based mesh networks to send information back and forth, thanks to a new $99 million U.S. Customs and Border Protection contract with telecoms device company goTenna.
Mesh networking devices are designed to create ad hoc wi-fi networks, simplifying the creation of connectivity where there wasn’t any before. The military and law enforcement agencies have used mesh networks to help border agents keep track of one another, in space, and to launch armed drones.
Under the contract, U.S. Border Patrol agents will get a suite of technologies needed to communicate and send data in remote areas. The agency already had a $22 million contract with goTenna to provide off-the-grid capabilities.