What Next

The Mineral the Future Is Built On

Creating a fleet of electric vehicles means sourcing a lot of cobalt. But extracting it without hurting the environment is no easy task.


Episode Notes

Cobalt is the most important mineral of the future. It’s a key part of lithium-ion batteries, which power cellphones and laptops, not to mention electric cars. That demand is giving rise to a mining industry in Idaho, which sits atop a giant cobalt deposit. But the environmental costs of extraction raise questions about what “clean energy” really means.

Guest: Michael Holtz, freelance journalist and author of “Idaho Is Sitting on One of the Most Important Elements on Earth.”

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Podcast production by Mary Wilson, Danielle Hewitt, Elena Schwartz, and Carmel Delshad.


About the Show

The problem with the news right now? It’s everywhere. And each day, it can feel like we’re all just mindlessly scrolling. It’s why we created What Next. This short daily show is here to help you make sense of things. When the news feels overwhelming, we’re here to help you answer: What next? Look for new episodes every weekday morning.

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  • Mary Harris is the host and managing editor of What Next, Slate's new daily news podcast. She has reported throughout the public radio system, for NPR, Marketplace, and WNYC.