Saturday May 22, 2021 | 2 a.m
President Joe Biden is making a big effort for his plan for American jobs. As he explained in his recent speech to Congress, a large-scale US transition to renewable energy could create millions of well-paying jobs, especially if “Made in America”. It would be of great help to domestic manufacturers. But there is a catch – a potential shortage of the raw materials needed to manufacture these advanced technologies.
A report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) makes it clear that the United States will need to significantly increase its supply of critical minerals in order to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels, lithium-ion batteries, electric vehicles (EVs). ), etc. As the agency explains, an insufficient supply of raw minerals could jeopardize the chances of manufacturing these technologies in the United States – or deploying them globally to effectively address climate concerns.
According to the agency, lithium-ion battery production alone could increase global lithium demand by more than 40 times through 2040. Supplies of other key minerals – including graphite, cobalt and nickel – are expected to increase. at least 20 times too.
Biden plans to build America’s energy infrastructure, including about 20 gigawatts of new high-voltage power lines and a proliferation of electric vehicle charging stations. The IEA estimates that globally these types of investments will require a doubling of copper supplies over the next 20 years. Likewise, increased production of wind turbines and solar panels could increase the demand for rare earth metals by a factor of seven.
These new technologies consume much more minerals than the systems they replace. An electric vehicle uses six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car. And an onshore wind power plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas power plant.
Unfortunately, the United States is heavily dependent on China and other countries for these raw materials. In fact, its dependence on imported minerals has doubled over the past two decades. And thanks to aggressive and mercantilist policies, China controls 70% of the world’s supplies of lithium, 80% of rare earth metals and about 70% of the world’s graphite.
A major concern is that China is using extremely toxic practices to extract these resources. In Inner Mongolia, Chinese miners dumped refinery waste into a poisonous man-made lake large enough to be visible on Google Earth. And the Chinese disposal site of Bayan-Obo is made up of dangerous sludge about three times the size of Central Park.
In contrast, US mining operators adhere to the strictest environmental standards in the world. However, the licensing process for new US mines can often take up to a decade. Countries like Australia and Canada typically approve new mines within two to three years, even with equally stringent environmental controls.
To meet growing demand and reduce imports from China, the United States must begin to exploit more of these resources at home. The good news is that the United States has over $ 6 trillion in mineral reserves. It is time for federal policies to change in favor of mining and materials processing in the United States. Otherwise, Biden’s clean energy program might fail to meet its goals – and leave the United States dependent on China’s reckless mining industry.
Michael Stumo is CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America.