Renewable energy and electricity when our European allies are scrambling to free themselves from Russia’s dependence on energy, and when American consumers are suffering from soaring gasoline pump prices. Voices about the future of automobiles (EV) are increasing. As our thoughts progress, these technologies will ultimately provide the United States with a complete break from the oil dictator who has missed us since the oil crisis of the 1970s. However, moving away from oil rarely means an easy and clean break from resource geopolitics.
In fact, the potentially accelerating energy shift means that US energy security is now in conflict with the instability of our minerals.
In addition to wind and solar power, EVs and the lithium-ion batteries that power them consume very large amounts of minerals. As reported last year by the International Energy Agency, energy conversion could increase critical mineral demand by a factor of six by 2040. For some minerals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt used in EV batteries, the demand is 30 times or more. But who controls the production and processing of these minerals? It is as troublesome and important as who controls the world’s oil and gas production.
Unfortunately, China is the dominant player in the important mineral field. China controls 70% of the world’s lithium supply and 85% of rare earth metals. Beijing dominates these supply chains and has been able to hunt down the market with advanced energy manufacturing. China produces most of the world’s solar modules and lithium-ion batteries.
China has transformed the mineral supply chain into a huge source of geopolitical leverage, unlike how Russia used its energy trade with Europe. And where China has built its strength in the mineral supply chain, the United States is painfully weak. America’s dependence on mineral imports has doubled in just 20 years. Currently, 47 minerals are dependent on imports, 17 of which are 100% dependent on imports.
Recognizing the urgency of the moment and the magnitude of the mineral challenge, a bipartisan senator group recently urged President Biden to use the Defense Production Act to address the country’s mineral insecurity. That’s exactly what the government is considering right now.
If the President is serious about re-supporting the U.S. manufacturing industry, and if he provides the supply chain that his climate change ambitions need while strengthening U.S. energy security, the Defense Production Act That’s exactly the tool he needs to adopt.
Relying solely on the market to dig us out of our reliance on mineral imports or to combat China’s industrial policy would simply not work. We need to expand American mineral production and processing on a large scale, and now we need to do that. Mining is a capital and time consuming industry, and self-regulatory barriers make it even more time consuming. By adopting the Defense Production Act, you can reduce bureaucratic formalism, reduce the risk of investing in the mining industry, and promote production at the speed and scale required.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the turmoil in the pandemic supply chain have forced us to rethink resource and energy security and the vulnerabilities inherent in our over-expanded global supply chain. It is a reassessment that has been postponed for a long time. Reconstructing America’s industrial base from mines is an urgent task that cannot be waited for as the world devoted itself to energy conversion.
Brigadier General of the US Army (retired) John Adams is President of Guardian Six Consulting and a former Deputy Representative of the US Army on NATO’s Military Commission.
Rebuilding America’s Industrial Base from Mines – thereporteronline
Source link Rebuilding America’s Industrial Base from Mines – thereporteronline