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February 13, 2020

Energy Experts Address America’s Dependency on Critical Mineral Imports

As America’s drive toward clean energy intensifies, a major threat may be our reliance on importing critical mineral inputs like cobalt for these technologies, say top experts in an OurEnergyPolicy dialogue.

Energy Experts Address America’s Dependency on Critical Mineral Imports

Washington, D.C. : As America’s drive toward clean energy intensifies, a major threat may be our reliance on importing critical mineral inputs like cobalt for these technologies, say top experts in an OurEnergyPolicy dialogue. They recommend policy solutions that include the following:

  • Build a thriving domestic minerals industry with robust environmental standards
  • Invest in clean and efficient mining and mineral processing
  • Apply lessons from oil markets
  • Consolidate efforts among agencies.

OurEnergyPolicy recently released details on these and five other recommendations in the new document: Expert Dialogue on Critical Minerals: The Achilles Heel of America’s Clean Energy Future? These recommendations and commentary are the outcomes of an online OurEnergyPolicy discussion on critical minerals introduced by Dr. Morgan Bazilian, Director of the Payne Institute for Public Policy and Professor of the Colorado School of Mines, which is the top-ranked institution in the world for mineral and mining engineering.

“Of the 35 critical minerals designated in a 2018 Department of Interior report, the United States is 75-100% reliant on 24 of them,” Bazilian said, noting that many are essential inputs to clean energy technologies such as lithium-ion batteries, wind turbines, and solar panels. “If the future of the critical minerals market is not addressed with effective policy and innovation, it could negatively impact the economic and national security of the United States.”

Other critical minerals experts and energy professionals weighed in with insights and policy recommendations for how to address this challenge.

“Critical minerals policy has no real home in the national government—the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Interior, Defense, and State all have some responsibility, but no one has a clear lead,” said Sharon Burke, Director of the Resource Security Group at New America and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy. “We should definitely have a long-term strategy to support security of supply. That should include policy to promote domestic supply in a way that is thoughtful and lawful, not hasty and regrettable….”

Experts also provides insights into China’s mineral market dominance, bottlenecks in critical minerals supply, and whether mineral supply chain risks pose a barrier to climate change goals. The experts providing recommendations also include Emily Hersh, well-known lithium industry expert and co-host of the Global Lithium Podcast, and Charles Forsberg, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Nuclear Fuel Cycle Project.

Read more from the full document and/or read highlights.

Other relevant resources on critical minerals include the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Full Committee Hearing on Mineral Security and Related Legislation (including the American Mineral and Security Act, S. 1317) from May 2019 and A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals from the U.S. Department of Commerce (June 2019). See page 2 of the OurEnergyPolicy document for several other related materials.