June 23, 2021

Biden Administration Moves to Fix Supply Chain Bottlenecks

As part of his plans to address climate change, Mr. Biden wants Americans to drive millions of new electric vehicles and get more of their energy from renewable sources like wind and solar power. But experts have long pointed out that the shift to cleaner energy will require vast supplies of critical minerals, many of which are currently produced and processed overseas.

Most of the world’s lithium, a key ingredient in the batteries that power electric vehicles, is mined in Australia, China, Chile and Argentina. China dominates global production of rare earth minerals such as neodymium, used to make magnets in wind turbines. It has also largely cornered the market in lithium-ion batteries, accounting for 77 percent of the world’s capacity for producing battery cells and 80 percent of its raw-material refining, according to BloombergNEF, an energy research group.

The United States lags far behind other countries in manufacturing many clean energy technologies, leaving it heavily reliant on imports.

The Biden administration has vowed to bring back more of that manufacturing and mining, but progress has been slow. In the United States, companies are racing to unlock lithium supplies in states like Nevada and North Dakota, though those efforts face opposition because of their environmental effects. The country also has only one mine that produces rare earth minerals, in Mountain Pass, Calif.

As part of its announcement on Tuesday, the Biden administration said it would work to identify new domestic sites where such critical minerals could be mined with environmental safeguards, asking Congress to increase funding for a mapping program at the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Energy Department announced that it would offer loans for companies that could sustainably refine, process and recycle rare earths and other materials used in electric vehicles. The agency on Tuesday will also release a plan to develop a domestic supply chain for lithium-ion batteries.

The Energy Department has $17.7 billion in authority to issue loans under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, which Congress created in 2007 and used in 2010 to support the electric-vehicle manufacturer Tesla in its early days. In its announcement, the agency said it would seek to offer loans to manufacturers of advanced battery technology that established factories in the United States. It also announced a new policy in which future funding of new clean-energy technologies would require recipients to “substantially manufacture those products in the United States.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/08/us/politics/biden-supply-chain.html

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