US President Joe Biden has issued a directive invoking the Defence Production Act (DPA) to spur greater domestic output of metals and minerals necessary to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles and utility-scale clean energy storage systems.
“We need to end our long-term reliance on China and other countries for inputs that will power the future,” said Biden last week at the White House. Among his core climate policy goals are for EVs to comprise 50% of total vehicle sales by 2030 and a carbon-free electric grid by 2035.
Enacted in 1950 during the Korean War, the current version of the law empowers the president with emergency authority to prioritise development of certain commodities, products, and productive capacity to strengthen the country’s industrial capacity.
Biden’s directive will support US extraction and processing of cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese, nickel, and materials used in batteries necessary for the transition to clean energy.
The move opens the way for the federal government to fund both feasibility studies for new mines and production upgrades at those in operation, and at processing and recycling facilities.
“The Department of Defence will implement this authority using strong environmental, labour, community, and tribal consultation standards,” according to a fact sheet issued by the White House.
Cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese, and nickel were included in a revised list of 50 mineral commodities critical to the US economy and national security released by the administration in February.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) in its Mineral Commodities Summary 2021 said the United States in 2020 fully relied on imports of 17 critical minerals and at least 50% of another 46 minerals. Many are processed and supplied by China, while cobalt and lithium are mined in countries with unfriendly or unstable governments such as Bolivia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Russia is the lead supplier of silicon to the US and is a top four source for aluminum, chromium, lithium, palladium, and scandium. Aluminum is used in both batteris and electric transmission lines, while palladium, part of the platinum group of metals, is a key component of fuel cells.
The Department of Energy is focusing on development of hydrogen fuel cells that have the potential to replace the internal combustion engine in vehicles and to provide power in stationary and portable power applications.
Under Biden, USGS also produced the first national map of areas favourable for the occurrence of 25 critical minerals including rare earth elements now largely imported from China.
The power and transportation sectors are the two largest producers of US man-made greenhouse gas pollution, representing about 54% of the country’s total emissions in 2019, according to the latest calendar year data from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The fact sheet said Biden is reviewing additional uses of Defence Production Act to “secure safer, cleaner, and more resilient energy for America.”
Updates with US supply exposure with Russia and first national critical minerals map