Speaking at the Bipartisan Policy Center’s American Energy Innovation Council last week, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced the launch of a new research center on lithium battery recycling.
The Battery Recycling R&D Center will focus on reclaiming and recycling “critical materials (e.g. cobalt and lithium) from lithium based battery technology used in consumer electronics, defense, energy storage, and transportation applications,” and will be led by Argonne National Laboratory along with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Said Sec. Perry:
“America’s dependence on foreign sources of critical materials undermines our energy security and national security. (…) DOE will leverage the power of competition and the resources of the private sector, universities, and the National Laboratories to develop innovative recycling technologies, which will bolster economic growth, strengthen our energy security, and improve the environment.
A commendable effort, the initiative is a direct response to Presidential Executive Order 13817, which, issued in December of 2017, calls for “developing critical minerals recycling and reprocessing technologies” embedded into a broader strategy to “ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals.”
While we applaud the launch of the new research hub, DoE’s reference of the “broader strategy to ‘ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals’” in its press release is important. As followers of ARPN will know, recycling will not obviate the need for traditional mining and is as such not a panacea for mineral resource supply woes – and we are still waiting for the release of the — by now long-overdue — report by the Department of Commerce subsequent to 13817 outlining said “broader strategy” and recommending specific policy steps to implement it.
In the meantime, however, with innovations in the field and concerted efforts to not only improve extraction technologies, but to also develop products and materials in ways that lend themselves to easier reclamation of metals, recycling does represent a viable opportunity to alleviate pressures, and we look forward to following the efforts of the Center.