On Tuesday, December 10 — close to the two-year anniversary of the White House’s executive order “to develop a federal strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals” the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on “Research and Innovation to Address the Critical Materials Challenge.”
The hearing comes against the backdrop of increased domestic and international activity in the field of mineral resource policy amidst growing concern on Capitol Hill over how to secure mineral supply chains for domestic industries.
The specter of using Rare Earths as an economic weapon – as threatened by China earlier this year – revealed that “the current trade war between the U.S. and China is in fact one front in a larger tech war: a competition to see which country will dominate the 21st Century Technology Age.”
And while Washington, DC remains locked in partisan fighting, there is a growing realization across party lines – as evidenced in a recent U.S. Senate hearing - that a more “holistic approach” to critical mineral resource policy is warranted and that “when it comes to critical minerals extracting, processing, recycling… now is our call to action.”
Writes Dylan Brown for E&E Daily (subscription required):
“They are split on solutions, but many Republicans and Democrats share national security concerns about growing reliance on foreign countries, in particular China, for a slew of minerals used in military and renewable energy technology.”
Earlier this summer, the White House released its long-awaited federal strategy subsequent to the December 2017 executive order. Like long-standing legislation put forth by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), S. 1317, and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), H.R. 2531, the strategy aims to reform the regulatory framework for mine permitting.
Democrat House bills take a different approach, calling for increased federal funding for critical minerals research and recycling. Rep. Eric Swalwell’s (D-Calif.) proposed bill would make the DoE’s Critical Materials Institute permanent and designate funding for it.
As Brown notes, any of the bills will face an uphill battle because “neither parties’ base see critical minerals as such a dire threat” — an assessment one can only hope won’t cost us dearly.
In the meantime, it is encouraging to see that the United States is taking other steps to bolster its critical minerals supplies — including entering into critical mineral partnership agreements with reliable allies like Australia and Canada.
For more information on tomorrow’s hearing, including a list of witnesses and live cover rage of the proceedings, click here.