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All-of-the-Above on Both Sides of the Atlantic? Geopolitical Pressures and Green Energy Transition as Catalysts for Policy Change

It’s a brave new world.

Rising geopolitical tensions in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and increasing resource nationalism in the Southern hemisphere and booming material demand to power the accelerating global push towards net zero carbon are warranting a rethink on the part of policy stakeholders not just in the United States, but in the entire western world.

While followers of ARPN are aware of steps to strengthen critical mineral supply chains underway in the United States, our European partners, much more directly affected by the fallout of Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine, are also intensifying efforts to achieve “strategic autonomy” in critical minerals and metals.

Panelists at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Raw Material Summit held last month in Berlin agreed that “Europe’s demand for key material is only going to increase” warranting “sharp attention to overdependence.”

Maros Sefcovic, vice president of the European Commission for interinstitutional relations told attendees that against the backdrop of a very real risk of shortages of critical materials especially after 2030, “the fragility of Europe’s supply chain has become evident, and we have a strong mandate to act now.”

While the European Union’s emphasis has long been on securing raw materials supply through strategic partnerships and scaling up recycling and boosting sustainable domestic projects, the body is currently also exploring stockpiling options. Panelists also argued that a “change in attitude towards local mining was needed” and that “permitting processes in areas with lower environmental risks should be simplified.”

“Europe will need more refinery announcements in the next five years to keep pace with energy transition,” said Chris Heron, public affairs director at industry association Eurometaux, adding that “without urgent action now Europe’s ability to secure the right level of strategic autonomy for energy transition metals beyond 2030 is at risk.”

A vote to double down on the push to end the internal combustion-engine car on the part of the European parliament – rejecting an amendment that would have allowed some auto emissions from new vehicles after 2035 – may have just added more fuel to the fire, a metaphor that may prove difficult to understand when internal combustion-engine autos are in history’s rear view mirror.

As the world grapples with the confluence of geopolitical pressures and rising mineral resource needs, the comprehensive “all-of-the-above” approach appears to gain popularity not only on this side of the Atlantic, but in Europe, too.

The challenge, both here and abroad, will be to follow up verbal affirmations with swift and decisive action, and ultimately finding ways of, in the words of Reuters columnist Andy Home, “punching through the tangle of (…) regulations that is actively impeding more investment in the metals sector.”