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Amidst Big Policy Shifts, Signs for Continued Emphasis on Securing Critical Mineral Supply Chains at DoE

Parents of young children will know: Transitions are hard. And what is true for toddlers, is also true for government.

Observers of the critical mineral resource realm have been closely monitoring the transition from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration. There were early indications that, unlike some other areas, the critical mineral resource realm might see a certain level of continuity. In December Of 2020, then-Assistant Secretary of State (Energy Resources) Frank Fannon declared that he expected the Energy Resource Governance Initiative (ERGI) an initiative aimed at securing supply chains for metals critical for the clean energy transition, would continue in 2021, and policy statements made by the transition team suggested that, while emphases were certainly going to shift, efforts to secure critical mineral supply chains was going to continue taking a central role under an incoming Biden Administration.

And while a number of executive decisions made during the young Biden Administration have already ruffled some feathers, remarks made by Jennifer Granholm, former Governor of Michigan and President Biden’s pick for the position of Secretary of Energy before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources last week signal that the Biden Administration acknowledges the urgency of our nation’s critical minerals challenge and intends to address it head-on.

Granholm, who hails from a state well-known for its auto industry, stressed the importance of securing domestic mineral resource supply chains:

“If we are to build the supply chain for batteries, as one example, if we allow for China to corner the market on lithium or for the Democratic Republic of Congo to be the place where everyone gets cobalt when there may be child labor or human rights violations associated with that supply, then we are missing a massive opportunity for our own security but also for a market for own our trading partners that also may want to have access to minerals that are produced in a responsible way.”

She added, “the responsible way is an important thing to mention — we know we can mine in a responsible way.”

Thanking former Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski, who emphasized the “national security imperative of critical mineral resource policy” for her leadership on the Energy Act of 2020, Granholm declared herself “very enthusiastically supportive” of the direction given in said act for the Department of Energy to work on critical mineral issues and rare earths, “both for jobs and energy/supply chain security [reasons].”

At a time when China is stretching its tentacles and alluding to the possibility of — once more — weaponizing its stranglehold on critical minerals in general, and rare earths in particular, these remarks provide some hope that our nation will continue down the path towards a more comprehensive mineral resource policy begun under the Obama Administration and kicked into high gear over the past few years.

Watch the entire U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Hearing to Consider Nomination of the Honorable Jennifer Granholm to be the Secretary of Energy here.