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ARPN Expert Panel Member: Congress Must Resume Push Towards Greater Independence from Foreign Sources of Oil and Key Minerals

“Electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids are the future, but getting past our current reliance on internal combustion engines will require secure, domestic sources for a plethora of important minerals, such as rare earth metals,” writes Major General Robert H. Latiff, a retired Air Force general with a background in materials science and manufacturing technology — and member of the ARPN panel of issue experts — in a new piece for Real Clear Energy

The Pentagon’s current steps to embrace the electrification of vehicles would not only result in a reduction in fuel consumption, it would also alleviate logistical challenges associated with transporting gasoline and other fuels to U.S. troops in the field. “At the strategic level, reduced fossil fuel demand will translate into a reduced demand for deployed U.S. forces to protect vital oil supplies and shipping capabilities,” Latiff argues.

However, he cautions that 

“domestic electric vehicle production and other green technologies depend on foreign sources of supply for critical minerals such as manganese, lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, aluminum, copper, and various rare earth elements. For some of these, the U.S. is 100% import-reliant.

Unfortunately, global production for many of the minerals on which the U.S. is reliant, is controlled by competitor countries, like China and Russia, or is located within unstable countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

As followers of ARPN know, much of the issue is home-grown, as the U.S. is home to scores of mineral resources the development of which would mitigate supply concerns, but “accessing such abundant reserves is a bureaucratic permitting process which adds cost and uncertainty to a mine project, often with marginal environmental or safety value.”

Latiff adds: 

“Our burdensome permitting process significantly reduces the value of U.S. mines. A mining project generally loses more than a third of its value due bureaucratic delays of the federal permitting process. The regulatory red tape has the effect of making new mining projects, even for critical, sought-after minerals, financially unviable. Environmental concerns are of obvious importance. But increasing domestic minerals production and upholding our environmental safeguards are not mutually exclusive”

 – an opinion that is shared by ARPN expert panel member Ned Mamula, who recently argued that advances in technology harnessed by the modern mining industry make it possible to restore a balance between mining and environmental protection, and that the 1980 Minerals Policy Act already provided a statutory mandate to responsibly develop the minerals for domestic consumption from U.S. mines.

While there have been some steps towards reforming U.S. mineral resource policy, momentum appears to have stalled in recent months. As Latiff concludes:

“Independence from foreign sources of oil and key minerals is critical to U.S. competitiveness and to national security. It is imperative that Congressional leaders take up these issues again.”