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Full Senate Committee Hearing on Minerals and Clean Energy Technologies Outlines the High Stakes of Resource Policy

Bearing testimony to the increasing awareness regarding our nation’s critical mineral resource issues, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources chaired by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) earlier today held a full committee hearing on “Minerals and Clean Energy Technologies.”

Witnesses included

  • The Honorable Daniel Simmons, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy,Department of Energy
  • Dr. Morgan Bazilian, Director of the Payne Institute and Professor of Public Policy, Colorado School of Mines
  • Ms. Allison Carlson, Senior Vice President, Foreign Policy Analytics
  • Mr. Robert Kang, CEO, Blue Whale Materials, LLC, and
  • Mr. Mark Mills, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Inc.

Mr. Simmons cited the Administration’s belief that “we need to do more to secure a reliable supply of critical minerals and products made from critical minerals,” arguing that while progress has been made, “the federal government needs to do more to expedite and enable exploration, mining, concentration, separation, alloying, recycling, and reprocessing critical minerals.”

Invoking the Department of the Interior’s Critical Minerals List released in 2018, he stated:

“Many of the mineral commodities identified by the Department of the Interior are vital to the energy technologies of today and the future. The Department of Energy’s approach to mitigate risk is in alignment with the President’s Executive Order 13817 to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals. The Department’s three priorities for decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals is first, to increase domestic production across the entire supply chain, second, to develop substitutes, and third, to improve reuse and recycling.

We believe that DOE needs to now focus on improving innovations through research and development across the entire supply chain including, mining, concentration, separation, and alloying in addition to our current work on recycling and reprocessing.”

Simmonds went on to detail some of the Department of Energy’s work to “help enable the U.S. to maintain our edge in innovation,” and closed by emphasizing his agency’s commitment to “do this in partnership with industry, academia, and other federal agencies to forge paths to critical mineral security, while also working with Congress to ensure appropriate stewardship of taxpayer investments.”

Dr. Bazilian, who in his research at the Colorado School of Mines has focused on the mineral foundation of the energy transition,” outlined the stakes and opportunities of the energy transition, arguing that “[m]inerals and metals are central to the energy transition, but the economic, security, and geostrategic implications are all in play, depending how the U.S. policy responds.”

Said Bazilian:

“The future energy system will be far more mineral and metal-intensive than it is today. Many of these advanced technologies require minerals and metals with particular properties that have few to no current substitutes.

The opportunity for the mining industry is tremendous. An industry that has experienced enormous public pressure and critique, accompanied by offshoring production overseas, can now evolve into one fundamental to supporting a shift to a low-carbon and sustainable energy system based on domestic natural resources.”

Arguing that “[t]he issues related to the mineral foundations of the energy transition go well-beyond the energy and extractives sectors,” Bazilian stated that “[t]here will be implications for geopolitical dynamics, defense, consumer technology, water security, industrial growth, innovation in high-tech sectors, responsible consumption and production, decent work, and equality.”

Ms. Carlson focused her remarks on China’s strife to “control of the raw materials necessary to the digital economy” arguing that if China were to succeed in overcoming one of its biggest obstacles to date — a competitive semiconductor sector — “its capacity to scale production and flood markets has serious implications not only for leading semiconductor producers, but also for national security.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Kang’s testimony provided an industry perspective on recycling as a means to help meet the demand for U.S. sources of critical minerals.

Mr. Mills rounded out the witness list closing with an appeal for increased domestic mining. He said:

“Geological data show that the United States has a vast untapped abundance of mineral wealth. Until engineers invent an element that one might call “unobtainable” — a magical energy-producing element that appears out of nowhere, requires no land, weighs nothing and emits nothing — we will need more mining. We should do it here if we want to enjoy the benefits and if we want to ensure the most environmentally sound approaches.”

For video of the hearing, and full written remarks, visit the committee’s website here: