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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • DoE Chapter of 100-Day Supply Chain Report Calls for Immediate Investment in “Scaling up a Secure, Diversified Supply Chain for High-Capacity Batteries Here at Home”

    The Biden Administration made clear early on that it is committed to pursuing a low-carbon energy future, and battery technology is a key driver underpinning the shift away from fossil fuels. Just a few weeks ago, when touting his infrastructure package at Ford’s electric vehicle plant in Dearborn, President Joe Biden declared: “The future of the auto industry is electric. There’s no turning back.”

    Thus, it came as no surprise that President Biden’s February 2021 executive order launching a 100-day review of supply chain vulnerabilities for four key products targeted advanced batteries. The Department of Energy has now completed its review, with the findings released last week as part of a comprehensive 100-Day Supply Chain Report.

    As DoE points out:

    “Advanced, high-capacity batteries play an integral role in 21st-century technologies that are critical to the clean energy transition and national security capabilities around the world—from electric vehicles, to stationary energy storage, to defense applications. Demand for these products is set to grow as supply chain constraints, geopolitical and economic competition, and other vulnerabilities are increasing as well.”

    In its report chapter, DoE notes that

    “The rationale for supporting the U.S. supply chain now is clear: demand for EVs and energy storage is increasing, investors are increasing investment in the clean economy, and the pandemic has underscored the fragility of some U.S. supply chains. China and the European Union (EU) – in contrast to the U.S. approach – have developed and deployed ambitious government-led industrial policies that are supporting their success across the battery supply chain. China has also moved beyond conventional policy support with practices involving questionable environmental policies, price distortion through state-run enterprises to minimize competition, and large subsidies throughout the battery supply chain.”

    In other words, as ARPN expert panel member and Benchmark Mineral Intelligence managing director Simon Moores told members of Congress a while back:

    “We are in the midst of a global battery arms race.”

    Moores had told members of Congress that “[i]t is not too late for the US [to secure global supply chains post-COVID] but action is needed now.” — a sentiment DoE echoes in its report chapter:

    “However, the opportunity for the United States to secure a leading position in the global battery market is still within reach if the Federal Government takes swift and coordinated action.”

    While less explicit about the “all of the above” approach than the Department of Defense, DoE notes that:

    “With the global lithium battery market expected to grow by a factor of five to ten by 2030, it is imperative that the United States invests immediately in scaling up a secure, diversified supply chain for high-capacity batteries here at home. That means seizing a critical opportunity to increase domestic battery manufacturing while investing to scale the full lithium battery supply chain, including the sustainable sourcing and processing of the critical minerals used in battery production all the way through to end-of-life battery collection and recycling.

    Through strong collaboration across the federal government, with U.S. industrial stakeholders, the research community, and international allies, the U.S. must develop a durable strategy that invests and scales our potential industrial strengths to meet this challenge.”

    Among the Agency’s key recommendations for immediate and future action to strengthen the domestic advanced battery supply chain are:

      • Strengthening U.S. manufacturing requirements in federally-funded grants, cooperative agreements, and research and development (R&D) contracts.
      • Procuring stationary battery storage.
      • Providing financing to the advanced battery supply chain for electric vehicles.
      • Releasing the National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries by the Federal Consortium on Advanced Batteries (FCAB).
      • For Congress to catalyze private capital with new federal grant programs to support battery cell and pack manufacturing.
      • The electrification of the nation’s school bus fleet, and the acceleration of the electrification of the nation’s transit bus fleet.
      • Providing consumer rebates and tax incentives to spur consumer adoption of EVs.
      • Investing in the production of high-capacity batteries and products that use these batteries to support good-paying, union jobs.

    Developing strong environmental review permitting practices for the extraction of critical minerals.

    Under the sub-head “Mapping the Supply Chain,” while the Department zeroed in on the usual suspects — notably Lithium, Cobalt, Graphite, Manganese — all of which were officially deemed critical on the U.S. Government’s official 2018 Critical Minerals list — DoE also prominently features Nickel and Copper. For Nickel, DoE even notes that “if there are opportunities for the U.S. to target one part of the battery supply chain, this would likely be the most critical to provide short- and medium-term supply chain stability.”

    Which would make Nickel the most critical “non-Critical” – a status consistent with the word cloud we created based on the number of 100-Day Report mentions (footnotes included) of the metals and minerals that made the official U.S. Government Critical Minerals List of 2018 — and the two that didn’t but should have (Nickel and Copper).

    As we noted in our post earlier this week, the Biden Administration is right to give prominence to Nickel and Copper in its strategy.

    After all, as Reuters’s Andy Home has pointed out,

    “There is no domestic nickel processing capacity outside a limited amount of by-product salt production.

    Yet this particular battery metal is the one likely to experience the most significant demand increase over the coming years, the report says, with ‘market indications that there could be a large shortage of Class 1 nickel in the next 3-7 years.’

    Indeed, with nickel content rising in battery cathode design, not having enough of the right kind of nickel ‘poses a supply chain risk for battery manufacturing globally, not just in the United States.’”

    And for Copper, the latest IEA report has estimated that — largely driven by the EV revolution — demand will be 25 times greater in 2040 than it was in 2020.

    Thankfully, there are opportunities to alleviate our supply chain vulnerabilities and to begin the “sustainable sourcing and processing” here at home, both for Nickel and Copper, as well as for the other battery “Criticals,” and many other metals and minerals.

    With the Administration having endorsed an “All of the Above” strategy to secure our supply chains “soup to nuts,” as Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm phrased it earlier this week, here’s hoping that this broad-based approach will find swift application via policy, programs and projects.

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  • Tesla’s 20 Million Vehicles by 2030 Goal in Context

    Innovation. Disruption. That’s what Elon Musk and Tesla have become synonymous for — and for good reason. A recent claim made that Tesla would be able to reach production of 20 million vehicles per year before 2030, however, may be more of a stretch goal than a realistic number, as staff at Mining.com has recently pointed out.

    Granted, when Elon Musk made the claim in September of last year, he added the caveat that the 20 million vehicles production number would require “consistently excellent execution.” It’s more than that, though — the limitations of material inputs, and, more specifically, the challenges associated with critical mineral resource supply, cannot be executed away.

    In an interesting thought experiment that puts these numbers into context, using data from Adamas Intelligence, Mining.com has extrapolated just how much in raw materials Tesla would require to produce those 20 million vehicles instead of the half million vehicles it produced last year.

    Here’s the chart:

    As Frik Els of Mining.com points out,

    “When Tesla makes 20 million cars in a year it will need more than 30% of global mined nickel production in 2019 (2020 saw a 20%-plus reduction in output) for its batteries. Put another way, Tesla will have to buy the entire output of the top 6 producers – Norilsk, Vale, Jinchuan, Sumitomo, Glencore, BHP, and then some.”

    Els continues, facetiously:

    “Since Tesla is replacing graphite anodes with silicon, it’s not necessary to dwell on the fact that if this elusive scientific breakthrough is not commercialized at the speed of a Tesla in Ridiculous Mode, the carmaker would need 94% of the world’s natural graphite production by the time it hits 20 million cars a year. At least you can make more graphite.”

    For cobalt, the requirement would be more than half of global production before 2030, and for lithium it would be a whopping 165%.

    And, as followers of ARPN well know, rare earths may not in fact be “rare,” but that doesn’t mean they magically appear out of thin air like fairy dust.

    While Mining.com’s number crunching and throwing shade may make Tesla’s numbers seem like pie in the sky constructs, they do underscore an important fact:

    “The future energy system will be far more mineral and metal-intensive than it is today,” as Dr. Morgan Bazilian, Director of the Payne Institute and Professor of Public Policy, Colorado School of Mines testified before Congress in the fall 0f 2019, and several studies have since confirmed.

    With the COVID-19 pandemic having underscored the challenges associated with the geopolitics of resource supply, and the green energy transition agenda having moved to the forefront under the new Biden Administration, securing and shoring up critical mineral resource supply chains is becoming increasingly paramount.

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  • Europe Forges Ahead With Battery Gigafactory Buildout As U.S. Still Struggles to Get Off Starting Block

    The current coronavirus pandemic may have thrown a wrench into the gears of many industries, but — against the backdrop of skyrocketing materials supply needs in the context of the green energy transition — Europe continues to forge ahead with the buildout of its large-scale battery gigafactory capacity.  According to London-based Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, whose [...]
  • Demand for Certain Metals and Minerals to Increase by Nearly 500%, According to New World Bank Study

    At ARPN, we have long argued that the current push towards a lower-carbon future is not possible without mining, as green energy technology relies heavily on a score of critical metals and minerals. The World Bank’s latest report, entitled “The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition,” published earlier this week in the context of the [...]
  • ARPN’s McGroarty for The Economic Standard: Red Swan – a Leaked 2010 Cable on Critical Infrastructure/Key Resource Vulnerabilities Provided Warning Signs We Failed To Act On

    In a new piece for The Economic Standard, ARPN’s Daniel McGroarty argues that while the “intellectual shrug” of “who could have seen this coming” tends to be a common reaction to our new normal of sheltering in place and social distancing, there were warning signs for a coming crisis we failed to recognize for what they were, and act [...]
  • U.S. To Pursue National Electric Vehicle Supply Chain

    ARPN expert panel member and managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence Simon Moores must have struck a nerve when he called the U.S. a “bystander” in the current battery arms race during a recent Congressional hearing. His message  —  “Those who control these critical raw materials and those who possess the manufacturing and processing know how, will [...]
  • U.S. Currently Bystander in Global Battery Arms Race, ARPN Expert Tells U.S. Senate Committee

    A key global player, the United States is not used to being a bystander. Yet this is exactly what is currently happening, says Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s Managing Director Simon Moores, addressing the full U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources this morning. Delivering his testimony on the outlook for energy and minerals market in [...]
  • Move Over, Lithium and Cobalt, Graphite and Graphene are About to Take Center Stage – Courtesy of the Ongoing Materials Science Revolution

    Earlier this week, we pointed to what we called the “new kid on the block” in battery tech – Vanadium.  It appears that what held true for music, is true in this industry as well – “new kids on the block” arrive in groups. Now, all puns aside – as Molly Lempriere writes for Mining-Technology.com, [...]
  • Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s World Tour Returns to U.S. this May

    Our friends from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence – formidable experts when it comes to battery tech and the mineral resources driving it – are returning to the U.S. in May for another round of their World Tour. This year’s tour will “focus on the supply chains for the next generation of battery technologies,” and seek to [...]
  • Automakers Pledge to Uphold Ethical and Socially Responsible Standards in Materials Sourcing. Where Will the Metals and Minerals Come From?

    Late last month, international automakers made headlines when pledging “to uphold ethical and socially responsible standards in their purchases of minerals for an expected boom in electric vehicle production.” As Reuters reported, a group of 10 car manufacturers have formed an initiative to “jointly identify and address ethical, environmental, human and labor rights issues in [...]

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