-->
American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • green energy transition

  • HOMEPAGE >> BLOG >> green energy transition
  • Winning the “Energy Battle of the Twenty-First Century” Will Take More Than “Myopic” Policy Approach

    Earlier this week, the Biden Administration unveiled a road map for reducing the transportation sector’s carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050.

    Two weeks into the new year, the green energy transition continues to gain steam.  However, as Morgan D. Bazilian of the Colorado School of Mines and Gregory Brew from the Jackson School of Global Affairs at Yale University argue in a new piece for Foreign Affairs, while this general trend represents

    “welcome and overdue progress, (…) implementing plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could be stymied in part by a material obstacle: the procurement of critical minerals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and copper that are essential to clean energy systems.” 

    As followers of ARPN well know, 2022 saw several important developments to boost domestic critical mineral supply chains.  (See our Year in Review post here.). And we can’t resist noting that copper – rightly referenced by Bazilian and Brew as an essential material for clean energy applications – is not officially a Critical Mineral, despite ARPN’s consistent case for copper’s criticality.

    In any case, with demand outpacing supply for many of the metals and minerals underpinning the pursuit of net zero carbon emissions, Bazilian and Brewer lament that “[t]he way the United States seems intent on obtaining these minerals (…) is myopic.”

    They argue that “[t]o win the energy battle of the twenty-first century, the United States must avoid repeating the policy mistakes of past eras and focus on increasing domestic production and advanced manufacturing at home, while establishing secure and resilient supply chains with allies—and even foes—abroad.”

    As Bazilian and Brewer outline, the level of supply production needed to implement plans to reduce emissions “does not yet exist. New mines will have to be dug, and processing and refining industrial complexes will need to be built—both exceedingly difficult to do with existing permitting rules. The existing facilities, moreover, are almost entirely outside the United States. The production of critical minerals is concentrated in a handful of countries. 

    Against the backdrop of heightened geopolitical competition, they say, “Washington should avoid the counterproductive strategies of the oil era and adopt a varied approach combining domestic policy options with a flexible foreign policy. The goal should be to build a secure position for itself and its allies, reduce dependence on Chinese supplies, and recognize the competitive environment without resorting to brute force or nationalistic tendencies.”

    Specifically, they suggest the United States should:

    • accelerate the development of its domestic critical mineral resources and streamline the mining permitting process to further expand mining capacity;
    • work with allies to develop supply chains for critical minerals;
    • and work with allies to regulate critical mineral markets to reduce volatility to encourage investment and prevent disruptions due to price spikes.

    To be sure, progress has been made on several fronts. As ARPN outlined in our 2022 recap, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to spur domestic resource development and Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act in August, both of which have sent strong signals to investors and industry that the United States is serious about confronting the critical minerals supply chain challenge head-on.

    At the same time, as scholars at the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Center have pointed out“the Biden administration’s efforts to free up federal funds for domestic mining activities has highlighted the inherent conflict between accessing the minerals needed for climate action and the administration’s commitment to environmental and social justice.”

    Developments like the recent Biden administration halt on progress on the Ambler Road project in Alaska, which proponents say would unlock access to critical minerals and create new jobs, point to conflicting viewpoints between the President’s stated objectives and his Administration’s policy.

    Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy lamented the Administration’s Ambler Mining District decision during a 2022 critical minerals summit held in Fairbanks, which we covered here:

    “This administration must speak with one voice. It wants critical minerals, or it doesn’t. It wants the lower energy prices, or it doesn’t.  It wants to create jobs in the U.S. or it doesn’t.  It wants to protect the environment or it doesn’t. It cares about human rights, or it doesn’t. (…) The disjointed federal permitting process doesn’t just hurt Alaskans (…), it hurts every industry, and every state. (…) 

    If we set ambitious goals for EVs or renewables without permitting the production of critical minerals here, those minerals will still be produced, they just won’t be produced in here in America or Alaska, they’ll be produced by child labor, potentially, they’ll be produced without environmental standards, potentially, they’ll be produced at the expense of the American worker, to the benefit, potentially, of our adversaries.”  

    The stakes are high, and the Wilson Center Environmental Change and Security Program believes that “Critical Minerals and Energy Security” will be one of the top three issues in the coming months as 2023 promises to be a “pivotal moment for U.S. foreign and domestic policy on critical minerals.”

    We are here for it, and ARPN will be documenting and analyzing the developments and decisions that will “determine national fortunes and human progress in decades ahead.”

    Share
  • 2023 – Trend Lines and Breaking Points – It’s Time to Buckle Up (Especially in the EV Space)

    Happy New Year!

    For most of us, the first week of January means it’s time to go back to the grind after an extended period of family time, food coma, rest and – hypothetically, at least — reflection.  It also means trying shake the brain fog and mental rust that has settled in order to dive back into the swing of things.

    Today, it’s time to meet 2023 head-on.

    If you could use a refresher to get you up to speed on where we are in the critical minerals space, take a look at our Year in Review” post, especially if you missed it amidst the pre-holiday craziness in December.

    In it, we argued that in some ways, 2022 was the year in which strengthening supply chains moved from “rhetoric to reality” as much progress was made, including important groundwork to build out a secure North American critical minerals supply chain.  However, we also cautioned that much more remains to be done, and to overcome the many challenges, new alliances will need to be forged.

    As Shane Lasley argues in Critical Minerals Alliances 2022, a magazine covering 29 metals and minerals (when counting rare earths as 14)  deemed critical to North American supply chains as well as related policy issues:

     “The optimum solution to laying the foundation for the next epoch of human progress will only be discovered through the forging of unlikely alliances between the woke and old school, environmental conservationists and natural resource developers, liberals and conservatives, national laboratories and private sector entrepreneurs, local stakeholders and global mining companies, venture capitalists and innovators, and everyone else with visions of a cleaner, greener, and high-tech future.”

    Now the question is, what lies ahead?

    As we look at overall trend lines in the critical minerals space, we see the following themes emerge:

    • A focus on the Super Criticals (see our Year in Review post for more info);
    • the growing importance of geopolitics, with China taking center stage and alliances and partnerships continuing to be forged to reduce reliance on Beijing;
    • the acceleration of the green energy transition which will require vast amounts of critical minerals;
    • as well as industry’s efforts to sustainably green our future by harnessing the materials science revolution.

    All of these themes are intertwined, and more may emerge in the coming months, but rest assured that ARPN will be covering these issues extensively as we go forward.

    Of course, we are not the only ones to have paused and reflected on what’s to come in 2023.  In a new piece for InvestorIntel.com, editor in chief, critical minerals, Jack Lifton stipulates that “2023 is a breaking point if there is to be an EV revolution/transformation.”

    Arguing that “[i]t is not at all certain that high-tech, critical minerals producers and processors, will be ready or even existent by the time the minerals can be delivered to their end-user manufacturers,” Lifton says that “[i]t’s time that car makers performed a due diligence on the critical minerals’ supply space.”

    In his view, car makers must — specifically for minerals, metals and manufactured components dependent upon lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, manganese and the rare earths —

    • “[a]scertain whether or not the supply of finished components necessary for the assembly of motor vehicles (…) can meet current and all future demand;
    • and predict and mandate price maximums for critical minerals that they can afford if their products are to be sellable.”

    Benchmark Mineral Intelligence’s Simon Moores says that “2023 will be the end of the start up phase for electric vehicles and battery supply chains” as we are “entering scale up.” He adds: “This may seem like demand (which industry could not fulfill) is falling when it’s high and volatile. A sky high but bumpy ride ahead.”

    In the waning days of December the stage was set for 2023 with decisions to come standing to determine national fortunes and human progress in decades ahead.

    As 2023 rolls down the runway, it’s time to buckle up.

    Share
  • Sustainably Building Out Domestic Supply Chains — Auto and Battery Makers Rethink Their Value Chains in Wake of Recent Regulatory Changes and Intensifying Competition

    In recent months, and in particular in the wake of the recently-passed congressional Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), we have seen a long overdue uptick in efforts to build out a secure North American critical minerals supply chain. Not surprisingly, many of these efforts are focused on what ARPN has dubbed the “super-criticals” – the five battery materials, plus [...]
  • As Clean Energy Adoption Reaches “Tipping Point,” the Challenge of Untangling Critical Mineral Supply Chains Looms Larger than Ever

    “Solar power, electric cars, grid-scale batteries, heat pumps—the world is crossing into a mass-adoption moment for green technologies,” writes Tom Randall for Bloomberg.  Citing Bloomberg research, he argues that “clean energy has a tipping point, and 87 countries have reached it.”  The mass-adoption of green technologies, as followers of ARPN well know, requires drastically increased amounts of critical [...]
  • National Clean Energy Week Underscores Importance of Critical Mineral Supply Chains

    Underscoring the importance of the green energy transition to modern society, the U.S. Senate earlier this week passed a resolution, the U.S. House of Representatives  introduced a corresponding resolution, and several governors issued their own declarations designating September 26th through 30th “National Clean Energy Week.” National Clean Energy Week is billed as an annual week-long “celebration of clean energy innovation” to “help solve [...]
  • A Look at the Inflation Reduction Act and Its Potential to “Reclaim Critical Mineral Chains”

    In a comprehensive new piece for Foreign Policy, director of the Payne Institute and professor of public policy at the Colorado School of Mines Morgan Bazilian, and postdoctoral fellow at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University Gregory Brew take a closer look at the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act’s energy provisions, which in their [...]
  • As Automakers Scramble to Build Out EV Manufacturing, Calls for Mine Permitting Reform Get Louder

    Against the backdrop of ongoing supply chain challenges around the globe, the urgency of untangling and securing critical mineral supply chains essential to a net zero carbon emissions future is becoming increasingly clear. Following on the heels of the Biden Administration invoking the Defense Production Act for the “Battery Criticals” – lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel and manganese [...]
  • Congress “Net-Zeroes” in on Energy Security, Supply Chains for Critical Minerals – A Look at the Inflation Reduction Act

    As countries and corporations continue the global quest towards net zero carbon emissions, the U.S. Congress has passed what some consider landmark legislation to address climate change and bolster our nation’s economic and national security. The clean energy provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act negotiated by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) — [...]
  • U.S. Army Brigadier General (ret.): Congress Has Opportunity to Make “Critically Important Leap Forward to Build the Secure, Responsible Industrial Base our Economy and National Security Needs”

    In a new piece for RealClearEnergy, John Adams, U.S. Army brigadier general (ret.), argues that the newly proposed Inflation Reduction Act, negotiated by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) is not only the most ambitious climate bill in U.S. history, but also represents an opportunity to bolster our nation’s economic and national security.  General [...]
  • A Look Beyond the United States — Realizing the Extent of Resource Dependencies, Countries Take Steps to Bolster Domestic Supply Chains

    Against the backdrop of mounting geopolitical and ongoing supply chain challenges, countries are left grappling with the the mineral intensity of the sought-after global transition towards a net zero carbon emissions future. In their quest to untangle complex critical mineral supply chains and reduce over-reliance on adversary nations, the extent of which was first brought [...]

Archives