Biden eyes using wartime powers for minerals needed in clean energy push

Josh Siegel, Zack Colman, Jordan Wolman, and Tanya Snyder

This article by Josh Siegel, Zack Colman, Jordan Wolman, and Tanya Snyder appeared in POLITICO on March 30, 2022.

The White House is weighing using wartime executive powers to boost U.S. battery production to help secure supplies for the growing market for electric vehicles and power storage on the electric grid, according to two people familiar with the Biden administration’s thinking.

President Joe Biden would use the Defense Production Act to help secure U.S. sources of critical minerals that are deemed key components of clean energy technology. While the U.S. possesses many of those minerals, industry and some lawmakers of both parties contend regulations have deterred development and forced the U.S. to rely on supplies from nations like China, Russia, South Africa and Australia.

“As we break our dependence on foreign sources of oil and natural gas, we must ensure that we secure the materials necessary for the clean energy economy in a way that holds to our strong environmental, labor, Tribal engagement standards and does not leave us reliant on unreliable and unsustainable foreign supply chains,” one of the people said.

The move to use an emergency national defense law dating to the Cold War comes as the prices of battery minerals like nickel, lithium and cobalt, have surged during Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia is a leading producer of nickel, copper and other minerals. Prices were already rising before Russia’s invasion because of forecasts that global supply won’t keep up with surging demand expected from electrifying economies.

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