As China revs up battery production, Dem lawmakers see another Middle East nightmare

The burgeoning democratic endeavors are supported by progressives worried about climate change. Unions delivering Biden’s promise to create jobs; and moderates who see a return to labor production as a way to help their constituents lose jobs in the fossil fuel sector.

“We don’t produce any of the rare earth minerals or very, very, very little rare earth minerals needed to make a battery,” Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) said during an event on Monday at the National Press Club. “We have to rely on other sources in the world and basically people in parts of the world are being enslaved to get the resources we seem to want out of sight and we just say, ‘Well, we have one Electric vehicle. ‘”

President Joe Biden knows the troubled history of the last Democratic administration’s efforts to use green technology to boost the economy. Despite a number of incentives in the 2009 economic stimulus, the solar supply chain largely shifted to China after that country’s government invested heavily in industry.

As of last year, the three largest solar manufacturers in the world have all been Chinese. Biden and his team We want to make sure this doesn’t happen again with batteries, the next clean energy technology.

“If we don’t catch up, America will miss the opportunity to shape the world’s climate future to reflect our interests and values, and we will lose countless jobs for the American people,” said Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Monday in remarks to clean energy.

China’s already considerable advantage in the sector has feared energy experts that the US could be drawn into generations of resource-based foreign policy entanglements, as it did in the Middle East.

“In 1973 and 1979, when oil supplies were deliberately confined to the US in response to what was going on in the Middle East, the biggest response was diversification of supplies,” said Ernest Moniz, who served as Secretary of Energy former President Barack Obama. The same idea should be applied to trading in batteries and their components between the US and China, said Moniz.

There are only three large battery factories in the United States today, including Tesla’s famous “Gigafactory” in Nevada.

According to analytics firm Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, that paltry number will climb to just 10 by 2030 if current trends continue. These include the proposed SK Innovation factory in Commerce, Georgia, which was threatened by an international trade dispute until a $ 1.8 billion settlement earlier this month allowed work to continue.

By then, China will have 140 factories and Europe 17 benchmark projections. In the US, the demand for batteries from automakers and the power grid will be astronomical.

“By 2030 the US will have to build 20 more battery plants, maybe 10 if they’re really big,” to meet automotive demand, said Simon Moores, general manager at Benchmark. “That means you have to set them up by 2027, which means you have to start working on them in 2023.”

By 2024, there will be more than 200 models of electric or hybrid cars in the US market, each powered by a bundle of rare earth metals, most of which come from outside the US utilities. According to research firm Wood Mackenzie, hours of stationary batteries to stabilize the power grid by 2025 are enough to power nearly 2.7 million new Nissan Leaf electric vehicles.

If factories aren’t built fast enough, automakers will have to delay new models, hurting Biden’s ambitious climate and electric vehicle goals. Or they could look for their batteries overseas, which, according to Moores, would likely mean for Chinese suppliers.

In order to serve the new battery factories, legislators and industry hope to attract the mining and processing of important metals – like lithium, cobalt and so-called rare earth minerals – to the USA. But these processes themselves have major pollution risks.

Abandoned mines can leak chemicals into local water sources for centuries, long after companies that operated them went bankrupt and US mining slowed due to environmental concerns. Mining companies and unions both argue that this needs to change.

“We need to point out that this drive for electrification is indeed mining,” said Rich Nolan, CEO of the National Mining Association, a trading group that represents mining companies. “We shouldn’t let the Chinese outflank us in this race. We have to take advantage of these opportunities and attract the US capital.”

The need for domestic mineral production to aid the fight against global warming has spawned some strange bedfellows in Washington. Conservation groups that have long resisted new mining projects have quietly met with mining companies and unions to explore more environmentally friendly methods of sourcing rare earth minerals.

“We’re in preliminary talks on this,” said Corey Fischer, director of public land policy at conservation group Trout Unlimited. “There is nothing official like a united front with the administration or a set of principles, but we want to go in that direction.”

Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation, another environmental nonprofit, were released a report Last year, basic principles were set out which they could challenge for resuming domestic mining. They are still opposed to mining in sensitive areas like the wilderness of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area, which may be rich in vital resources.

The same applies to the congress. Moderate Democrats from traditional coal states like Manchin and Senator John Hickenlooper, Colorado, are drafting laws to encourage mining and processing of minerals in hopes of getting some of the materials from coal waste and old mines.

Republicans previously endorsed some of the ideas proposed by the Democrats. Manchin joined Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) And Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in 2019 to introduce the Law on Advanced Coal Technologies for Rare Earth Elements (P. 1052 (116)) Extract rare earth metals from coal waste.

So far, however, Republicans have been strongly opposed to most Democratic initiatives involving the fossil fuel transition, and their support for a broad package that includes Democratic manufacturing incentives seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, climate hawks like CFO Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Are demanding tax credits for factories that convert these materials into batteries that power electric vehicles and stabilize the power grid for decades to come.

Mining and mineral recycling talks are still at an early stage, according to a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee chaired by Manchin. Ideas discussed include tax credits or government grant programs for new mines and processing plants.

Legislators are also looking into whether existing tax programs, such as a special loan for advanced manufacturing, for recycling batteries and processing rare earths, can be expanded or used for other purposes. Manchin and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) Have presented a draft law that focuses on former coal-mining communities with high unemployment.

“We need to invest in the extraction and processing of critical minerals and the reclamation of abandoned mining areas, both of which would use the skills of our American miners,” Manchin said at the Press Club event.

The finance committee’s bill is still in its early stages, but Wyden has announced that it will also include incentives to manufacture semiconductors and solar components domestically – two other areas where lawmakers fear Chinese dominance.

Working with Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) And Stabenow, Wyden would like Biden’s support for a 10 percent manufacturing tax credit that he touted during the campaign to be expanded. However, lawmakers are still unsure about the size of the loan or the number of industries to target.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has allocated $ 12.5 billion to manufacture household batteries under its LIFT America Act. And the White House is pushing battery manufacturers to extract their suppliers from China, targeting the sector in an executive order to review critical supply chains.

In order to build up the domestic battery industry in the face of intense competition from China, the US must renew these incentives until the domestic supply chain is self-sustaining, say the battery manufacturers.

“This can’t be a one-shot deal,” said Jason Knapp, vice president of government relations for battery cell manufacturer KORE Power. “We have to support battery manufacturing as we do other critical industries, as we do every year.” This will become an integral part of our transportation system and network. We have to treat it as a recurring thing. “

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