Biden Battery Electronic Vehicles Jennifer Granholm

A plugged-in electric car parked and plugged into a charger.

On Monday, the Department of Energy announced $3.1 billion in funding to help boost U.S. production of high-capacity batteries and battery parts, as well as an additional $60 million in funds to support battery recycling. United States Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm formally laid out the Biden administration’s battery plans in a 2 p.m. statement in Detroit, Michigan – where Granholm was Governor of 2003 to 2011—and in a video she tweeted Monday afternoon.

“Batteries are critical to powering the transport sector with clean energy and providing renewable resources around the clock. Improved battery technology and storage capacities will help reduce our dependence on electricity consumption. foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Granholm said in the video statement.

Although batteries can help rely less on extraneous oil, it is important to note that the minerals and rare earth the metals used in batteries are concentrated in a few places in the world. And much of the US supply of these materials currently comes from outside the country. At present, approximately 80% of our imports of lithium-ion batteries come from Chinawho has mining contracts and operations implemented in many rich in minerals areas of the global south. China is also responsible for processing and refining 80% of rare earths metals that the United States imports, according to USGS 2020 data.

New DOE funding comes amid booming fossil fuel prices prompting the United States to renew its calls for increased domestic energy capacity, and a continued federal push to vehicle electrification— starting with the government own fleet. The Biden administration previously set a goal for electric vehicles to offset half of everything car sales by 2030, via executive order. To achieve this goal alone, we will need a much larger batteryand therefore all the minerals (such as cobalt, nickel, graphite, lithium and rare earth metals) needed to manufacture these batteries.

There is no doubt that we must move away from fossil fuels, as quickly as possible to avoid the worsening consequences of climate change. But moving to all electric cars or more battery storage on the power grid, although possibleis full of political, environmental and human potential complications.

Money for DOE’s new battery investment comes from Biden $1 trillion infrastructure plan, and will be used for “the research, manufacture, processing and [battery] recycling,” according to Granholm. The bulk of the funding is specifically focused on grants to support “the establishment of new, upgraded, and expanded commercial facilities as well as manufacturing demonstrations and battery recycling,” the DOE said in its statement.

Notably, the funding is not intended for new mining projects, but rather to stimulate the processing and recovery in the United States of the raw materials necessary for the production of batteries. “The bipartisan Infrastructure Act commits more than $7 billion to strengthening the battery supply chain in the United States, which includes the production and recycling of critical minerals without re-mining or extraction and the sourcing of materials for domestic manufacturing,” the statement said.

But, more materials will have to be mined somehow. A Analysis 2021 by the International Energy Agency has concluded that we will need to increase the sextupled ore supply to meet the growing global demand for batteries over the coming decades. And for some minerals, this number is much higher. Report predicts demand for graphite will increase 25 times over the next 20 years, and the demand for lithium will increase 70 times.

Recycling probably cannot solve all shortage problems, as the US government well knows. In late March, Biden invoked a Cold War-era law in an attempt to boost national minerals and metal mines

Although continuing to burn fossil fuels poses a huge threat to just about everyone species on earth. The development of battery production carries the risk of damaging species and habitats on a smaller scale. For example, lithium mining has reduced the populations of two species of flamingos in salt pans in Chile, according to a 2022 study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. And, in Nevada, a proposed lithium mine site could destroy most known range of a rare wildflower called Tiehm buckwheat.

And the current mining boom has exacerbated existing global inequalities, such as in Chile where lithium mines threaten local populations. water supply and Indigenous communities. Or, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where dangerous cobalt mining operations have children killed working in the mines and led to lawsuits against tech companies, including You’re here, Apple and Google.

With this new funding announcement, however, the DOE aims to move toward a better battery supply chain by embracing “responsible and sustainable domestic sourcing of critical materials used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries,” according to the department Monday. . statement. Let’s hope this vision comes true.

Comments are closed.