…US Strategic Minerals Deficiencies...
According to the latest report on supply chains, issued June of this year, i.e., The Whitehouse, 100-Day Reviews under Executive Order 14017, three minerals used in Lithium-ion batteries represent a strategic threat to the United States.
- Class-1 Nickel
This chart, taken from the IEA’s chart on minerals used in clean technologies, establishes the importance of these minerals for battery powered vehicles (BEVs), where BEVs are a crucial component of this administration’s net-zero carbon emissions policy.
Table 1, from the Whitehouse report, establishes the quantity of these materials needed by the US for BEVs. In all cases, there are adequate reserves outside the US, however, accessing limited US reserves will be extremely difficult due to environmental regulations.
Figure 4, from The Whitehouse report, is a graphic representation of this data.
The Whitehouse report says that China controls 72 percent of the refining capacity for all the cobalt mined each year.
Refining Cobalt also entails serious environmental problems. The Whitehouse report says:
“Cobalt represents one of the examples of why, ultimately, the United States is unable to solve these issues with R&D alone.”
The Whitehouse report continues by saying:
“In 2021, the global reserves of cobalt are estimated at 7.1 Mt, with more than 50 percent (3.6 Mt) concentrated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).”
“The USGS estimates that 70 percent of all mined cobalt comes from the DRC.”
In addition, the Whitehouse report says:
“China is the DRC’s primary trading partner for cobalt with 84 percent of the DRC’s 2019 cobalt exports going to China.”
Figure 7 from the Whitehouse report shows the enormity of the problem with the net-zero carbon emissions policy.
The US is going from practically zero MWh of battery usage, to approximately 500,000 MWh of usage in 2040.
Where will the three critical materials come from? How will we pay for the materials? Clearly, there will be a huge trade imbalance. While oil is denominated in dollars, how will these materials be priced? In Yuan?
Recycling is being suggested as a solution to these problems, but a review of the literature on recycling isn’t promising. The physical construction of the batteries differ between manufacturers, compounding the problem of disassembly and separation of components. Separating embedded materials, such as nickel from cobalt, will be a challenge. Safety and health issues have not yet been examined. At this point, there have been too few used batteries to warrant testing and investing in recycling, so it remains a huge unknown.
This new Whitehouse report merely confirms we are on the path to self destruction with this administrations net zero carbon emissions policy.