On May 11, US Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska – R) published on OurEnergyPolicy.org : Coronavirus Pandemic Highlights Need to Address Mineral Security.
The comment article once again calls for the need to reduce reliance of foreign imports of key raw materials for 21st century technology.
Senator Murkowski said:
Simon Moores, of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, succinctly drove the point home when he testified before our committee last year that, ‘We are in the midst of a global battery arms race, in which so far the U.S. is a bystander.’
“To produce more of these technologies, we will need a massive increase in supplies of lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite, to name just a few. Yet China has consolidated its power over their production and processing while America lags far behind.”
Benchmark’s Managing Director, Simon Moores, was invited by OurEnergyPolicy.org to give the following comment.
“This is a really important comment from Senator Murkowski. I welcome Ourenergypolicy.org’s invite to add some of my own thoughts to this.
Since my second Senate testimony in February 2019, the US has fallen further behind in this global battery arms race.
Then, there were 70 battery megafactories in the pipeline of which 46 were in China and 5 in the USA.
Today, there are 136 of these super-sized electric vehicle battery plants in operation or being planned: 101 in China and 8 in the USA.
China is building a battery gigafactory (megafactory) at the rate of one every week; the USA at one every four months.
In 2019, China produced 72% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries whereas the USA only 9%.
What’s really important to understand is China’s forward-thinking in building out this electric vehicle supply chain which started well over a decade ago. It has not just built an entire suite of super-sized battery megafactories for its auto industry, but the supply chain to feed them.
Despite common thought, China produces only 23% of key battery raw materials combined. Yet it produced 80% of the next step in the chain – battery chemicals – and 66% of cathodes, 82% of anodes, and 72% of battery cells.
The further downstream of the supply chain you go towards an electric vehicle, the more dominant China’s position is.
The world’s supply chain arrows point toward’s China for production of lithium-ion batteries as China understands that this is the enabling technology for the 21st century auto industry and critical to our future energy needs via storage.
This isn’t just making batteries for a niche auto, this is industrial infrastructure the 21st century and China holds the sway of power.
The USA needs to ask itself when the last time it built a heavy industry from scratch?
It’s likely to be before its leaders were born in 1933 and FDR’s New Deal.
This is the scale of the challenge facing the world’s biggest economy: Building secure, local, hi-tech supply chains for a lithium-ion economy.
In turn, this will create millions of jobs and put the USA at the forefront of this energy storage revolution.
In 2015, Benchmark declared the battery megafactories are coming. In 2020, the battery megafactories are here.
Now the focus must turn to building them within the USA and securing the inputs (raw materials) and outputs (recycling) to make this happen.
The USA will need leadership from the top to make this happen at the speed necessary.”
The full comment from Senator Murkowski can be read here at OurEnergyPolicy.org.
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