The Trump Administration recently released a strategy to make the U.S. economy and homeland more secure by locating supplies of critical minerals in the U.S. and helping to facilitate and expedite the permitting and development of those minerals.
The strategy is a direct response to the Dec. 2017 Executive Order that directed federal agencies to develop a plan to reduce U.S. vulnerability to critical mineral supply disruptions, reduce permitting delays, increase access to mineral deposits, and identify new domestic sources of minerals and the technologies that enable their development.
The “Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals” directs the Department of the Interior (DOI) and other federal agencies to develop and implement a strategy to reduce U.S. dependence on critical minerals, assess the progress of developing technologies for recycling and reprocessing of critical minerals, and create options for accessing and developing critical minerals through investment and trade.
As DOI noted in its press release on the strategy, the United States is heavily dependent on many minerals that are essential to U.S. economic and national security, with the minerals being key components of items ranging from computers and cell phones to ships, planes, cars, and beyond.
Underscoring the national security implications of the current state of play, the United States is reliant on imports for 31 of 35 minerals that have been identified as critical by DOI.
Furthermore, as the U.S. Geological Survey has noted, several of these critical and scarce minerals are also vital to the development of renewable energy sources. Solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries all rely on minerals that are in short supply or non-existent in the United States. In short, this dependency on imports threatens to jeopardize our continued march toward energy dominance, at a time when renewables are playing a greater role in enabling the U.S. to meet its clean energy demand.
Additionally, U.S. dependence on critical mineral imports threatens our national security because so many technologies needed for our military, space program, and economic growth rely on them, and it places us at a strategic disadvantage compared to rival nations like Russia and China that possess and produce many of these minerals.
Just as the United States utilized technological innovation to open up vast shale plays, boost domestic energy production, and break our heavy dependence on oil and natural gas imports, a combination of technology, access to resources, and improved permitting processes could allow the nation to develop new critical minerals and reduce our dependence on countries like Russia and China for critical minerals that are needed for renewable energy development and a variety of products we all depend on in our daily lives.
Our burgeoning domestic natural gas supply has helped ensure grid reliability and facilitate growth in renewables by addressing intermittency challenges, enhancing our energy security while at the same time providing opportunities to make major gains in combating air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Our ability to reliably export natural gas and renewable technology to nations around the world, and the energy security and environmental benefits associated with them, is dependent on our ability to secure and produce critical minerals in the United States. Let’s hope that we can accomplish that mission and further advance our national security and energy dominance.
Jack Belcher is senior vice president of Cornerstone Energy Solutions and advises energy, transportation and financial services clients on government relations, regulatory affairs, risk management, ESG management, coalition building and stakeholder relations. He is also managing director of the National Ocean Policy Coalition.
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