President Joe Biden reiterated his commitment to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century through prioritizing the use of solar-charged battery power in CNN’s town hall on Thursday.
“We’re significantly reducing the amount, the cost of solar panels on your roof,” Biden pledged, through billions of dollars in subsidies from the Democrats’ colossal reconciliation bill. “For example, new battery technologies are being made. … If you have a solar panel, you put that in your basement and the sun doesn’t shine for seven days, you still have all the power you need.”
Behind the state-sponsored adoption of widespread renewable energy, however, are massive mine projects necessary to extract the rare Earth minerals required for manufacturing, a market dominated by the Chinese as the administration blocks domestic development.
On Wednesday, the Department of the Interior put a halt on northeastern Minnesota’s Twin Metals project, a proposed mine to surgically extract primarily copper and nickel, pending a new two-year study. Both are critical minerals for batteries and solar panels. The move could prohibit mining in the area for two decades.
According to USA Rare Earth CEO Pini Althaus in a recent TechFirst podcast, the United States needs 10 times more rare Earth minerals to meet Biden’s ambitious plan for 50 percent of all new cars on the market to be electric by the end of the decade. The country needs 20 to 25 times more to achieve Biden’s goals for a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.
“We have a huge disparity in current demand and supply, and it’s going to grow even further as we move toward 2030. And you know rare Earth deposits, lithium deposits, especially rare Earth deposits, they don’t just get turned on by the flick of a switch,” Althaus said. “They involve sometimes a decades or two of drilling, having the right economics, being able to develop those projects. So a lot needs to get done for us to have any sort of independence from China if we’re going to get the goals we’re trying to achieve.”
According to The New York Times, China makes “70 to 80 percent of the world’s battery chemicals, battery anodes and battery cells.” Having a global monopoly on minerals as demand increases was an advantage China sought.
“The Middle East has oil, and China has rare Earth,” said former Chinese Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping in 1992, as Beijing ramped up production to play the long game. Since then, China has outpaced the United States as the world’s largest producer of rare minerals, raising production by 500 percent, according to the Wyoming Mining Association.
While Biden plays up an ambitious climate agenda, the administration has maintained animus toward domestic development, looking overseas to nations with far weaker environmental standards to meet emissions goals that are useless without global cooperation. China is the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gas.