Daily Energy Insider: Senate hearing explores how minerals foster clean energy technologies

The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing this week to examine the sourcing and use of minerals needed for clean energy technologies.

“Minerals are the fundamental building blocks for any modern technology, but they don’t just appear out of thin air,” Committee Chair Sen Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said. “As our energy sector transitions to greater use of renewables, we must acknowledge that these technologies are built from materials that come from the ground. Batteries don’t work without lithium, graphite, cobalt, and nickel; solar panels require silver gallium, indium, tellurium; and wind turbines are not just built from steel, but also aluminum, copper, and rare earth elements.”

Murkowski cited a report by the World Bank that says demand for certain minerals would increase by 1,200 percent in a scenario where global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.

Committee ranking member Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said the responsible mining and recycling of minerals is critical to facilitate clean energy technologies.

“Renewable energy sources and energy storage play growing and crucial roles in the energy sector. In fact, according to a recent report, renewable energy investments will likely exceed $2.6 trillion in this decade. Electric vehicles are also expected to be a growing part of our energy future. The common denominator between all of these clean energy technologies is a handful of minerals that either occur in limited abundance or only in certain countries around the world,” Manchin said.

Daniel Simmons, assistant secretary for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said the Trump Administration said an increase in private-sector domestic exploration, production, recycling, and reprocessing of critical minerals is needed to meet the demand.

President Trump signed an executive order in 2017 that directs greater federal engagement on mineral security.

Robert Kang, CEO of Blue Whale Materials, said whole lithium ion battery recycling needs to play a role to meet future demands.

“I would say that recycling is one answer to meet the demands that we see in the future. I believe that by having a robust collection system, and a vibrant recycling industry, we not only will meet the national security issues that we’re discussing here today, but we’ll also be, as you mentioned, taking care of a hazardous problem,” Kang said.

The hearing also featured testimony from experts from the Payne Institute at the Colorado School of Mines, Foreign Policy Analytics, and the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

“Relatively scant attention is being paid to…China’s control of the raw materials necessary to the digital economy,” Allison Carlson, managing director at Foreign Policy Analytics, said. “Operating in niche markets with limited transparency and often in politically unstable countries, Chinese firms have locked up supplies of these minerals and metals with a combination of state-directed investment and state-backed capital, making long-term strategic plays, sometimes at a financial loss.”

By:  Dave Kovaleski
Source: Daily Energy Insider