US senators are urging the country’s president to invoke the Defense Production Act amid a domestic supply chain crisis for lithium-ion battery materials such as lithium, cobalt manganese and graphite.
In their letter, the senators acknowledge president Joe Biden’s Executive Order 14017 and the associated 100-day review that recognised America’s ongoing battery supply chain crisis, but cite America’s vulnerabilities that must be addressed.
The Defense Production Act of 1950 is a US federal law that enables the president significant emergency authority to control domestic industries— during COVID-19, Donald Trump used it to increase production of critical supplies and Biden has used it to speed up vaccination and testing efforts.
The letter was written by senators Lisa Murkowsk (pictured), Joe Manchin, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee James Risch, and Bill Cassidy.
The letter read: “The United States relies almost exclusively on foreign nations— many of them unfriendly and with nonexistent labor and environmental standards— to meet much of our present mineral demand.
“As reported by the U.S. Geological Survey, the United States imported more than 50 percent of its supply of at least 47 minerals commodities in 2021, including 100 percent of its supply of 17 of them.
“The concentration of where that supply comes from makes our foreign dependence even more concerning.
“China dominates the international critical mineral supply chain, presenting a dire national security threat for the United States, and harsh economic realities for American manufacturers.
“With demand for certain minerals expected to grow by up to 3,000 percent over the next two decades, our reliance on China and other, often adversarial, nations to satisfy this demand will only grow.”
Read the full letter here
Ongoing battery concerns
China accounted for 80% of US lithium-ion battery imports during Q4 of 2021— up more than 30% from the same period in 2020, according to data from Panjiva, a business line within S&P Global Market Intelligence, a division of S&P Global.
The same report noted lithium-ion battery imports into the US reached 103,889 metric tons in the final three months of 2021 (a record quarter)— jumping 137% from a year earlier and 24% from the previous quarter,
President Biden said during a 22 February briefing regarding strengthening US battery and critical mineral supply chains that: “When it comes to clean energy, China has spent years cornering the market on many of the materials that power the technologies that we rely on.
“That’s why I committed us to build a clean energy supply chain stamped ‘”Made in America.’”