The US’ president has invoked the country’s Defense Production Act in a bid to secure a reliable and sustainable supply of materials critical to the manufacturing of “large-capacity” lithium-ion batteries.
President Joe Biden has ordered the Defense Production Act of 1950 to be enacted to create a “sustainable and responsible” domestic materials supply chain for the production of automotive, e-mobility, and stationary storage batteries.
The Act is a US federal law that enables the president significant emergency authority to control domestic industries— during COVID-19, former president Donald Trump used it to increase production of critical supplies, and Biden has used it to speed up vaccination and testing efforts.
The Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense noted the US depends on unreliable foreign sources for many of the strategic and critical materials necessary for its clean energy transition such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, and manganese.
The Memorandum stated: “To promote the national defense, the United States must secure a reliable and sustainable supply of such strategic and critical materials.
“The United States shall, to the extent consistent with the promotion of the national defense, secure the supply of such materials through environmentally responsible domestic mining and processing; recycling and reuse; and recovery from unconventional and secondary sources, such as mine waste.”
The Act is invoked when it is believed that, without presidential action, the US industry cannot reasonably be expected to provide the capability for needed industrial resources, materials, or critical technology items in a timely manner.
The Secretary of Defense is now required to create, maintain, protect, expand, or restore sustainable and responsible domestic production capabilities of battery materials.
The Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the heads of other appropriate agencies, will conduct a survey to assess whether conditions continue to warrant the use of the authority under section 303 of the Act.
Senators’ battery materials concern
Last month, BEST reported how US senators had written a letter to president Biden urging him to invoke the Act amid a domestic supply chain crisis for lithium-ion battery materials such as lithium, cobalt manganese and graphite.
In their letter, the senators acknowledged president Biden’s Executive Order 14017 and the associated 100-day review that recognised the US’ ongoing battery supply chain crisis.
The senators 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.”