June 23, 2011

Towards a National Critical Minerals Strategy

Today’s post
is a recap of David Sandalow’s June 14 testimony before the House Committee on
Science, Space, and Technology and Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight
on “The
Federal Perspective on a National Critical Materials Strategy
.” David Sandalow is the Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs at the Department of Energy. His
testimony follows up a hearing held last year examining the U.S. government
perspective on a national critical materials strategy.

Sandalow’s main point:

“The issue
of critical minerals is important and needs priority attention…The Department
shares the goal of establishing a stable, sustainable and domestic supply of
critical minerals.”

The Department of
Energy (DOE) is currently:

  • “Analyzing the use of critical materials in
    petroleum refineries and other applications.”
  • “Identify[ing] specific strategies for materials
    identified as critical, including strategies with respect to substitution,
    recycling and more efficient use.”
  • “[Has] issued a Request for Information that
    focused on critical material content of certain technologies, supply chains,
    research, education and workforce training, emerging technologies, recycling
    opportunities and mine permitting.”

DOE plans to:

  • “Invest $35 billion in Recovery funds in
    electric vehicles; batteries and advanced energy storage; a smarter and more
    reliable electric grid; and wind and solar technologies…aim to double [their] renewable
    energy generation and manufacturing capacities by 2012.”
  • “Address [at least three important reasons] for domestic production of critical
    materials in [their] 2011 report.” These include:
  1. "Domestic production is the most secure.”
  2. “The United States’ considerable reserves of some critical materials could
    add significantly to total global production and to greater diversity in the
    global supply of these materials.”
  3. “U.S. technology and best practices developed during mine operations can
    help promote safe and responsible mining in other countries, further
    contributing to supply diversity and the sustainable development of resources.”


“[DOE is]
shaping the policies and approaches to help prevent disruptions in supply of
the materials needed for those technologies. 
This will involve careful and collaborative policy development [and]…Will
rely on the creative genius and entrepreneurial ingenuity of the business
community to meet an emerging market demand in a competitive fashion.”

To learn more about critical minerals and U.S. national security, read Christine Parthemore's recent report, Elements of Security: Mitigating the Risks of U.S. Dependence on Critical Minerals.