One manufacturing industries still providing a strong source of jobs in the U.S. is electrical car production. Over time, these non-gasoline powered vehicles are becoming more popular, and in the next few decades may become the preeminent vehicle on the road.
Other countries like France and the United Kingdom have already made pledges to have all electric cars as soon as possible. China is attempting to become the Detroit of electrical car manufacturing. That being the case, U.S. auto manufacturers have to consider how to stay competitive. But these companies are falling behind, and that puts jobs in peril.
Economist Mark Perry wrote an article in the Washington Examiner discussing how the United States is too dependent on foreign sources of essential minerals for batteries, like lithium, cobalt, and graphite. That puts American manufacturers at a disadvantage with other countries, who are using their own natural resources.
Our growing dependence on imported cobalt, lithium and other key minerals needed for battery development is part of an alarming trend: growing dependence on foreign minerals of virtually every kind. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. is now entirely reliant on foreign sources for 20 commodity minerals. And we’re at least 50 percent dependent on other countries for 47 commodity minerals, and, of those, 24 come largely from China.
We don’t have to be this import-dependent, and there’s no reason we should be. The U.S. is blessed with a vast minerals resource base but our regulatory environment is so burdensome and costly that mining investment has fled.
What are some of the onerous and time-consuming regulations preventing development? First, it can take about 10 years to open up a new mine. By that time, other nations and companies can cover a lot of ground in the electric vehicle market.
But it's not all doom and gloom.
Fortunately, some progress is being made. The Trump administration has acknowledged the threat of our growing reliance on minerals imports and issued a presidential order aimed at curtailing our growing import dependence. The Department of the Interior wants to identify new domestic sources of 35 critical minerals, including lithium and cobalt, and increase domestic exploration. Rep. Mark Amodei’s, R-Nev., National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, which would streamline the mine permitting process, recently passed in the House Natural Resources Committee. Let’s hope Congress has the foresight to make it law.
The United States can be a leader in the battery industry. The resources are here and the workers are here. We just need our marketplace to keep pace with the rest of the world.