Now that we’ve finally made progress in our long struggle for energy security — thanks to fracking and the shale revolution — we are sleepwalking into a dangerous import dependence on the minerals and metals that are the building blocks to our 21st century economy. Our reliance on imported minerals and metals required for production of cars and other consumer goods is at record levels.
With world production of electric vehicles (EVs) projected to rise, leading carmakers expect that demand for minerals, such as cobalt, graphite, and lithium, will grow significantly. But there is a threat hanging over U.S. access to these minerals, which are needed to produce everything from batteries to circuits and recharging stations. For example, more than half of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a politically unstable country, racked by civil war, where child labor is used in mines. Demand for cobalt — and other highly sought-after minerals that come from the Congo or several adjoining war-torn African countries — is expected to soar in the next few years. China, also rich in minerals and metals, poses similar where supply problems.
A group of 10 leading passenger car and truck manufacturers recently announced a joint initiative to address this growing problem. Other technologies challenged by growing dependence on imported minerals include cell phones, flat-screen TVs, and similar consumer goods. Today, imports make up more than one-half of U.S. consumption of 50 widely-used minerals, and the U.S. is 100 percent reliant for 20 of those.
Read the full op-ed here.