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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The White House is pledging a multi-agency push to spur more U.S. battery manufacturing and sustainable mining — both domestically and abroad — of raw materials used in battery tech.

Why it matters: The administration wants to speed U.S. market growth of electric cars and grid storage, but a global scramble for batteries and materials poses hurdles for companies and governments alike.

  • Production of raw materials like rare earth minerals is heavily concentrated in a few countries, including China. More broadly, automakers are highly reliant on foreign lithium-ion battery imports.
  • The Energy Department, which released a "blueprint" Tuesday morning on domestic battery development, said that the U.S. currently has "less than a 10% global market share for manufacturing capacity across all major battery components and cell fabrication."

How it works: Pillars of the plan, per a White House summary document, include...

  • Plans to use $17 billion through the Energy Department's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program — which first launched over a decade ago — to support domestic battery manufacturing of battery packs and cells.
    • The document also says the ATVM efforts will "catalyze" projects for refining, processing, and recycling rare earth minerals and other critical materials used in electric cars.
  • An interagency group led by the Interior Department to work with tribal nations, the private sector and others on "sustainable" and "responsible" domestic mining of raw materials.
  • Defense Department financial incentives for producing materials, including "scaling proven research and development (R&D) concepts and emerging technologies."

The intrigue: The administration says the effort is also focused on broadening international sourcing of materials used in batteries and other clean-energy technologies.

  • Demand for materials like lithium, cobalt, nickel and rare earth elements is projected to grow significantly in coming years and decades.
  • The summary document says the U.S. must "diversify supply chains away from adversarial nations and sources with unacceptable environmental and labor standards."

By the numbers: As the New York Times flags, a 2020 report from the research firm BloombergNEF found that 77% of the world's battery cell production capacity is in China.

  • Per International Energy Agency data, China was home to 60% of rare earth element production as of 2019.
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo provides 69% of the world's cobalt, while the vast majority of the world's lithium comes from Australia, Chile and China.

Reality check: The White House plan is hardly a guarantee of a looming domestic surge in extraction of raw materials needed for clean-energy tech, given concerns about environmental damage and other factors.

  • The administration says an interagency team from Interior, EPA and elsewhere will "identify gaps in statutes and regulations that may need to be updated by Congress" to ensure environmental safeguards.

The big picture: The White House plan is part of a broader initiative on industrial supply chains that have faced disruptions and risks, like semiconductors and pharmaceutical ingredients.

Go deeper: The supply crunch that could slow the climate fight

Go deeper

Updated Oct 28, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: How the pandemic has changed the energy industry

On Wednesday, October 29 Axios' Amy Harder hosted a conversation on the pandemic's effects on the environment, the energy industry, and how these shifts will have a lasting impact on the private sector's approach to renewable energy. The conversation featured Sunrun co-founder and CEO Lynn Jurich and New York's deputy secretary for energy and environment Ali Zaidi.

Lynn Jurich discussed the shift to renewable energy and the technology making renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels.

  • On the next biggest global challenge in renewable energy: "How do you decarbonize this energy industry globally?...I view this very much as an opportunity and something where the U.S. should really be just moving faster on this. And that's why I look to the Biden program to help us."
  • On new technologies in the energy space: "We're just scratching the surface of the existing lithium-ion battery technology. If we combine that technology with renewable energy, we can go a long way to decarbonizing our energy system."

Ali Zaidi unpacked Gov. Cuomo's statewide plans around renewable energy, from centering issues of race and equity, as well as New York state's initiative to get to 70% renewable electricity by 2030.

  • On the goals of New York's energy policy plans: "It's an opportunity to advance jobs. It's an opportunity to advance justice. And it's an opportunity to advance our climate ambitions. That's the playbook Gov. Cuomo has laid out."
  • How energy is an equity issue: "What we are seeing increasingly is the intersecting and interconnected challenges of race, of equity and of the environment. And what that reveals to us is a real opportunity. Coming out of this pandemic to build back better."

Axios Chief Revenue Officer Fabricio Drumond hosted a View from the Top segment with Cognite co-founder and CEO John Markus Lervik and discussed the role of technology in increasing usage of renewable energy.

  • "For renewables and renewable transformation, [it is] fully dependent on digital transformation. Technology is the single most important driver for more sustainable and environmentally friendly operations."

Thank you Cognite for sponsoring this event.

An energy reporter’s quest for a clean, affordable and versatile car

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After 13 years without owning a car, I finally got one.

Why it matters: Driving is one of the most direct ways we as individuals benefit from our activities raising Earth’s temperature. It’s also one of the clearest ways we can embrace cleaner technologies.

Exclusive: DOE launches push to meet hydrogen "Earthshot" goal

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will on Monday unveil new efforts aimed at massively cutting the cost of producing hydrogen with climate-friendly processes, according to an agency official.

Driving the news: The department will announce the "Hydrogen Shot" program to breathe life into the DOE's goal, first announced in April, to drive the costs of clean hydrogen down from about $5 per kilogram today to $1 per kilogram by 2030.