On Tuesday, President Joe Biden emphasized his attempts to offset China’s domination of the electric battery business, praising local efforts to mine and process lithium and rare metals, which are required to develop the technology that powers vehicles, electronics, wind turbines, and other devices.
The Democratic president said that his administration will give $35 million to MP Materials, a rare earth metals mining firm in Southern California near the Nevada border. MP’s ability to process materials locally for use in US industry will be boosted as a result of the grant.
He also praised attempts to collect lithium from geothermal brine in the Salton Sea in California. According to Biden, demand for such materials in the United States will increase by 400 percent to 600 percent over the next few decades.
“We can’t build a future produced in America if we’re reliant on China for the materials that fuel today’s and tomorrow’s products,” Biden said.
“And this isn’t anti-China or anti-anything else for that matter.” It’s a pro-America message.”
Biden met digitally with a group of California business and government executives, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, from Washington.
based in Las Vegas The Mountain Pass mine and processing facility, which is the only one of its sort in North America, is operated by MP Materials. It collects rare earth metals and creates a concentration that is shipped to other countries for utilization. Magnets for batteries in electric automobiles and a variety of other goods are made from such metals.
The federal funding will be used to help the company build a processing facility for “heavy” rare earth metals, and it comes on the heels of a $10 million award for “light” rare earth metals last year. The company is investing $700 million of its own funds to improve processing and build a magnet manufacturing facility in Texas.
According to Matt Sloustcher, MP Materials’ senior vice president of policy and communications, the company has a relationship with GM.
On the conversation, firm CEO Jim Litinsky told Biden, “My team is committed to bringing this supply chain home.”
Biden also praised California’s lithium production initiatives. Newsom has dubbed the state the “Saudi Arabia of Lithium,” alluding to the country’s vast oil reserves.
Lithium extraction in California, according to Newsom, has the potential to improve national security by enhancing domestic supply chains and speeding the transition away from fossil fuels in transportation. Biden has stated that the United States could generate half a million electric automobiles each year by 2025.
“If it’s as huge as it appears to be,” Newsom said, “this is a game-changer in terms of our attempts to transition to low-carbon green growth and to drastically change the way we produce and consume energy.”
Several companies, including Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy, are focusing on extracting lithium from geothermal brine found near the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake. For decades, Berkshire Hathaway has operated geothermal facilities near the lake, but the lithium has always been piped back.
According to Alicia Knapp, president of BHE Renewables, the company is working on projects to demonstrate that it can extract lithium and convert it to battery-grade in a commercially feasible manner with around $20 million in state and federal funding.
The Newsom administration has stated that it wants to ensure that the economic advantages from lithium extraction are returned to the Salton Sea region, which has been plagued by economic hardship and environmental degradation as the lake dries up due to limited Colorado River supplies.
Communities in the region have experienced “unfulfilled promises” previously, according to Silvia Paz, chairperson of the state-created Lithium Valley Commission. She advocated for investments in people’s job development and education, as well as improvements to basic services and environmental remediation in the region.
“We want to be at the table with you and help you understand what a prosperous economy means to us,” she said.