Biden’s conundrum: Expand EVs without harming the Earth – by Sara Schonhardt (E&E News – April 30, 2021)

President Biden’s plan to rapidly shift to electric vehicles and renewable energy could find itself in conflict with another, less prominent commitment: improving the sustainability of the mineral and metals sector.

Much of that tension has to do with soaring demand worldwide for the rare earth elements used to make low-carbon goods, as well as the short amount of time the United States has set to reduce its carbon footprint.

“There’s an intrinsic conflict, yes,” said Kevin Book, who heads the research team at ClearView Energy Partners LLC. But “there’s got to be a first thing and a second thing, and right now it looks like climate is the first thing,” he said.

To cut emissions in half by 2030 from their 2005 level, the United States must transition its top two polluting sectors — power and transportation — toward cleaner low-carbon sources. That will mean greater demand for the minerals and materials that go into solar panels, EVs and battery storage.

At the same time, the Biden administration says it wants to be a better steward of the mining sector. That includes goals to green mining operations, build sustainable supply chains, and expand recycling of key minerals and metals.

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