Mr. Blair, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, is a former director of national intelligence and commander of U.S. Pacific Command. He is chairman of SAFE, an energy-security organization.
President Biden recently invoked the Defense Production Act to boost supplies of the minerals needed to power electric vehicles and reduce America’s oil dependency. Yet, even with this welcome executive action, the U.S. can’t produce enough of some minerals, such as nickel.
America must rely on undependable, often hostile foreign-controlled sources for these key materials. There is an alternative: finding politically safe, economically viable and ecologically responsible ways to get these minerals somewhere else, including the depths of the oceans.
Nickel is the metal currently most responsible for providing range in electric-vehicle batteries. Global nickel demand for batteries is forecast to grow 20 to 25 times by 2040, and market analysts expect significant shortages in two to three years.
Russia is one of the largest suppliers of class 1 battery-grade nickel, and Chinese interests control production elsewhere in Asia, mostly underneath rainforests in the Philippines, New Caledonia and Indonesia.