Green technologies cannot advance without a secure supply of essential metals.
We are living in a time of a mineral impasse. Crucial green technologies, including solar panels, wind turbines and electric-vehicle batteries, require increasing amounts of metals, such as lithium, copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese and rare-earth elements.
Yet the current US administration is in a bind. The climate movement, a core part of President Joe Biden’s base, wants clean energy and electric cars. But it doesn’t want mining of the minerals required — certainly not close to home.
Emblematic of this impasse is a January decision by the US Department of the Interior to withdraw 91,000 hectares near the Boundary Waters in northeastern Minnesota from mining and geothermal leasing for the next 20 years. The area, known for its pristine lakes, also holds some of the nation’s largest undeveloped copper and nickel deposits.
The country is in danger of forgetting one of the four laws of ecology that Barry Commoner — one of my early inspirations for a career in environmental teaching and research — established in his 1971 book A Closing Circle: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”
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