The Biden Administration has not been shy about their plans to assist in the proliferation of electric vehicles in the United States. Not only was this one of the President’s favorite campaign issues, but he has already gone on record to say that he plans to transition the entire federal fleet to EVs in the near future. And while this decision falls in line with what is taking place in countries around the world, there are some serious questions that need to be answered. A major part of this involves the importation of rare earth metals that are used to produce batteries for electric vehicles.
As it stands, the United States is largely on the outside looking in with regards to the sourcing, extraction, and processing of these materials. Especially compared to China.
According to CNBC, the Biden Administration is currently drafting an executive order that will require a review of the country’s supply chains, including those for semiconductors, high-capacity batteries and rare earth metals. All of which are either facing shortages, or very well may in the future.
The White House will look to review where these vital materials are sourced currently. The President wants to study where the domestic supply chain is lacking, especially in areas that are dominated by nation’s that “are or are likely to become unfriendly or unstable.” While Biden did not specifically name China in as one of these nations, the President said earlier this month that his White House is gearing up for “extreme competition with China.”
China produces more lithium ion batteries than any other nation.
According to a draft of the executive order seen by CNBC, the administration will analyze the “resiliency and capacity of the American manufacturing supply chains and defense industrial base to support national security [and] emergency preparedness.”
The investigation is slated to take place in two phases, each lasting 100 days. The first will see analysts studying “high-priority” supply chains, specifically for semiconductor manufacturing, high-capacity and electric vehicles batteries, rare earth metals and medical supplies. The second phase will look more broadly at other key areas involving defense, transportation and public health, before recommendations are sent to the President on actions that need to be taken.
This executive order will come after years of bi-partisan agreement that the United States’ current dependence on China for rare earth metals and the products created with them leaves the country vulnerable. Should tensions reach an untenable place between the competing countries, there is concern that China could simply cut the U.S. off, leaving us without necessary supplies.
It is important to note that the executive order is still a draft at this point, and that things are likely to change before it is officially rolled out.
That said, the Biden Administration is clearly focused on trying to shore up any problems they might have with their electric vehicle plans. We recently saw what happened with LG Chem and SK Innovation, and the challenges Ford and VW will face as a result. In order to prevent this from happening on a large scale, action is needed. Now we just have to wait and see what the rollout looks like, and what sort of support it will have from Congress.