Industry figures and environmental groups are urging President Biden to move beyond his initial use of the Defense Production Act (DPA) and seize the opportunity to build supply chains and infrastructure to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels.
The DPA, a Cold War-era law used by President Harry Truman, allows the president to prioritize the manufacture of certain materials in the national interest.
The White House is using the law to promote domestic production of rare earth minerals used for electric vehicle (EV) batteries that would otherwise have to be imported from China. The White House’s DPA announcement this week specifically identifies minerals like nickel, lithium, cobalt and graphite.
Biden is leaning on the DPA amid growing fears over China’s economic might and supply chain issues that have contributed to inflation in the United States. It also comes as Russia’s war on Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Moscow have exacerbated soaring gasoline prices, hurting American consumers and adding to political problems for Democrats ahead of the mid-elections. mandate.
John DeMaio, CEO of EV battery materials processor Graphex Technologies, told The Hill that the DPA would be of limited use to the industry without further adjustments.
“The DPA should be used to provide grants, tax breaks and facility construction incentives to all players in the electric vehicle battery space. It is important that these economic supports are extended to the entire industry – including raw materials companies, materials processing companies, EV battery producers and automakers,” DeMaio said in an e-mail. -mail.
“A disjointed national supply chain does us no good – more battery materials available does not help EV automakers unless there is a corresponding increase in battery processing and production. ”
The Biden administration’s announcement left the door open for further use but did not specify otherwise.
Advanced Energy Economics (AEE) Managing Director Harry Godfrey and AEE CEO Nat Kreamer also offered a number of more specific uses they would like to see for DPA. These include increasing production of polysilicon, which can be used for solar generation and next-generation battery storage.
It would be equally useful, they say, to use DPA for heat pumps and induction cooktops, both for domestic use and for export to Europe, reducing the need for energy. Russian.
“With accelerated production, these can be rolled out in the next 9-12 months, so we’re not talking about a multi-year game,” they said in an email.
Biden invoked the law at the urging of a number of members of Congress who have been highly critical of his energy policies in the past, including the Senses. Joe Manchin (DW.V.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
“[E]Acting on the DPA without addressing the bureaucratic blocking of permissions would be nothing more than tokenism,” Cassidy said in a statement Thursday. “We also need to streamline the permitting process which could set back any effort for years.”
Cassidy’s office also pointed The Hill to the Louisiana Republican’s March proposal calling for power generation equivalent to Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s 2020 initiative to rapidly develop a COVID-19 vaccine. 19.
Conservation groups, meanwhile, have urged the White House to think bigger in its use of the DPA, including some of the energy and climate priorities that have stalled in Congress.
“I think this is an area where there could definitely be more brainstorming – the transition to renewable energy and a carbon-free economy is going to take a lot of creative thinking,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, at The Hill. .
Although electric vehicles pose less of an environmental risk than the production and use of fossil fuels, Weiss added that Biden should also consider using the law to address the environmental costs associated with their production.
“We know there are also environmental risks whenever you talk about mining and production, so it will be important to make sure it happens in a way that protects communities,” he said. he declares.
Weiss also pointed to infrastructure issues that have presented a barrier to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles as a potential use for DPA down the line.
“As you look at more electrification, are there any upgrades that need to happen to the grid? Are there any other upgrades that need to happen in the substations or… in places like apartment complexes and condos to support more charging infrastructure? You could see DPA becoming potentially useful there,” he said.
Maya Golden-Krasner, deputy director and senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, was less optimistic about the idea of mining as a sustainable solution.
“More drilling and more feasibility studies for the already unregulated and heavily subsidized mining industry is not really the solution we are looking for,” she told The Hill.
“We really want him to use DPA to accelerate the manufacturing of rooftop solar panels, clean transportation, heat pumps… he talked about heat pumps and other renewable energy and efficiency technologies energy. Instead of invoking it, to fund feasibility studies for mining, [which] seems to be bragging and not really finding the solution,” she added.
Golden-Krasner called the act’s initial use “a huge missed opportunity to use the DPA for the things that are really needed to increase our renewable energy,” adding “it’s like Joe Manchin sat down and had written this policy”.
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