Democrats stress need to strengthen clean energy supply chains as Republicans push up gas prices

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Dive brief:

  • A global energy transition will take place with or without the support of U.S. leaders, experts told Congress at a hearing on clean energy supply chains on Tuesday. Whether the United States adapts or not, they said, will determine how much the United States will depend on other countries for its energy needs in the years to come.

  • Lucian Pugliaresi, president of the Energy Policy Research Foundation, called for the development of new mineral resources to meet the growing demand for electric vehicle batteries, clean energy and storage without abandoning fossil fuels too soon. While these minerals will be needed to maintain the United States’ status as a leading energy producer amid inevitable energy change, he said, fossil fuels will remain important longer than some realize.

  • Democrats focused their questions on recycling and the need to minimize the environmental and social impacts of extracting the minerals and metals needed to deploy clean energy technologies. Republicans argued that Democratic policies caused what they described as the current energy crisis and would continue to boost inflation and hamper progress in the future.

Dive overview:

Two-fifths of the world’s electricity now comes from zero-carbon sources, and consumers are on track to buy 5 million VE this year, against half a million in 2015, Ethan Zindler, leader of the Americas for BloombergNEF, testified Tuesday before the Energy and Environment and Climate Change subcommittees of the House Energy and Trade Committee. As the demand for renewable energy and electric transmission increases, he said, the need for related materials such as steel, glass and copper, and rare minerals such as lithium and cobalt. , will grow dramatically, providing huge financial opportunities for these industries.

But while the United States is one of six countries that can produce all components of an onshore wind turbine nationally, Zindler said, the United States is “essentially a non-player“in solar supply chains.

“I am an industry analyst, not a policy maker,” he said. “I can just tell you that if the United States is going to install 30 GW of solar capacity this year, 80 to 90% will be imported materials. Is this something you want or would like to adjust? “

While Zindler and other experts have warned that U.S. supply chains are unprepared for a surge in demand for renewables and electric vehicles, Republicans spent most of Tuesday’s hearing saying that the federal government should spend less time on clean energy and more time on the current crisis. rising costs of gasoline and home heating.

“We should ask ourselves what the green rush means for pricing and reliability of supply,” said Representative Cathy Rodgers, R-Wash. She argued that Democrats had adopted a “radical energy agenda” that sought to replace U.S. production of fossil fuels with production of minerals like lithium, compromising the country’s ability to reliably generate energy and increasing the country’s dependence on “slave labor in China”.

This policy, according to her and other Republicans, would accelerate current inflationary trends and reduce the quality of life in the United States.

“We may look like a record here, but it is only because the majority continue to ignore the reality that there is an energy crisis raging in our country this year,” said Representative Tim Walberg, R -Mich.,. “What if we focused on the current energy economy supply chain crisis? “

Pugliaresi dismissed the idea that the current increases in energy costs were tied to the policies of the Biden administration, instead blaming them on the disruption caused by COVID-19. But the administration could create future disruption, he said, if it phased out fossil fuels too early. A transition to clean energy is inevitable, but U.S. supplies of lithium and other essential minerals needed to meet growing demand for renewable energy and energy storage will not be sufficient to completely replace fossil fuels by 2035. , did he declare.

Pugliaresi also said he did not believe that it would be possible to open a sufficient number of new mines by 2035 to produce adequate mineral reserves nationally, as he said that obtaining the necessary environmental permits would take too long.

As political uncertainties in the United States push mineral and solar component production jobs to more stable overseas markets, American workers are increasingly skeptical that the incomes and jobs associated with the clean energy transition will benefit their communities, Roxanne Brown, international vice president outside United Steelworkers, told subcommittees.

At the end of the hearing, Representative Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz. said the question of how to cut gasoline and heating costs this winter is an “interesting discussion. But if we are to move forward, we need to move away from those discussions and into something more focused on the issue. future …. The best way to reduce carbon emissions is to encourage clean energy, invest in the future, and recognize the many lessons of history that protection is not the place. way to the future. “


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