Going green will require a lot of digging in the dirt

A report out this month from the International Energy Agency (IEA) points out an aspect of the Biden administration’s green energy ambitions that the green energy proponents will have a hard time swallowing — it will require a massive increase in the mining of minerals such as lithium, graphite, nickel and rare-earth metals.

In an op-ed piece in today’s Elko Daily Free Press, Michael Stumo, CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, summarizes key points from the 287-page IEA report.

WSJ illustration

“According to the IEA, the production of lithium-ion batteries alone could drive up the global demand for lithium by more than 40 times through 2040,” Stumo writes. “Supplies of other key minerals — including graphite, cobalt, and nickel — would need to increase by at least 20 times as well.”

Environmentalists are already trying to block mining of lithium at the Rhyolite Ridge mine here in Nevada in order to protect the rare Tiehm’s buckwheat, which only grows on the public lands where the mining is to occur.

According to Stumo, the U.S. is now heavily reliant on China and other nations for these raw materials. “In fact, America’s mineral-import reliance has doubled in just the past two decades. And thanks to aggressive, mercantilist policies, China now controls 70 percent of the world’s lithium supplies, 80 percent of rare earth metals, and roughly 70 percent of the world’s graphite,” he writes.

While China utilizes extremely toxic practices to extract minerals, Stumo observes, the U.S. has some of the world’s most stringent environmental standards, meaning mine permitting can often take up to a decade.

If it takes a decade to get up to speed on mineral production, that will leave the U.S. in the thrall of China if the Biden green energy goal is to be met.

“To meet soaring demand and reduce imports from China, the United States must start mining more of these resources at home,” Stumo concludes. “The good news is that the U.S. possesses more than $6 trillion in mineral reserves. It’s time for federal policies to change in favor of U.S. mining and materials processing. Otherwise, President Biden’s clean energy agenda could fall short of its goals — and leave the U.S. dependent on China’s reckless mining industry.”

IEA graphic comparing mineral requirement

12 comments on “Going green will require a lot of digging in the dirt

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thomas do entities like the Koch funded Americans for Prosperity pay to have Op-Ed pieces like this one, published in newspapers like the Elko Daily Free Press?

    Just curious not being as familiar as you are obviously with the inter-workings of the newspaper world.

  2. Anonymous says:

    As to the claims of the Koch Brothers backed entity’s CEO though I can’t see why, apart from the current anti-China attitudes that are being whipped up, why he would single out that country as the reason why we need to make mining easier than it is already. Especially in Nevada which already has a well-deserved reputation as one of the loosest regulatory environments for mining in the country.

    Most lithium production in the world is not done by China but rather by Australia and Chile and China comes in at somewhere barely above the US in proven reserves of the mineral with Chile and Australia at the top. https://www.statista.com/statistics/268789/countries-with-the-largest-production-output-of-lithium/

    And no one questions that lithium mining is a very dirty business indeed even the guys wanted to dig their holes out near Rhyolite Ridge admit that. And with the relatively small reserves in the entire US (something less than 750,000 metric tons compared to the 750 MILLION metric tons known to exist in Chile why should this country destroy the only known habitat in the entire world for a species? Especially one that exists only on public land which isn’t hurting anyone or anything?

    I do so love the Koch Brother’s backed Americans for Prosperity’s CEO appeal to “Green Energy” though. Man those guys are special aren’t they? Dig coal, burn coal, appeal to liberal greenies desire for a green economy. Boy they are something aren’t they?

    But I do appreciate the guys from the environmental group who I think you unfairly labeled as trying to “block” the mine, but who rather said that if they could mine without destroying the plants, they’d have no objection to the mine. Seems that the miners had other ideas though right, I mean “mysteriously” destroying more than 17,000 plants even before the mine is built? Maybe the idea is if there’s nothing to protect, then what’s the hold up right?

    Anyway seems like we’ll know something soon and go plant!

  3. Anonymous says:


    Chile has known reserves of 7.5 MILLION metric tons of lithium not 750 million.

  4. Rincon says:

    Worrying that we will run out of lithium reminds me of the environmentalists saying that we were running out of oil.

  5. Athos says:

    Truth is, Environmentalist are not serious about saving the planet.

    a)They’re hustlers looking to make some serious money from the gullible, easily frightened children of this country.

    b) They want to destroy the US as “the last beacon of capitalism and freedom”. Surrendering our sovereignty for minerals to bankrupt our country and enrich China is foolish, counterproductive and stupid. You’d have to be a Yale graduate to suspend common sense enough to put our country in such peril. How can an energy rich country go broke? Joebama!

    c) with Trump, we had low gas prices. With Uncle Joe, we have NO gas. Can’t wait to see what Joebama has in store for us next month.

    Time to dismiss the children and let the grown ups make the decisions. You want clean energy that doesn’t dig up the earth and kill Tiehm’s buckwheat AND not put us at the mercy of the group that unleashed Kung Flu on us?

    Try Nuclear Power.

  6. Rincon says:

    No reason for me to agree with you, since you present no evidence to support your opinions. Although the gas prices are self evident, it follows that when fewer people were flying or driving, demand for oil dropped and prices fell. Eventually, producers trimmed their production to adjust. As we enter the Biden recovery, people are flying and driving again, so oil prices rose with increasing demand. I’ll take the recovery, thank you.

  7. […] Going green will require a lot of digging in the dirt May A report out this month from the International Energy Agency (IEA) points out an aspect of the Biden administration’s green energy ambitions that the green energy proponents will have a hard time swallowing — it will require a massive increase in the mining of minerals such as lithium, graphite, nickel and rare-earth metals. […]

  8. Athos says:

    No evidence to support my opinions? Whatever happened to common sense? Do you truly believe Al Gore thinks the rising oceans will wipe out life, then buys an an oceanfront estate with all the money he made off “green”? Does Barry Obama think the oceans will rise except for Martha’s Vineyard? Is Bono leading a Monk’s life (or AOC or Bernie S)? How much fundraising is being done by fear mongering “World will end in 10 (or 12, or 25….)? There in lies your con artists.

    Shutting down fracking on federal lands and stopping the Keystone Pipeline have no effect on gas prices in your economic world? When faced with a serious gas shortage in the SE, Biden’s new Energy Sec says, ” “And, you know, if you drive an electric car, this would not be affecting you, clearly. “ Nothing like having the electorate’s best interest in mind. Pubic service, you know.

    Like I said. The evidence is as plain as the nose on your face. If you chose to see it.

  9. Athos says:

    Rinny, I wish to apologize for my tone. No more postings after I get off work!

    I also chose the recovery and now that our masks can come off (and I’m able to breathe in public while working), things are looking up!

  10. Samuel Clemens says:

    Did Mark Twain really say, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they’ve been fooled” ?

  11. NYPete says:

    There is zero evidence that Mark Twain ever said that. No direct citations to any of his writings or statements.

  12. Athos says:

    Joe Biden personally heard him say it petey! So now you’re calling the President a LIAR??

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