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Renewable Vibes > News > Renewable Energy > The United States is currently striving to catch up in the pursuit of the future of energy.

The United States is currently striving to catch up in the pursuit of the future of energy.

General Motors (GM) was once the global leader in manufacturing “rare-earth” magnets, which are crucial components of electric vehicles. However, in 1995, GM sold its magnet division and patents to a Chinese consortium, including a partner connected to former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. This deal had significant consequences, as it resulted in the entire rare earth industry being located in China. As a result, American carmakers and defense contracts are now dependent on a country that is becoming an adversary.

This misstep by GM is just one example of the challenges the United States faces in securing critical minerals and technology needed for the transition to a greener future. In his book, “The War Below: Lithium, Copper, and the Global Battle to Power Our Lives,” investigative journalist Ernest Scheyder explores the consequences of this decision and the need for the US to regain control over its destiny.

The book goes beyond the issue of securing critical minerals and emphasizes the importance of rebuilding industrial capacity and expertise. Additionally, it raises questions about the ecological and social costs associated with mining these minerals. Scheyder highlights that there are vast reserves of these materials in America, but the challenge lies in the political will to extract them.

The book provides an in-depth look at several mining projects in America and Bolivia, discussing the various stakeholders involved and the controversies surrounding these projects. It covers the conflicts between business owners, politicians, indigenous groups, environmentalists, and other interest groups. The stakes are high, as the supply chains for these critical minerals remain vulnerable, and any delay in the energy transition could have disastrous consequences.

While some mines may face opposition due to environmental concerns or cultural significance, other projects hold promise but face challenges such as market fluctuations, lack of funding, and regulatory processes. The regulatory landscape surrounding mining is complex, and politicians often prioritize conflicting goals, making it difficult to approve new mining projects.

The book criticizes the Biden administration for its lack of a clear strategy and conflicting priorities regarding mining. Scheyder highlights the inconsistency of providing loans for lithium mining projects while simultaneously delaying permits for the same projects. The Trump administration also receives criticism for its decision to halt a copper project in Alaska due to lobbying efforts.

Scheyder’s reporting sheds light on the challenges the US faces in catching up with China in the race for critical minerals. The mining industry has a problematic history, with forced relocations, environmental damage, and worker exploitation. However, the book also highlights the presence of entrepreneurs, engineers, and investors who genuinely want to make a positive impact in the industry.

Despite the potential for positive change, there are concerns about the green transition being exploited for profit rather than genuine environmental concerns. Some observers view it as a purely financial endeavor. Scheyder’s reporting underscores the complexities and polarizing nature of the mining industry.

However, the book misses the opportunity to draw clearer comparisons between the challenges posed by fossil fuels and the need for critical metals like lithium. Additionally, Scheyder does not take a definitive stance on whether certain lands should be disturbed for mining or left untouched due to their cultural and ecological significance. Instead, he presents the facts and allows readers to form their own conclusions.

“The War Below” serves as an important introduction to the issue of critical minerals and their impact on the energy transition. It provides a global perspective and a human touch to a complex topic. The book serves as a reminder of the need for the US to build its mining capabilities if it wants to lead the energy transition, but acknowledges that mining will always be a disruptive and challenging industry.

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