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Critical Minerals, Battery Technology, & Reducing Dependence

DECUR Partnership

Year selected for award: 2022

Critical Minerals, Battery Technology, & Reducing Dependence on Hostile Suppliers in the Clean Energy Supply Chain

Program: DECUR Partnership

Co-Principal Investigators: Joshua Busby, University of Texas-Austin, LBJ School of Public Affairs, Dr. Emily Holland, US Naval War College, Dr. Morgan Bazilian, Colorado School of Mines, and Dr. Mark Deinert, Colorado School of Mines
Years of Award: 2023-2025

Managing Service Agency: Office of Naval Research

Project Description:
The clean energy transition will be minerals and metals intensive. Currently, supply chains are overwhelmingly reliant on imports from China. Given rising geo-strategic tensions between the United States and China, that dependence has potentially troubling implications for U.S. national security. In order
to understand whether and how such dependence might create national security risks requires an exploration into the nature and extent of likely future demand for and supplies of raw materials and intermediate inputs as the scope and scale of demand for batteries and other inputs increase. Further, although metals and
minerals have different properties from liquid fuels, they potentially can be employed as coercive foreign policy tools. The control of energy supplies was the basis for the 1973 oil crisis and is causing significant global shifts as a result of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Such an effort with minerals and
metals, if it were to be employed by the PRC, could potentially cause significant disruption to Western economies and national security.

The project, what we term “Minerals, Batteries, and Clean Energy” (MB-CE), aims to interrogate more fully foundational social science questions, particularly important since the U.S. has costly plans to diversify its supply chains for these materials. These diversification plans could raise the costs associated
with the clean energy transition and will require significant transformations in trade and alliance patterns.The MB-CE project will use two expert roundtable convenings to collect state-of-the-art social science informed approaches to modeling and understanding these questions. We will invite experts from academia,
security, and policy to two workshops where they will present short memos for comment and discussion. After each workshop, we will write a synthesis report that summarizes collective findings and identifies potential research gaps and promising approaches. The third component will be a table-top exercise (TTX)
where participants will role play a major supply disruption to the battery and metals supply chain. The TTX will produce a summary report and brief for a wider policy audience. PME students will be involved in writing the report and brief and administering and participating in the TTX.

Select Publications: 
Joshua W. Busby and Paul Orszag, "Overdependent: A U.S. National Security Imperative to Diversify Battery and Solar Supply Chains?," Memo prepared for workshop on Go Green Fast: Global Lessons for the Green Energy Transition, University of Texas, February 2023

Morgan Bazilian and Gregory Brew, "The Missing Minerals," Foreign Affairs, January 6, 2023

Morgan Bazilian and Emily Holland, "The Energy Crisis Is a National-Security Opportunity," DefenseOne, June 23, 2022

Emily Holland, "The Euro-Russian Energy Divorce: How Ukraine and Climate Broke Ostpolitik," The Naval War College Review, Autumn 2022, vol. 76, No. 4.

SW Kerber, AQ Gilbert, MR Deinert, MD Bazilian, "Understanding the nexus of energy, environment and conflict: An overview." Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 2022