Is home-grown lithium key to US energy security? 

With a nod to U.S. President’s Woodrow Wilson’s sentiments about the American Revolution, it’s clear that America’s Green Energy Revolution is ‘a beginning, not a consummation.’  

America’s Green Energy Revolution fueled by President Biden signing the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the largest federal investment in alternative energy and sustainability in American history, is supported by the Inflation Reduction Act‘s transformative policy to enhance sustainability by providing Americans with the opportunity to accelerate the adoption of clean vehicles. The act allows consumers to transfer their new clean vehicle credit at the point of sale, thereby significantly reducing their upfront cost and expediting the transition to eco-friendly driving.  

All-electric car sales in the United States continue to increase at a strong clip, outpacing the general car market. “A record 1.2 million U.S. vehicle buyers chose to go electric last year, according to estimates from Kelley Blue Book with 1,189,051 new electric vehicles (EVs) put into service. Experian/Automotive News registration data reports that the total number of Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) registrations during the first eight months of 2023 were 754,811, 64 percent higher than a year ago, and about 7.3 percent of the total market, up from five percent at that time in 2022. 

Domestic critical elements play starring role 

There is a growing awareness of the importance of securing a domestic supply of critical minerals, including lithium, due to their significance in the production of batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage. The U.S. Government is actively seeking to reduce dependence on foreign sources for these critical minerals with production tax credits for domestic mining projects. 

“U.S. imports of lithium-ion batteries, especially those made in China, are booming as demand for electric vehicles and energy storage stations continues to rise” reports S&P Global Market Intelligence. Lithium-ion battery imports soared to a record 637,396 tonnes in 2022, up 99 percent from 2021, according to data from Panjiva.   



However, a transformative shift is on the horizon as America stands at the cusp of becoming a significant lithium producer, propelled by the Inflation Reduction Act and its incentives to lithium developers and domestic end users. With an eye on national energy security, U.S. lawmakers are determined to support the sustainable commercialization of America’s most promising lithium projects.   

The United States holds about eight million metric tons of lithium in reserve, ranking it among the top five countries in the world, reports the USGS. Yet it currently produces only one percent of the world’s supply at one solitary lithium brine mine in Nevada called Silver Peak, run by Albemarle Corp. 

The IRA is revolutionizing the landscape of sustainability by incentivizing and rewarding every aspect of domestic critical element production including mining, processing, manufacturing, and recycling. The American consumer will reap financial rewards for driving EV’s sourced with North American components.   

Domestic battery manufacturing in the USA 

In November 2023, the Biden Administration announced $3.5 billion in funding to strengthen domestic battery manufacturing, a sector that China has had a stranglehold on for decades.  

“Positioning the United States front-and-center to meet the growing demand for advanced batteries is how we boost our global competitiveness, maintain and create good-paying jobs, and strengthen our clean energy economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “President Biden’s historic investments are giving the boost needed to build a robust domestic battery supply chain that is Made-in-America.” 

Transportation & greenhouse gases 

“Transportation is the single largest source of greenhouse gases generated by the United States, the second-biggest polluting country after China,” reports The New York Times. “To head off climate catastrophe, President Biden has promised to cut the nation’s emissions in half by 2030. Shrinking tailpipe emissions is key to that plan.” 

As part of President Biden’s goal, released April 17th 2023, to ensure that 50 percent of all new vehicle sales be electric by 2030, the White House announced public and private commitments to support America’s historic transition to electric vehicles (EV) under the EV Acceleration Challenge. 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the “Inflation Reduction Act is investing $1 billion to replace dirty heavy-duty vehicles with clean, zero-emission vehicles, support zero-emission vehicle infrastructure, and to train and develop workers.” In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is distributing $1 billion in funding for clean heavy-duty vehicles from now until 2031. 

Greg Reimer

By accelerating clean energy innovation and creating good jobs and economic development in communities across the country, America’s economic growth and global competitiveness will be the model every global citizen will look to emulate. 

The IRA promises good-paying union jobs in energy communities. Clean energy tax credits will increase by ten percent if the clean energy projects are established in communities that have previously relied upon the extraction, processing, transport or storage of coal, oil or natural gas as a significant source of employment. 

The EV tax credit revolution coupled with many other milestone cleantech policies rolling out, are driving change in the automotive industry and in the broader landscape of sustainability. The stage is set for a paradigm shift that will shape the future of transportation and contribute to a cleaner, more environmentally conscious America.  

A hotspot for lithium explorers in America is Nevada with the technology available to extract and refine battery-grade lithium from Nevada’s richest concentrations of claystone-hosted lithium.  

 Claystone lithium makes for a sustainable form of mining as claystone-hosted lithium deposits are sedimentary and are disseminated at shallow depths throughout arid, desolate desert regions. The highest-grade discoveries to date are in northern Nevada and include the first-of-its-kind Thacker Pass mine. Its developer, Lithium Americas, expects to commission the mine as early as 2026. Valued at $4 billion, Thacker Pass promises to be the model for sustainable mining in the modern era. Claystone deposits typically have shallow geological footprints, making them ideal for environmentally conscious, sustainable mining.   

With the U.S. government planning to end purchases of gas-powered vehicles by 2035, downstream end users will soon be entirely dependent on the guaranteed long-term availability of steady supplies of lithium carbonate (battery-grade lithium).   

With the political and economic imperative to decouple from China’s economy, the United States and other geopolitically friendly nations must provide the raw materials for the industrialized world’s green energy revolution.   

Greg Reimer is President & CEO at Surge Battery Metals, a pure-play lithium company focused on a flagship project called Nevada North Lithium Project in Elko County.

By Greg Reimer