Q: Some observers have noted that building up domestic manufacturing and mining could easily take years, while the domestic content requirements in the IRA kick in soon. Is there a risk that we could stall US clean tech and climate progress, if we don’t build up these sectors quickly enough to qualify for government support?
A: We’re trying to be both aggressive and smart on this. And we’re working with our Treasury colleagues and IRS colleagues who are doing the heavy lifting on the tax incentives and the periods of time. There are some flexibilities in the way Congress wrote the legislation, but there’s also some clear policy direction and some areas where it’s not very flexible along those lines.
Q: It takes a long time to permit any large project. And we’ve already seen pushback against some mining proposals, including a lawsuit against the Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada. How will the DOE or the administration ensure that the nation can build up adequate capacity to hit climate goals, while also balancing environmental impacts and community concerns?
A: There’s a reason we have the [National Environmental Policy Act] and other environmental laws, and we need to be true to both the spirit and the text of it. But we also have a real need, just as you said in your question, to try to build up quickly.
You can do permitting that’s smart and thoughtful and takes into account all the environmental repercussions and ramifications. But you can do it in a timely way, and in a way that doesn’t just drag out for years and years and years. Especially if you do it in a way that has community engagement right from the get-go. A lot of times you get lawsuits and delays if you’re trying to do things and you’re not bringing the community along right from the start and making sure that there’s a mutually beneficial piece to it.
The other thing that we’re certainly doing from the Department of Energy side is a lot of focus on recycling, especially as we get higher and higher volumes of these materials. We’re also looking at alternative chemistries and other research and development—to try to use less of this, more of this, if it’s more readily found to have less environmental implications. So that’s something that we’re spending a lot of funding and time and energy on as well.
Q: The IRA has created friction with the EU and other allies, including complaints that the local-content requirements and other provisions will unfairly favor US industries. Can you describe what efforts the administration is taking to address those concerns?
A: We are having a lot of very constructive and good conversations with our European colleagues on some of their concerns on the IRA, and some of the concerns on the provisions. We’re stronger if we go forward together, including on critical minerals, including on the supply chains.
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