Why Everyone’s Worried About America’s Lithium Problem

Only 1% of global lithium is currently mined in the U.S. That could be a problem.

Marker Editors
Published in
2 min readMar 17, 2021
Number Crunch logo with the text “1%: Share of global lithium output that is mined and processed in the U.S. Source: Wall Street Journal.” Below the text is an illustration of 100 batteries — with 99 filled-in batteries and 1 outline of an empty battery.

1%: That’s the share of global lithium that is currently mined and processed in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal. For context, China mines 10% of the world’s lithium and processes more than two-thirds of the raw metal, which is the core component of rechargeable batteries that power cell phones, laptops, and increasingly electric vehicles.

Climate scientists and analysts forecast a rising demand surge for lithium as fossil fuels take a backseat with the market share of EVs expected to balloon to roughly 50% of total cars manufactured worldwide by 2030. Now, the federal government is focusing on the lithium supply chain, a sign of rapidly shifting geopolitical sands with energy security at the forefront of policymakers’ minds. Last month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order mandating a 100-day review of domestic supply chains for critical materials, including rare earth minerals and semiconductor chips that are crucial for the future of the auto industry.

As Medium editor-at-large Steve LeVine recently wrote in The Mobilist, the battery revolution will usher in a new energy era, one that shapes an evolving geopolitical pecking order. “Boring old batteries have rarely had it so good,” he writes. “A good two centuries after their invention, they are sought-after with the same fraught urgency of the prospectors who hunted oil in the middle-late tailfin decades of the last century.”

Now we know why Tesla is so gung ho on harvesting their own lithium in Nevada.

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