Critical raw materials export restrictions are on the rise
The number of export restrictions on critical raw materials has grown five-fold over the last decade, according to a new report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Ten percent of global critical raw materials exports now face at least one export restriction measure, with export taxes and licensing requirements being the two most widely used measures.
Leading the charge in imposing export restrictions is China, which has dramatically increased its number of restrictions, becoming the country with the most restrictions in 2020.
Share of global export restrictions on industrial raw materials, by imposing country, 2020
Bad and less bad options for the Colorado River
The Colorado River, on which 40 million Americans depend for drinking water, is dwindling amid overuse, a drought, and climate change. States have blown past deadlines to hash out an agreement for sharing the burden of reducing water use. On Tuesday, the White House proposed imposing even reductions of water allotments as the least horrible of three bad options.
For now, there’s some relief thanks to a winter of heavy snowfall. The melting snowpack can boost water levels at Lake Mead, which fuels Hoover Dam to generate hydroelectricity. But the lake is still at precipitously low levels. The threat of “dead pool”—when water levels in key lakes fall so low that the river stops flowing—continues to loom large.
Building the future grid, pack by pack
The energy transition is transforming electricity systems, which will in turn require grid-scale energy storage to manage the variability of wind and solar generation. And on that front, Tesla is doubling down on its China bet: It’s building a large new factory in Shanghai to manufacture large-scale lithium-ion battery energy storage units, with production set to begin in Q2 2024. The new facility adds to Tesla’s other Megapack factory in Northern California.
Meanwhile, work on sodium-ion batteries—for stationary storage and eventually EVs–is gathering pace. Worldwide, there are now at least 28 sodium-ion gigafactories in the pipeline, and almost all are based in China. Yet there are few sodium-ion startups in the West.
As The Electric’s Steve Levine asks: “The US invented [nickel-manganese-cobalt batteries], then let Japan commercialize it. It invented [lithium-iron-phosphate batteries], but China took over production of it. Is sodium-ion the US’s colossal new battery blind spot?”
In other battery-related news: The White House this week unveiled its proposal to transform the US auto industry by requiring two-thirds of new car sales to be electric by 2032. It’s a lofty goal, and one that will require significantly more battery and magnet production capacity than the US currently has. If the EV tax credits are the big carrot for Big Auto, the proposal to drastically cut conventional vehicle sales is the big stick.