Is there enough lithium in the United States to meet the US requirements of the Inflation Reduction Act tax incentive programs for new electric vehicles? The International Energy Agency projects that the world will need 1,063 kilotons of lithium in 2040. That’s 48 times the volume of lithium used in electric vehicles and electricity storage in 2020. Where will it come from? Our guest today is Jack Lifton, a chemical physicist who has worked for 60 years on the purification of rare metals for the electronics and energy storage industries. He is the co-chair of the Institute of Critical Mineralsan international trade organization focused on batteries and technology materials, and an advisor to One World Lithium, a lithium mining technology company. One World Lithium has developed a lithium carbonation process that Jack says can produce more battery-grade materials than more heat- and pressure-intensive approaches.
Now that we clearly see the depth of the climate crisis, lithium – the basis of most batteries used in electric vehicles – could be called the most critical mineral on the planet. China now dominates lithium mining and processing, and locked access to lithium and other sources of critical minerals in parts of Africa and Latin America. Jack argues that the United States needs to rethink its industrial strategy to focus on STEM skills and low-impact manufacturing processes to shift from fossil fuels to electrification, including finding equitable partnerships with countries in the Global South that hold significant reserves of lithium, cobalt and other critical minerals. You can learn more about Jack Lifton and the Critical Minerals Institute at Criticalmineralsinstitute.com and follow his regular columns on InvestorIntel.com.