Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a hearing titled “Electric Battery Production and Waste: Opportunities and Challenges.”
The hearing featured testimony from James J. Greenberger, executive director of NAATBatt International; Michael Sanders, senior advisor of Avicenne Energy US; and Ajay Chawan, associate director of Navigant Consulting, Inc.
For more information on witness testimony click here.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“The purpose of today’s hearing is to evaluate the environmental challenges and opportunities associated with increased battery demand as well as disposal.
“The global market for electric vehicles is expected to rise in coming years.
“By 2025, up to 90 percent of the global market for lithium-ion batteries will come from electric vehicles.
“This increase in demand, left unaddressed, will exacerbate current challenges associated with battery production and waste.
“Lithium-ion batteries use a number of critical minerals.
“They include—lithium, cobalt, graphite, and rare earth elements as well.
“The U.S. and the rest of the world have allowed China to dominate control over the production of these minerals.
“China exerts substantial control over mining operations in countries with vast reserves, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chile.
“In May, Foreign Policy published a report entitled: ‘Mining the Future: How China Is Set to Dominate the Next Industrial Revolution.’
“I’d like to enter this report into the record.
“The secretary-general of Amnesty International, has stated that: ‘Every stage of the battery lifecycle, from mineral extraction to disposal, carries human rights and environmental risks.’
“Approximately 60 percent of the world’s cobalt is currently mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“In Chile, lithium production is affecting local water supplies.
“The evaporation process to produce lithium requires pumping brine into pools like the one pictured here.
“China also has a hold on battery manufacturing.
“Chinese battery production also has significant environmental impacts.
“As we all know, China’s environmental regulations are not on par with ours.
“China uses less advanced manufacturing techniques than the United States.
“One study found that producing a lithium-ion battery in China emits about three times as much carbon dioxide as producing the battery in the United States.
“Environmental challenges continue once a battery reaches the end of its life.
“Lithium-ion batteries are recycled at a rate of less than 5 percent.
“Between 2018 and 2030, over 11 million tons of spent lithium-ion batteries will be discarded across the world.
“Now is the time for the committee to evaluate the looming waste challenge, as well as the opportunity that it presents.
“I say opportunity because we have had past successes with other types of battery recycling in this country.
“About 99 percent of lead acid batteries from cars and trucks are recycled today.
“In the case of lithium-ion batteries, recycling could have multiple benefits.
“First, it could cut down on the waste that goes into landfills.
“In landfills, if not carefully managed, lithium-ion batteries pose fire risk as well as electrocution risk.
“Recycling also could cut down on emissions and other environmental impacts.
“From its creation to its disposal, an electric vehicle can have higher environmental impacts in some areas than a standard automobile.
“For example, an electric vehicle, over its full lifecycle, consumes more water resources than your average car.
“Emissions of fine particulate matter and sulfur oxides are also higher.
“In addition to advancing environmental and sustainability goals, recycling can also address broader economic and security risks.
“If we recycle more, we can rely less on overseas production of raw materials.
“Recycling should be part of a broader discussion that also includes more raw materials production and battery manufacturing here in the United States.
“If the pace of electric vehicle demand continues, recycling alone will not be enough.
“My home state of Wyoming contains substantial reserves of critical minerals, including rare earth elements.
“I am a cosponsor of S. 1317, the American Mineral Security Act, which is sponsored by Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Manchin. It’s bipartisan. That bill passed the committee yesterday.
“The bill recognizes we must improve the permitting process to produce more critical minerals in the U.S.”