A Critical Minerals Policy for the United States

June 20, 2023  • Energy & Environment Program

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The United States currently faces a rapidly shifting global environment that increasingly places strategic importance on responsible and resilient access to critical minerals. These minerals—which are essential inputs to a wide range of applications ranging from clean energy technologies to advanced defense systems—will continue to increase in importance over the coming decades. Global competition over these resources due to the rapidly accelerating energy transition, fragmentation of international supply chains, and rising geopolitical tensions with adversaries is of key importance to the climate, economic, and national security interests of the United States in the 21st century.

There is an urgent need for policymakers to define a coordinated critical minerals strategy for the United States. A U.S. critical minerals strategy must set out to achieve two objectives. First, it must seek to responsibly increase domestic and global production and processing of critical minerals at the scale and timeline needed to limit global temperature increases. Second, it must aim to secure responsible and resilient critical mineral supply chains that minimize vulnerability to external risks.

As Congress formulates a comprehensive U.S. critical minerals strategy, it should bear in mind key insights that emerged from a task force of experts convened by the Aspen Institute throughout 2022 and 2023. Co-chaired by Jason Bordoff, Founding Director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and Meghan O’Sullivan, incoming Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, the task force’s efforts were further supported by 37 subject matter experts, including former Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Congressman Greg Walden, and ClearPath CEO Rich Powell.