America’s mining industries are booming. This is the reason.

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Q: Local content requirements in the IRA will start soon, while some observers say local manufacturing and mining could easily take years. If we don’t qualify these sectors for government support quickly enough, is there a risk that we will hold back America’s clean tech and climate progress?

A: We’re trying to be both aggressive and smart about it. And we’re working hard with our Treasury colleagues and IRS colleagues on tax incentives and timing. There is some flexibility in the way Congress writes the law, but there are also some clear policy directions and some areas where they are not very flexible along those lines.

Q: It takes a long time to permit any big project. And we’ve seen pushback on some mining proposals, including a lawsuit against the Tucker Pass lithium mine in Nevada. How will DOE or the administration ensure that the nation can build sufficient capacity to meet climate goals while balancing environmental impacts and societal concerns?

Answer: There is a reason we exist. [National Environmental Policy Act] and other local laws, and we must be true to both the spirit and the text. But as you said in your question, we have a real interest in trying to build quickly.

You can make a will that is smart and considerate and takes into account all local reactions and problems. But you can do it in a way that doesn’t just drag on for years and years. Especially if you do it in a way that involves community involvement right from the start. A lot of times you’re going to get lawsuits and delays if you’re trying to do things and you’re not bringing the community in from the start and making sure there’s a mutual benefit.

Tribal members and others challenged the Thacker Pass mining proposal in federal court in Reno, Nevada earlier this year.

AP Photo/Scott Sonner

Another thing that we’re definitely doing on the Department of Energy side is focusing on recycling, especially as we get larger and larger amounts of these materials. We’re also looking at alternative chemistry and other research and development—trying to use less of it, more of it, sooner if it turns out to have less environmental implications. So that’s something we’re spending a lot of money and time and energy on.

Q: The IRA has been at odds with the European Union and other partners, including complaints that environmental content requirements and other provisions unfairly favor American industries. Could you tell us what kind of efforts the administration is making to address those concerns?

A: We are having a lot of very constructive and good discussions with our European colleagues about some of the concerns they have about the IRA and some of the concerns about some of the provisions. We are stronger when we move forward together, including across supply chains for critical minerals.

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