Is there enough lithium in the United States to fulfill the made-in-America requirements of the Inflation Reduction Act’s 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 EVs and electricity storage in 2020. Where will it come from? Our guest today is Jack Lifton, a physical chemist who has worked for the past 60 years on the purification of rare metals for the electronics and energy storage industries. He is the co-chairman of the Critical Minerals Institute, an international professional organization focused on battery and technology materials, and an advisor to One World Lithium, a lithium extraction technology company. One World Lithium has developed a lithium carbonation process that Jack suggests can produce more battery-grade material than more heat- and pressure-intensive approaches.
Now that we clearly see the depth of the climate crisis, lithium — the basis for most batteries used in electric vehicles — might be called the most critical mineral on the planet. China currently dominates the extraction and processing of lithium, and has locked up access to lithium and other critical minerals sources 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 make the turn from fossil fuels to electrification, including finding equitable partnerships with countries in the Global South that hold large 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 at investorintel.com.