Q: Some observers have pointed out that it could easily take years to establish domestic production and mining, while domestic content requirements in the IRA will soon come into force. Is there a risk that we could stall cleantech and climate progress in the US if we don’t build these sectors fast enough to qualify for government support?
A: We try to be both aggressive and smart about it. And we work with our Treasury and IRS colleagues who do the hard work on tax credits and periods. There is some flexibility in how Congress writes legislation, but there is also some policy direction and some areas where it is not very flexible.
Q: Any major project takes a long time to get approved. And we’ve already seen pushback against some mining proposals, including a lawsuit against Nevada’s Thacker Pass lithium mine. How does the Department of Energy or the Administration ensure that the country can build adequate capacity to meet climate goals while balancing environmental impacts and societal concerns?
A: We have a reason [National Environmental Policy Act] and other environmental laws, and we must be true to both the spirit and the letter thereof. But we also have a real need, as you said in your question, to try to scale up quickly.
You can make a permit that is smart and thoughtful and takes into account all the environmental impacts and consequences. But you can do it in a timely manner and in a way that doesn’t drag on for years and years and years. Especially if you do it in a way that engages the community from the start. A lot of times you get lawsuits and delays when you try to do something but don’t involve the community from the beginning and make sure it’s mutually beneficial.
The other thing that we’re certainly doing on the Department of Energy side is a big focus on recycling, especially as we get more and more of these materials. We’re also looking at alternative chemicals and other research and development to try to use less of this, more of that if it’s found to have less impact on the environment. So that’s something we spend a lot of money, time and energy on as well.
Q: The IRA has been at odds with the EU and other allies, including complaints that local content requirements and other provisions will unfairly favor US industry. Can you describe what efforts the administration is taking to address these issues?
A: We are having a lot of very constructive and good conversations with our European counterparts about some of their concerns about the IRA and some of the concerns about the provisions. We are stronger when we move forward together, including on critical minerals, including supply chains.