Energy Dept. Offers $2.3 Billion Loan to Boost Lithium Production

The Energy Department is moving forward on a deal to provide a $2.3 billion loan to Lithium Americas in an effort to shore up domestic supplies of a mineral vital for the production of electric vehicles.

If completed, the loan would help finance the construction of a lithium carbonate processing plant at Thacker Pass in Nevada. The plant would be next to a mine site that contains the largest known lithium deposit in North America.

Demand for lithium, which is used in the rechargeable batteries that power electric vehicles, has surged as more consumers shift away from gas-burning cars and automakers ramp up production of cleaner vehicles. The United States, however, has lagged behind other countries in producing the metal. Nearly 95 percent of the world’s lithium comes from just four countries: Australia, Chile, China and Argentina. Only 1 percent of the lithium used in the United States is harvested domestically, according to the Energy Department.

Lithium carbonate from Thacker Pass could support the production of batteries for up to 800,000 electric vehicles a year, according to the Energy Department. Administration officials also expect the project would create roughly 1,800 jobs during construction and 360 operational jobs.

Energy Department officials said the project would help strengthen the domestic supply chain for critical minerals, which they said was key for “reaching our ambitious clean energy and climate goals and reducing our reliance on economic competitors like China.”

The country’s ability to meet the Biden administration’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050 will require the broader adoption of electric vehicles, which can produce less or zero emissions. The administration wants electric vehicles to make up half of new car sales by 2030.

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