Battery Power: China's pursuit of a global green-energy monopoly includes locking up the battery supply chain. The Pentagon has a strong interest in not letting that happen.

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Date: Fall 2021
From: Hoover Digest(Issue 4)
Publisher: Hoover Digest
Document Type: Article
Length: 3,041 words
Lexile Measure: 1400L

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The future will see widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and of advanced lithium batteries, their primary power source. Changing consumer preferences and government policies are driving this profound change in transportation networks and civilian markets. But the batteries used in EVs are vital in another area: military applications. Electrical energy stored in batteries can help platforms operate in a more stealthy, agile, and decentralized fashion. As adversaries such as China make it more challenging for US forces to operate, advanced batteries can help the Pentagon accomplish its missions in contested environments.

Unfortunately for the United States, China dominates the current battery supply chain, from the extraction and processing of critical minerals like lithium to the production, packaging, and recycling of battery cells. In today's era of great-power competition, control of the supply chains for advanced technologies such as lithium batteries will have a direct impact on national power. The United States must view advanced batteries--and energy storage more broadly--as critical to its defense industrial base, and then implement a national battery strategy that addresses the importance of batteries to national security.

OPERATIONAL ENERGY

For the past decade and a half, the Department of Defense has approached the problem of energy mainly from the perspective of cost savings and the need to reduce the vulnerability of supply lines during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the height of those wars, Defense Department energy bills ran in excess of $20 billion a year. Thus, when Congress directed the Pentagon to create an office for operational energy in 2008, the mission for the new office was to "address how the US military consumed energy on the battlefield." (US code defines operational energy as "energy required for training, moving, and sustaining military forces and weapons platforms for military operations.") In 2011, the Pentagon released its first Operational Energy Strategy. Senior leaders in Afghanistan were its main audience.

US leaders had long been concerned about personnel killed or wounded during attacks on fuel and water convoys. A 2007 Army Environmental Policy Institute analysis of the toll found one casualty for every twenty-four fuel resupply convoys in Afghanistan; in Iraq, the figure was one for every thirty-nine. The AEPI estimated there were 5,133 fuel convoys in Iraq and 897 in Afghanistan that year, and 170 US service-members were killed or wounded securing them. Former Marine Corps Commandant General Jim Amos observed at the time that the Corps was consuming "in excess of 200,000 gallons of fuel per day in Afghanistan" and that our enemies understood the effects of disrupting the energy supply chain. Our "addiction to oil," he pointed out, "came at a heavy price."

Ten years after the release of the first Operational Energy Strategy, concerns about the vulnerabilities posed by the energy supply chain linger. The Defense Department consumes more than ten million gallons of fuel each day, plus some thirty terawatt-hours of electricity per year, according to a Pentagon news release last March. America's adversaries have identified the US military's reliance...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A682564657