The ongoing struggle to bring Thacker Pass online reflects many of the political and economic imperatives underpinning US efforts to secure and develop its own supply chains, and in doing so catch up to China in the various strategic commodities expected to drive the ‘green’ industrial revolution.

Economically it’s a no-brainer: lithium, or ‘white oil,’ is a critical input in the production of lithium-ion batteries, which are an essential component in everything from electric vehicles to grid modernization efforts. It follows that global demand for the alkali metal is expected to explode over the next decade, growing from 500,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) in 2021 to 3-4 million metric tons in 2030. This presents two policy dilemmas for Washington and its allies: 1) how to develop new sources of lithium to supply the market; and 2) how to ensure that these sources are secure and not subject to blackmail by state-backed adversaries.