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In EV era, batteries are the new oil

At the very moment the United States is ramping up electric vehicle development manufacturers are running up against the weakest link in the supply chain — a shortage of battery materials.

Why it matters: The bottleneck puts the United States at a major disadvantage to China, which controls most of the world's battery minerals mining and processing.


  • Without further action, the U.S. risks becoming as dependent on imported batteries as it was on foreign oil — or repeating mistakes of the past with solar panels or smartphones which are now made primarily overseas.
  • "We are the leading innovators in the world. But the challenge that we face is keeping the production of those future innovations here in the United States," said Doug Campbell, CEO of battery maker Solid Power, at an industry roundtable hosted by Energy Sec. Jennifer Granholm.

The big picture: Amid tougher emissions regulations worldwide, automakers are racing to add more EVs to their lineup, while phasing out internal combustion engines.

  • Planned EV investments jumped 41% in the past year, to $330 billion globally by 2025, according to AlixPartners.
  • In the U.S., President Biden has made vehicle electrification a core element of his clean energy strategy.

Those EV goals are at risk, however, without a secure supply of advanced lithium ion batteries — and the raw materials like lithium, nickel, cobalt and graphite that go into them.

The state of play: The U.S. recently laid out a national blueprint for lithium batteries, which aims to establish a secure supply chain for battery materials and technology by 2030.

  • "It will take a strategic investment by the federal government, in concert with industry, to stand up more domestic manufacturing capability," U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.) said at the DOE roundtable.
  • Compared to other countries which invest in manufacturing through public-private partnerships, "we are bringing a knife to a gun fight," said U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

What's happening: The Energy Department said June 14 it would channel $200 million in funding over the next five years to U.S. national labs to support EV- and battery-related research.

  • The DOE also said that battery projects can qualify to borrow from the $17 billion available under the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, created during the Obama era.

What to watch: The funding could help companies like Urbix, the only U.S.-based processor of graphite widely used in EV battery anodes.

  • The Arizona company developed a method to process graphite that's simpler, cheaper and less energy-intensive than the one China uses.

The bottom line: "We want to eat a lot of ketchup but we don't have any tomatoes," says Nico Cuevas, CEO of Urbix. "You can’t make ketchup without tomatoes."

  • Nor can you make electric vehicles without batteries.

What to watch at the Olympics today: Gymnastics, golf, 3x3 basketball, swimming

5 events to watch today...

  • 🤸‍♀️ Men’s gymnastics: Team USA’s Sam Mikulak and Brody Malone compete in the individual all-around final. Coverage starts at 6:15 a.m. on Peacock (watch the replay at 8 p.m. ET on NBC)
  • 🏀 3x3 Basketball: The women’s gold medal game between the U.S. and Russia starts at 8:55 a.m. ET on USA Network. Russia and Latvia will play in the men’s final at 9:25 a.m. ET.
  • 🏌️ Men’s golf: Round one tees off at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel or stream on nbcolympics.com.
  • 🏊 Swimming: Men’s 800m freestyle, 200m breaststroke and 100m freestyle finals and women’s 200m butterfly final. Coverage starts at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.
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National parks "drowning in tourists"

Data: National Park Service; note: Gateway National Recreation Area is excluded due to missing data in 2021. Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

National Parks across the U.S. are overflowing with a post-pandemic crush of tourists, leading to increased issues with congestion, traffic jams, user experience, strain on staff and increased damage to the parks.

Why it matters: Some are seeing such a record number they're being forced to limit, and even close, access to certain areas to avoid the danger of eroding the land. The result, ultimately, could change the way Americans interact with the parks going forward.

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Facebook's next chapter: Build the "metaverse"

Facebook's "next chapter," Mark Zuckerberg says, is to be prime builder of "the metaverse" — an open, broadly distributed, 3D dimension online where, he says, we will all conduct much of our work and personal lives.

The big picture: Zuckerberg admits Facebook will only be one of many companies building this next-generation model of today's internet — but he also intends Facebook to lead the pack.

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CDC asks the vaccinated to help save the unvaccinated from themselves

The Biden administration is essentially asking vaccinated Americans to help save the unvaccinated from themselves.

The big picture: America's "pandemic of the unvaccinated" has gotten bad enough that vaccine mandates are starting to catch on, and masks are coming back — in some cases, even for the vaccinated.

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Least persuadable unvaccinated Americans are largely white and Republican

Data: Axios-Ipsos Poll; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The most hardcore opponents of coronavirus vaccination — the group who say they'll never get one — tend to be older, whiter and more Republican than the unvaccinated Americans who are still persuadable, according to an analysis of our Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: As the Delta variant triggers more COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, mostly among the unvaccinated, the Biden administration and even some high-profile GOP political and media figures are trying to figure out how to nudge the country's vaccination rate higher.

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Female Olympians push back against double standard in uniforms

Female Olympians in Tokyo are rejecting the uniforms that have long defined their sports, highlighting a double standard that exists how women dress in competition vs. men.

Driving the news: During their qualifying round Sunday, Germany's women's gymnastics team wore full-length unitards, eschewing the conventional leg-barring leotards worn by most female gymnasts.

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Simone Biles won't defend Olympic title at gymnastics all-around final in Tokyo

U.S. gymnastics great Simone Biles won't defend her Olympic title in the upcoming all-around final as she continues to focus on her mental health, USA Gymnastics announced Wednesday.

After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition. We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many. pic.twitter.com/6ILdtSQF7o

— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) July 28, 2021

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

DOJ declines to defend Mo Brooks in Eric Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit

The Department of Justice declined late Tuesday to represent Rep. Mo Brooks in a civil lawsuit against the Georgia congressman concerning the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Brooks had argued he should have immunity in the suit, filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) against him, former President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Rudy Giuliani over the insurrection. He said he was acting as a government employee when he spoke at a rally before the insurrection.

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