July 24, 2020

Reschenthaler, Swalwell Launch Congressional Caucus to Secure Critical Material Independence

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, Reps. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) launched the Congressional Critical Materials Caucus to help the United States develop the technical expertise and production capabilities to assure a long-term, secure and sustainable supply of energy critical elements (ECEs).

"It is more important than ever for our nation to work towards achieving critical material independence," said Reschenthaler. "Resources such as rare earth elements are vital to our national and economic security, and reliable access to these resources is essential. I look forward to working with Rep. Swalwell to increase awareness and find solutions so we can secure critical material independence for our nation."

"This caucus is a crucial step towards ensuring a reliable domestic supply of ECES and rare earth elements," said Swalwell. "By bringing attention to the United States' reliance on foreign countries for ECEs, we can educate other Members of Congress and the general public about the need to source these elements domestically for long-term success and growth."

The caucus will serve as an informal group of Members interested in working together to explore the United States' dependence on critical materials from foreign countries, including rare earth elements, and how to establish a reliable domestic supply of these resources vital to our national, energy, and economic security. The caucus will discuss applicable public policy questions and raise awareness among other Members of Congress and the public about this issue. The Congressional Critical Materials Caucus will be co-chaired by Reschenthaler and Swalwell.

ECEs are crucial for manufacturing advanced technologies including cell phones, laptops, jet engines, gas and wind turbines, nuclear reactors, solar panels, and more. A shortage of these elements could significantly impede Americans' ability to afford and use these technologies, and would hurt both our global competitiveness and our national security.

Unfortunately, the United States now is import-dependent for many of these elements. China now produces 80 percent of the world's earth element supply and 75 percent of permanent magnets containing those elements. In 2010, China temporarily cut off rare earth supplies to Japan, the European Union, and the United States – highlighting the potential consequences to the United States for relying so heavily upon China for these assets.

In the 2017 National Security Strategy, the Trump Administration provided a new framework to counter adversaries by securing critical supply chains and by reducing federal regulatory burdens and streamlining the approval processes for energy infrastructure.

In 2013, the Department of Energy established a limited-term Critical Materials Institute to help ensure a reliable supply of these elements, but neither this institute nor an underlying, ongoing ECE research program have ever been properly authorized.