Photo of Joe Biden

Remarks in a Virtual Roundtable Discussion on Electric Vehicle Battery Manufacturing and an Exchange With Reporters

October 19, 2022

The President. Hello, everybody. Well, good afternoon. And I want to thank Secretary Granholm for—and everyone on the screen for being part of this today. And it's been a rough 4 or 5 years for the country, but a lot of folks here are still struggling.

But there's some real bright spots: 10 million—10 million—new jobs have been created just since my Presidency began; 3.5-percent unemployment, the lowest in 50 years; nearly 700,000 manufacturing jobs created since we took office, and you all are going to create a lot more, up there on the screen.

And the—and some people gave up on American manufacturing, but not me, not the Secretary, not the American people. Because where in heck is it written that we can't be the manufacturing hub of the world? Well, we are now, and that's what we're going to be announcing—talking about today. It's about my industrial strategy to bring America back manufacturing and industries of the future: semiconductors and clean energy.

That includes the bipartisan infrastructure law that I signed. And it was a once-in-a-generation investment in our Nation's roads, bridges, railroads, ports, airports, water systems, and high-speed internet. Federal infrastructure funding is helping States and cities with these projects all across the country. But the infrastructure law also invests in people and companies that are going to build our future, like electric vehicles and advanced batteries that are going to power those vehicles.

This is critically important, because the future of vehicles is electric, but the battery is a key part of that electric vehicle. And right now 75 percent—as the folks on the screen can tell you—75 percent of that battery manufacturing is done in China. And for some battery components, critical materials, China controls nearly half the global production. But China's battery technology is not more innovative than anyone else's.

In fact, our national labs, our research universities, our automakers led the development of this technology here in America. But by undercutting U.S. manufacturers with their unfair subsidies and trade practices, China seized a significant portion of the market.

Today, we're stepping up with—to hold the—we—really to take it back—not all of it, but bold goals—bold goals—and actions to make sure we're back in the game in a big way. And we're doing it right away, centered around workers and communities and building the economy from the bottom up and the middle out.

Last year, I signed an Executive order setting the goal of having 50 percent of all new cars and trucks sold by 2030 to be electric—electric vehicles. Auto companies, unions, and the Federal Government are all working together to meet this goal.

I signed the—into law the Inflation Reduction Act, the biggest investment in climate ever—ever—in all of history. It includes tax credits for up to $7,500 for folks to buy new electric vehicles or fuel-cell vehicles made in America. And for the first time, you get a tax credit for buying a used electric vehicle.

The CHIPS and Science Act that I signed into law is literally supercharging our efforts to make semiconductors—those small computer chips that power every—our everyday lives, including our vehicles—here in America.

And the infrastructure law is investing $7.5 billion to build electric vehicle charging stations all across America. So finding a place to charge up your vehicle is going to be as easy as pulling into a gas station.

So earlier today I talked about our efforts to keep gas prices down at the pump without delaying or deferring our transition to clean energy. Electric vehicles are part of that plan. And since I took office, electric vehicle sales have more than tripled.

But with more electric vehicle sales, the demand for batteries and the critical minerals that go into those batteries has grown and is going to continue to grow. In fact, the demand for critical materials is set to skyrocket by 4- to 600 percent over the next several decades. The demand for minerals like lithium and graphite is expected to increase by as much as 4,000 percent.

Some see it as a challenge, but we see an opportunity, a real opportunity to shift to a net-zero sum carbon world in one of the most significant economic transitions since the Industrial Revolution. That's not hyperbole; that's a fact.

We're also confronting it head on with American ingenuity and American jobs. That's why my infrastructure law invested over $7 billion in battery supply chains that are going to bolster U.S. capacity for processing, manufacturing, and recycling critical minerals like lithium, nickel, and graphite.

And that's why today I'm proud to announce $2.8 billion in awards to 20 companies represented on the screen across 12 States, funded by the infrastructure law, to build electric vehicles and a battery future here in America. Nearly 200 companies applied for these grants. Only 20 were selected from Georgia to North Carolina, and to Nevada, to the State of Washington. We have awarded these this funding, and we've asked companies how they're going to partner with community colleges, minority-serving institutions, labor unions, and local organizations to provide job training for workers and benefits for the whole community.

Together, these 20 companies are going to build new commercial-scale battery production and processing facilities all across America. They're going to develop lithium to supply over 2 million vehicles every year. And that $2.8 billion investment is going to unlock billions of dollars in private investment from these companies.

That means the projects are going to generate $9 billion total for American manufacturing and the battery supply chain across America. And that's going to create thousands of good-paying jobs, many of them—many of them—union jobs that require college degrees—that don't require, I should say, college degrees.

You know, on top of the $9 billion since I became President, other companies—including GM, Ford, Honda, Siemens—have announced over $100 billion in new investments to produce electric vehicles, batteries, and charging stations here in America, creating thousands more jobs.

Today I'm announcing the launch of the American Battery Materials Initiative. It's going to coordinate the effort across the Federal Government and work closely with the private sector, labor unions, Tribes, community organizations, and our partners and allies abroad.

This initiative is going to lead—going to be led by the White House and housed in the Department of Energy with the support of the Department of Interior to secure America's electric vehicle battery supply chain and clean energy future. And we're going to do it the right way: respecting the rights of Tribes, creating good-paying union jobs, and protecting the environment and local communities.

Folks, one more thing about how we're going to do this. You may have seen the news reports describing Republicans—[laughter]—who voted against the infrastructure bill attacking Democrats for passing it because it's socialism. [Laughter]

Well, now, quietly and privately, they're sending me and the administration letters asking for money from the same bill, talking about how important the projects would be for their districts if we just got them the money. I had no—I was really surprised to find out there are so many socialists in the Republican caucus.

But even if they voted against it, I made a promise when I was running and when I got elected: I would be the President for all Americans. So we're going to build a better America together, whether they voted for it or not. If the district—if the district deserves the project, they're going to get it.

Let me close with a question I ask many business leaders: When the United States decides to invest considerable resources in the new industry and we need to build up, does that encourage or discourage businesses from getting in the game?

And the answer is, it encourages them to get in the game in a significant way. Federal investments attract private investments, and it creates jobs and industries. It demonstrates we're all in this together, and that's what today is about.

I've never been more optimistic about America's future. We just have to remember who in God's name we are. [Laughter] We're the United States of America. There's nothing—nothing—beyond our capacity if we work together.

And with that, let me turn it over to Secretary Granholm. Madam Secretary.

Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. Thank you so much, Mr. President, for inviting me to be part of this today. This moment is one——

The President. You're a critical part of this. You're just not just invited to be part of it.

Secretary Granholm. Well, I know, but—[laughter]—but I just feel like this—this, especially, for so many reasons, is one of the greatest pleasures of serving in your administration. Because I can't help but think back to a call that I received from your office, from the White House, 13 years ago when I was serving as Governor of Michigan. And on that call, we found out that the then-Obama-Biden administration was awarding Michigan a dozen grants to help and assemble—develop and assemble the guts of Car 2.0, which is the electric vehicle.

[At this point, Secretary Granholm continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

And I know we've got all these great people here on the screen who are the grantees, the awardees who are going to make this happen across the country. I want to ask a couple questions and, of course, invite you to participate, sir, as you see fit.

Let's start with Phil Brown. Phil is the president of ICL Group's Phosphate Specialties Solutions. And, Phil, my understanding—you're there in St. Louis—that your St. Louis plant is going to employ more than 150 people. And I wonder if you can tell us about the work that you're doing there with unions and make sure—to make sure that the folks in the surrounding community can take advantage and can access these good-paying jobs.

ICL Group Phosphate Specialties Solutions President Philip Brown. Absolutely, Secretary Granholm and President Biden. We are excited. We really are excited. St. Louis has a rich history of manufacturing, and we have a big part of that. And we are really proud to be a part of that. We've been manufacturing here on the Mississippi River for over 140 years in South St. Louis.

[Mr. Brown continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

And you know, we're also going to bring a couple of dozen STEM and science, engineering-type roles. And we're doing a lot of outreach with the local community to make sure that those jobs are coming from our local diverse communities here in St. Louis.

The President. Well, Phil, you mind if I ask you a question as well? You know——

Mr. Brown. Absolutely.

The President. ——I understand this plant is the first of its kind in the United States. How are we—how is this plant going to strengthen our battery supply chain in the United States?

Mr. Brown. Absolutely. And you're absolutely right. This will be the first of its kind in the Western world to produce lithium iron phosphate. And it's really going to utilize our abundant resources that we have here in North America and the U.S.A. to develop a securer supply chain that the entire industry can rely upon, that they can—materials that they need to make their investments, to develop the further-downstream products from where we will start.

[Mr. Brown continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

And last, I would say, the technology to produce lithium iron phosphate was invented here in the U.S., and it's time to bring the manufacturing of it back to the U.S. as well.

The President. I have one more question, if I may. One of the things that has excited me about what we're doing here and beyond is that a lot of these jobs are going to be good-paying jobs that do not require a 4-year degree. Are you reaching out to the community colleges? Are you reaching out to the community writ large so—to let them know that they could qualify for some of these jobs?

Mr. Brown. Absolutely. We have a number of different ways that we work locally with civic organizations, student-based organizations, community colleges, our local unions to make sure that we're recruiting, training, and enabling those people for these jobs. We work with organizations like ConstructReach that reaches out to high school students coming out of school to make sure they're aware of manufacturing jobs and construction jobs, that they know what the opportunities are.

Our partners in this project as well—people like McCarthy—[inaudible]—we have aligned goals around those things. They're great supporters of pre-trade union programs, apprenticeship programs. And we'll be working together with civic organizations—like Greater St. Louis, who was part of the Build Back Better plan and putting forward a plan for St. Louis—as part of that, and making sure that we're reaching out to our local communities and making sure that we represent the diversity of St. Louis in these projects.

The President. Well, that's great to hear, Phil. Thank you very much.

Secretary Granholm. All right, that's so awesome. Thanks, Phil.

Let's now go to Kimberly Medford, who is the president of Entek. Kim, I know that your company has plants all across the world and you produce battery separators. Lots of places to invest across the globe. Tell me, why is Entek choosing to scale up operations in the United States?

Oh, you're—wait, you're muted. I wonder if we can——

The President. You're still muted, Kim.

Secretary Granholm. ——unmute you. Wait, Kim. Wait, can you hear?

The President. Can you hear us? Because you're muted.

Secretary Granholm. You're muted. I don't know——

Entek Manufacturing Extruders Division President Kimberly Medford. Sorry about that.

Secretary Granholm. There we go.

The President. It's okay.

Ms. Medford. That is my failure to follow instruction even though your team was amazing, Mr. President, in helping us to know what to do. [Laughter] Thank you both so much for having us here today. You're right, you could do this in lots of places in the world. And I—first, I just really want to start by thanking our local delegation for how supportive they've been in Oregon.

[Ms. Medford continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

So the strong support from you, from your administration, is exactly what we've been hoping and planning for. And now we get the fighting chance to compete globally right here from the United States with American operations.

Secretary Granholm. Awesome.

Ms. Medford. We fully expect the U.S. battery and EV markets to grow rapidly. We know speed and scale are important. And we're vertically integrated to make the most of our own production equipment and are ready with our investments in both Oregon and Nevada to produce that equipment and scale rapidly.

So commitment to supply chain, the growth, the longevity that we all need for this EV market that's finally here. And we're super excited about it and incredibly confident that it's the right thing to do to make our product with U.S. labor, to U.S. environmental standards, and without risk that we all stand to face with imports that could stop at any time.

The President. May I ask—I have two questions. Well, actually——

Ms. Medford. Yes.

The President. ——one comment and two questions.

I think I should acknowledge, which I have in the past, one of the really significant changes that took place was, in the first year, I had the CEOs of all the major American—automobile manufacturers out on the lawn of the White House. And that's when Mary Barra, president of General Motors, said, after some—after having a very different view, that she was going to go all electric, and she was going to move into that direction. And so I think she deserves—because then every other company lined up.

But one of the things that I always tell my staff: We assume that everybody knows what we know when we're speaking. [Laughter] And there's going to be people listening to this who aren't part of this industry. Can you explain what a separator is?

Ms. Medford. Sure.

The President. Because I want to help the press. [Laughter]

Ms. Medford. Absolutely. So you can kind of see right behind me these roles of white film. So, a separator is the insulator that goes between the anode and cathode in the lithium battery. It allows for the ions to flow, but it protects those two components from touching, which we all know is a bad thing. It creates, at minimum, a short and, at maximum, a fire. And so it's a very important insulator. And that is what we make.

The President. Thank you, Madam President. [Laughter]

Ms. Medford. You're welcome.

Secretary Granholm. Awesome. Great. Thank you, Kim.

Now, let me turn now to Kent Masters, who is the CEO of Albemarle, which is a global company with a home base in North Carolina.

I understand, Kent, that you also have close ties to the region as well. I wonder if you can tell us about your plans to work with the community to ensure that they too are benefiting from the investments?

Albemarle Corp. Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer Kent Masters. Yes, so we are—we're—our headquarters is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. And the facility where I'm at today is in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, about an hour from Charlotte. And we plan to open a new mine here. It's actually a brownfield mine that we've owned for quite some time. It was shut down in the eighties.

[Mr. Masters continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

And then, we are working locally with the community—with Cleveland Community College, a local community college. About $5 million of a grant is going into a program to teach the skills that are necessary to apply for these roles. So we're working locally with the community to teach the local workers how to apply for those jobs and the skills necessary to be successful working with us.

The President. Can I ask questions?

Secretary Granholm. You don't have to ask me. You should just jump in. [Laughter]

The President. Kent, I'm told this new plant is going to produce enough—lithium to help power 750,000 vehicles a year. And tell us about how this could be a game changer for the battery supply chain in the United States. How's it going to affect that?

Mr. Masters. Well, this will be a major facility relative to the lithium that's produced in the U.S. today. So we're a world leader in lithium production. We're one of the few companies producing lithium from U.S. resources. We do that today in Silver Peak, Nevada. We've been operating that facility since 1966. And we're in the process of doubling that. But it's a smaller facility compared to this. This will be a world-scale facility when we get the mine operating and the concentrator.

[Mr. Masters continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

So it is that full supply chain. It's not the only facility like this we'll need in the U.S. to be self-sufficient, but it's a good start.

The President. What kind of response are you getting from the community? Are they aware of what's about to happen in terms of the expansion?

Mr. Masters. Yes, so we're—this facility is operated—so Kings Mountain, they refer—the mayor refers to the town as a "mining town." It's got a history because mines have operated here and there is a quarry next door to this, so mining has been operating in this town for quite some time.

We've engaged with the community. So we mine in other parts of the world. And part of our DNA in the organization is to engage with the local community——

The President. Yes.

Mr. Masters. ——and bring them along with the project. So we're in the process of opening a storefront in the—in Kings Mountain, the downtown area where we'll hold town halls. We've had a couple of town halls, but not in that facility yet.

We'll talk to the community. We tell them what's happening. We get their input. We adjust to that, and we bring them along in the process. So that's a little bit unique, but it comes from the mining industry. And we're bringing what we've learned around the world to the U.S., from a mining standpoint.

The President. Well, the reason I asked the question—I knew that, and I wanted to make sure people knew that you were reaching out, that it matters—inform the community of what you're doing and what's there and why it's going to be safe and so on. So thank you for doing that.

Mr. Masters. All right. Thank you. Thanks for the question.

Secretary Granholm. All right. Thanks, Kent. And then last—I think we have time for one more. Last, but not least, we have CEO of American Battery Technology Company, that's Ryan Melsert, over there on the screen.

Ryan, thanks for being here. Thanks for being patient. I know your company is working on new technology to produce battery-grade lithium hydroxide. To the President's point earlier, you know, most people probably don't know what that means, but maybe you can describe for us what that means and what the technology could unlock for electric vehicle battery production in the U.S.

American Battery Technology Co. Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer Ryan Melsert. Yes, of course. Thank you for having us. The way that lithium is made today globally really comes from one of two different pathways. So lithium is held in hard rock ores, which are mostly located in West Australia. And they're also located in brines, in aqueous solutions, mostly in South America. And those are very proven and conventional legacy-type processes of how lithium is made and manufactured today.

[Mr. Melsert continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

About 2 years ago, we won a different Department of Energy grant at the R&D level to really prove out this technology. And now, through this next set of funds, we're building our first commercial-scale lithium refinery in central Nevada that will really expand the types of resource base the U.S. has access to and will help get the U.S. back in the game of providing domestic battery materials.

The President. Let me ask you a question. Tell us about why you're confident in the outlook for U.S. battery—the U.S. battery market. Why are you confident? Because you're investing—we're investing a lot in you, but you're also investing a hell of a lot.

Mr. Melsert. We definitely are, and we appreciate your investment and your confidence in us. I would say that over the past 5 to 10 years, there have been large amounts of multibillion-dollar electric vehicle factories made in the U.S., large amounts of multibillion-dollar electric battery facilities formed in the U.S.

[Mr. Melsert continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

And up until now, it really has been a need for much greater innovation to put the effort in to really go for the first-of-kind system development and the willingness to take risk to bring a new type of resource to market. And I think that's always been one of America's strengths: to really take that risk and build these first-of-kind systems.

And again, like I said, we're happy that you and the country are taking this risk with us.

The President. Well, we're happy you're doing it and happy for your innovation. Thank you.

Secretary Granholm. Yes. So, so great.

Thank you so much, Ryan, and Kimberly Medford from Entek Manufacturing and Phil Brown from ICL Group and Kent Masters from Albemarle and Brian Goldner and Henri van Rooyen from Talon Nickel. Thank you for joining us as well, Gene Berdichevsky from Sila Nanotechnologies; Anne Duncan from Syrah Resources; Eric Stopka from Anovion—Anovion Anode, that's probably it; Mike O'Kronley from Ascend Elements; and Aaron Bent from 6K Inc.

Thank you all so much for joining us, for the exciting answers. And it's my pleasure to turn it back over to the man with the cash, President Biden. [Laughter]

The President. Well, I tell you what, I've got to congratulate the award winners, and thank you for the work you're doing. I wasn't joking when I said the changes that are about to take place, are taking place now and the next 10 years, are going to have more impact on the world and our country than all the changes in the last 30, 40, 50 years. I really mean it. This is like a new Industrial Revolution. I mean, we're talking about literally a different world and a safer world.

And I've—I am—you know, I think it's a—you know, I've been asked by other world leaders, can I define America. And I—Xi Jinping—I traveled thousands of miles with him when he was Vice President and I was Vice President—in China and the United States. And we were in the Tibetan Plateau. And he looked at me, and he said, "Can you define America for me?" I said, "Yes, one word, and I mean it: possibilities." Possibilities. This made us the ugly American, in the sense we thought we could do anything. But everything we set our minds to do, we've been able to do. We've been able to do.

And it really is amazing what you all are doing. And I think we're going to—your kids and grandkids are going to be looking back at this time as really a platform which everything began to change. So thank you for what you're doing.

And by the way, this is not just going to benefit the United States. We may be the—we may be our own supply chain, but if things get—continue to move in the right direction, we're going to be supplying the rest of the world as well for a lot of things. So thank you all so very, very much.

I can't tell you how enthusiastic I am about the promise that you're all providing for us and what we're going to be able to do. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And thank you, Madam Secretary.

Q. Mr. President, are you planning to meet with Xi Jinping before you're going to go to Asia?

Q. Mr. President, could you help us out just really quick? What is your top domestic priority? Is it inflation, or is it abortion?

Q. Mr. President, are you going to tout this new law—no, are you going to tout this new law in Georgia, in Wisconsin, in Nevada, in Arizona? Will you go out on the road and tout this bipartisan infrastructure law, sir?

The President's Agenda

Q. Just hoping to clarify for midterm voters, top domestic issue: inflation or abortion?

The President. They're all important. Unlike you, there's no one thing. It crosses the board. Domestic—ask me about foreign policy too. There's multiple, multiple, multiple issues, and they're all important.

And so—and we ought to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. You know that old expression.

Thank you. Thank you.

Q. How should President Xi receive today's announcement——

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:20 p.m. from the South Court Auditorium of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Mary T. Barra, chairman and chief executive officer, General Motors Co.; and President Xi Jinping of China. Secretary Granholm referred to Brian Goldner, chief exploration and operations officer, and Henri van Rooyen, chief executive officer, Talon Metals Corp.; Gene Berdichevsky, cofounder and chief executive officer, Sila Nanotechnologies Inc.; Anne Duncan, vice president of U.S.A. processing operations, Syrah Resources Ltd.; Eric Stopka, chief executive officer, Anovion Battery Materials; Michael O'Kronley, chief executive officer, Ascend Elements, Inc.; and Aaron Bent, chief executive officer, 6K Inc. Mr. Masters referred to Mayor Scott Neisler of Kings Mountain, NC. Joining the President in the South Court Auditorium was Secretary Granholm, with Mr. Brown, Ms. Medford, Mr. Masters, and Mr. Melsert participating via videoconference.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks in a Virtual Roundtable Discussion on Electric Vehicle Battery Manufacturing and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/358449

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