Yellen visits US lithium site in Chile, eyes progress on green transition – ET Auto


Chile also aims to reach 100% in EV sales by 2035 and could well lead the way in green hydrogen, with more than 40 green hydrogen projects underway.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Saturday toured U.S. lithium producer Albemarle in northern Chile, saying that expanded U.S.-Chilean ties would benefit both countries, improve energy security and help achieve key climate goals.

Yellen, wrapping up her visit to Chile after meetings with President Gabriel Boric and Economy Minister Mario Marcel in Santiago on Friday, said rising demand for clean energy could generate someUSD 3 trillion in global investment opportunities through 2050.

Yellen’s visit to Chile is part of a broader push by the Biden administration to diversify U.S. supply chains and reduce overdependence on China for critical minerals and other goods by bolstering ties with key allies and partners such as Chile.

Washington has a strong interest in Chile as the world’s largest producer of copper and the second largest producer of lithium, both components needed in batteries for electric vehicles and other technologies as part of the green transition.

“Our ties with Chile increase our energy security at home, create economic opportunity in both our countries, and bring us all closer to achieving our climate goals,” Yellen said in remarks prepared for the visit.

She told reporters on Friday that the U.S. wanted to expand its own trade flows with Chile, not dissuade it from trading with China, its biggest trading partner, adding, “It’s not a competition.”

Yellen said Chile’s lead production role in copper was critical, noting that demand is projected to double by 2035, since the metal is required for everything from electric vehicles to offshore wind turbines and transmission networks.

With 30% of global market share and the largest lithium reserves, Chile is also the world’s second biggest producer of lithium, which is expected to see a tripling of demand by 2030 given its key role in energy storage, such as for EV batteries.

Chile’s 20-year-old free trade agreement with the United States means critical minerals from Chile help vehicles qualify for clean vehicle tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act, which Yellen said would boost industries in both countries.

She said Albemarle’s investment in Chile showed the benefit of expanded ties, noting the North Carolina-based firm had two sites in Chile that employ 1,000 people – a production site in Salar de Atacama and a conversion plant in La Negra.

There would be shifts in the medium- to long-term as the U.S. ramps up lithium production in the United States, Yellen said, citing a planned Albemarle lithium mine due to open in North Carolina by 2030 and a separate mine and processing facility in Nevada that broke ground one year ago.

Yellen hailed what she called Chile’s own ambitious climate agenda, including its green grid, with 60% of its power coming from zero-carbon sources, and its issuance of the world’s first sovereign sustainability-linked bond.

Chile also aims to reach 100% in EV sales by 2035 and could well lead the way in green hydrogen, with more than 40 green hydrogen projects underway.

“All of this makes Chile exactly the kind of partner we need in the transition to clean energy,” Yellen said.

  • Published On Mar 3, 2024 at 05:00 PM IST

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