President Biden promises the U.S. will own the future of electric cars. Some conservationists are challenging that pledge as they contest the two largest lithium mining projects in the U.S. The opposition is emblematic of how some environmentalists are at cross-purposes with how the Biden Administration will achieve its climate goals.

“The real question is, will we lead or fall behind in the race for the future,” Biden asked during a tour of a Ford manufacturing plant in May. “Whether we will build these vehicles and the batteries that go in them here in the United State or rely on other countries. Right now China is leading in this race. They think they will win that race. I got news for them. They will not win this race.”

The key component in an electric car is the battery, which in other forms is also used to store power from solar panels and wind turbines. The key element in the battery is lithium. Right now, a single U.S. mine produces a fraction of the lithium needed to meet the president’s clean energy projections. To address global warming, two additional mining companies are seeking federal permits, but both face litigation by some environmentalists.

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