NRDC Report: Building Batteries Better

WASHINGTON – A new report from NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) lays out key strategies so the transition away from fossil fuels and to electric vehicles can drive better mining practices.

The report, Building Batteries Better: Doing the Best With Less, also details specific policies needed to reduce the need for these minerals, reuse older batteries, and recycle the components at the end of the battery life.

“Our petroleum-based economy is unsustainable. Drilling, pumping, and burning oil is harming our health, damaging precious ecosystems and causing the climate crisis. Electric vehicles are a key part of a cleaner, safer economy,” said Jordan Brinn an advocate at NRDC and the author of the report. “The task before us is to produce the minerals needed for electric vehicles in the best way possible so that we can, once and for all, put the harms from fossil fuels in the rearview mirror.”

The report lays out specific policies and programs the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency should adopt so that old vehicle batteries can be easily collected, repurposed for backup storage on the electric grid, and efficiently recycled. Specific strategies and policies to improve and reduce mining include:

  • recycle older batteries and reuse their component minerals;
  • update the 150-year-old federal mining laws;
  • improve and clean up extraction and waste management;
  • require comprehensive community consultation for mining projects;
  • increase material efficiency though improvements in battery technology;
  • prioritize second-life applications for batteries as appropriate.

“These are long-term policy changes can help improve mining practices so our clean energy economy doesn’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” Brinn said. “And by reusing and recycling batteries, we can reduce the amount of new mining that will be needed in the decades to come.”

Building Batteries Better lays out genuine ways that mining can be done right so that the minerals necessary for the energy transition will be available.

“Far too many in industry and their allies have been pushing to short-circuit environmental protections and community engagement, claiming that the clean energy transition demands it,” Brinn said. “Just the opposite is true: We need to build the clean energy economy on protections for the land and water and strong community protections so that we all can benefit from it. We can do it if we get to work now.”  

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Established in 1970, NRDC uses science, policy, law, and people power to confront the climate crisis, protect public health, and safeguard nature. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, Beijing and Delhi (an office of NRDC India Pvt. Ltd). Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC. 

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