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NPR Topics: BusinessJun 12, 2024
Bringing a tariff to a graphite fight
Graphite is sort of the one-hit wonder of minerals. And that hit? Pencils. Everyone loves to talk about pencils when it comes to graphite. If graphite were to perform a concert, they'd close out the show with "pencils," and everyone would clap and cheer. But true fans of graphite would be shouting out "batteries!" Because graphite is a key ingredient in another important thing that we all use in our everyday lives: lithium ion batteries.

Almost all of the battery-ready graphite in the world comes from one place: China. That's actually true of lots of the materials that go into batteries, like processed lithium and processed cobalt. Which is why it was such a big deal when, earlier this year, President Biden announced a tariff package that will make a bunch of Chinese imports more expensive. Included in this package are some tariffs on Chinese graphite. He wants to create a new battery future—one that doesn't rely so much on China.

In this episode, we get down on the ground to look at this big supply chain story through the lens of one critical mineral. And we visit a small town that realizes that it might be the perfect place to create an American graphite industry. And we find that declaring a new battery future is one thing, but making it happen is another thing entirely.

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