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U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Nov. 23, 2021, in Washington.Evan Vucci/The Associated Press

The United States backs a continental approach to clean energy that would see the U.S. and Canada working together on critical minerals and other resources to bolster security against threats such as the war in Ukraine, says U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

“One thousand per cent,” Ms. Granholm said when asked if she envisioned a dual-nation, continental approach to energy concerns, including securing minerals needed to make batteries for electric vehicles.

Ms. Granholm cited a memorandum of understanding signed last year between the U.S. Department of Energy and Natural Resources Canada, and a 2020 Joint Action Plan between the two countries on critical minerals.

“Especially with gas prices being so high right now, we want to help accelerate that transition to electrification. And the only way to do that is to make the batteries for those vehicles. And the only way to do that is to get the critical minerals that go in those batteries for those vehicles, so we want to have a North American strategy on that to power this clean energy revolution in North America,” Ms. Granholm said, saying the war in Ukraine has made those initiatives more urgent.

“It’s the cost, but it is also the security crisis in Ukraine. It just makes us all want to work even harder to accelerate the clean energy transition and to bolster the supply chains that depend on our allies alone, so we can be much less vulnerable to being under the thumb of petro-dictators like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” she said.

Ms. Granholm made the remarks Monday in a livestreamed conversation with Mark Podlasly, the director of economic policy at the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, at a coalition conference being held April 25 and 26 in Vancouver.

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The conference, titled “Toward Net Zero by 2050,″ focuses on areas that are currently or are expected to become important to Indigenous nations in Canada and the U.S. as both countries try to meet climate-change targets, including potential new mines, transmission lines and electricity generation projects.

To reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the U.S. and Canada will require up to 14 times more electric-vehicle battery minerals such as nickel, lithium and cobalt, the FNMPC says in a conference program, and will have to invest heavily in infrastructure such as transmission lines.

“These new net zero-focused energy sources and transmission lines will be on, or cross, Indigenous lands in the U.S. and Canada,” the program states, adding that projects that don’t comply with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be “non-starters” for Indigenous leaders who will expect – at minimum – free, prior and informed consent, as well as equity stakes in new projects.

Mr. Podlasly raised those concerns in his conversation with Ms. Granholm, saying some Indigenous communities, especially those in rural and remote areas, are worried about being left behind amid the rush to a more electrified future.

Ms. Granholm said the U.S. is taking such concerns into account through several measures, including investment programs that focus on rural and remote communities and working with tribes to develop “place-based” projects that suit local needs.

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