Race to the Future: What to Know About the Frantic Quest for Cobalt

A New York Times investigation examines the global demand for raw materials as the clean energy revolution takes off. This is what we found.

Eric Lipton
Dionne Searcey
Michael Forsythe

By Eric LiptonDionne Searcey and Michael ForsytheNov. 20, 2021Updated 12:09 p.m. ET

The clean energy revolution is replacing oil and gas with a new global force: the minerals and metals needed in electric car batteries, solar panels and other forms of renewable energy.

Places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, which produces two-thirds of the world’s supply of cobalt, for example, are stepping into the kinds of roles once played by Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich nations. And a race between China and the United States to secure supplies could have far-reaching implications for the shared goal of protecting the planet.

An investigation by The New York Times drew on interviews with more than 100 people on three continents and thousands of pages of financial, diplomatic and other documents. Here are some of the findings.”