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An unprecedented look inside the global battle to power our lives from acclaimed Reuters reporter Ernest Scheyder.
A new economic war for critical minerals has begun, and The War Below is an urgent dispatch from its front lines. To build electric vehicles, solar panels, cell phones, and millions of other devices means the world must dig more mines to extract lithium, copper, and other vital building blocks. But mines are deeply unpopular, even as they have a role to play in fighting climate change and powering crucial technologies. These tensions have sparked a worldwide reckoning over the sourcing of necessary materials, and no one understands the complexities of these issues better than Ernest Scheyder, whose exclusive access to sites around the globe has allowed him to gain unparalleled insights into a future without fossil fuels.
The War Below reveals the explosive brawl among industry titans, conservationists, community groups, policymakers, and many others over whether some places are too special to mine or whether the habitats of rare plants, sensitive ecosystems, Indigenous holy sites, and other places should be dug up for their riches.
With vivid and engaging writing, Scheyder shows the human toll of this war and explains why recycling and other newer technologies have struggled to gain widespread use. He also expertly chronicles Washington’s attempts to wean itself off supplies from China, the global leader in mineral production and processing. The War Below paints a powerfully honest and nuanced picture of what is at stake in this new fight for energy independence, revealing how America and the rest of the world’s hunt for the “new oil” directly affects us all.
About the Author
Ernest Scheyder is a senior correspondent for Reuters, covering the green energy transition and the minerals that undergird it. He previously covered the US shale oil revolution, politics, and the environment, and held roles at the Associated Press and the Bangor Daily News. A native of Maine, Scheyder is a graduate of the University of Maine and Columbia Journalism School. Visit his website at ErnestScheyder.com and follow him on Twitter @ErnestScheyder.
"A nuanced and invaluable deep dive into the questions that need to be addressed if we are to fight climate change and achieve energy security."
"A much-needed introduction to one of the defining issues of our time."
—New York Post
"Insightful...the stories he shares are stark reminders of why we need to have a systems view of material supply, from mines to markets."
"To uncover the inconvenient truths and the often overlooked tradeoffs of the energy transition, Reuters reporter Ernest Scheyder takes readers on a journey through American history, geopolitics, and the business world."
—Fortune, Best Books of 2023
"Authoritative analysis of a crucial issue and the tough choices ahead, backed by solid research."
—Kirkus (starred review)
"David vs. Goliath battles butt up against very real planetary perils in this evocative account of the energy transition’s myriad complexities."
"For readers eager to learn about this industry, this is a sound start."
"With his keen eye for detail and gift for storytelling, Scheyder digs deeply into the vast mineral supply chain supporting the electrical vehicle revolution, the political and economic forces driving it, and the far-reaching consequences for biodiversity, the environment, and the communities wherever these resources are found. Required reading for anyone interested in the 360-degree impacts of the energy transition."
—Daniel Poneman, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy
“The War Below is an entertaining and insightful look at the enormous complexity—technological, environmental, financial and political—of mining the metals needed to make the green energy revolution possible. It illuminates a dimension of the challenge confronting the energy transition that is little understood and dangerously real—a wakeup call for us all.” —Michael Kowalski, former CEO and Chairman, Tiffany & Co.
“In The War Below, Ernest Scheyder unearths the contours of the struggles to mine the minerals essential for America’s energy transition. Combining reportorial grit with literary skill he vividly captures the physical and political landscapes over which the future is being fought.” —Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The New Map: Energy, Climate and the Clash of Nations and The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power
"The War Below provides an illuminating account of the global struggle for control of critical minerals. As the world uses more batteries it will need vastly more lithium, cobalt, nickel, and copper. The War Below takes readers on an extraordinary journey from the bottom of the world's deepest mines to the commanding heights of the world's energy system. Scheyder uncovers the forces shaping the struggle for critical minerals, from geopolitical competition between China and the U.S. to political clashes between environmental groups and the world's largest mining firms. This is essential reading for understanding the critical minerals upon which the energy transition—and our future prosperity—relies."
—Chris Miller, author of Chip War: The Fight for the World's Most Critical Technology
"Finally, the real story of the difficulties of mining and processing enough minerals in the US to supply a green, carbon free energy transition. Scheyder introduces us to the people living in our mining communities whose lives are greatly affected by America's goal to de-carbon energy. In this telling we confront the reality that there are no easy answers or quick fixes. We are also made uncomfortable with the ethics of wanting to preserve our beautiful places, while we rely on foreign supply chains where minerals are mined and processed with no real attention to environmental, labor, and human rights abuses."
—Heidi Heitkamp, Former United States Senator of North Dakota
"Addressing climate change by digging up the earth for minerals is like putting out a fire with gasoline. Veteran journalist Scheyder helps cut through the smoke with his new book. The War Below gives the reader a front row seat to one of the critical debates of our time: how to power the clean energy transition without adding to ecological and human harm through irresponsible mining. Scheyder's detailed storytelling and research help convey what's at stake in this new 'race to the bottom.'"
—Payal Sampat, Earthworks