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People disagree on climate science and the magnitude and effects of climate change. That said, there is one thing on which we should all be able to agree: Joe Biden’s climate plan will put America at the mercy of its superpower rival, China.
Joe Biden’s climate agenda involves replacing the coal and gas plants powering our electrical grid with wind and solar farms. He also wants to replace gasoline-powered cars, buses and trucks with electric vehicles.
A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), “The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions,” lays out the national security implications of this plan.
The technologies involved in wind and solar power and electric vehicles are much more reliant than their conventional alternatives on metals and minerals including copper, lithium, nickel, manganese, cobalt, graphite chromium, molybdenum, zinc, rare-earths and silicon.
Wind and solar technologies require about three to eight times more of these materials per megawatt of electricity than coal and natural gas plants. Electric cars require about five times more of these materials than conventional cars.
Putting aside the very significant issue of how the world could possibly ramp up the production of these essential materials in the quantities that would be required not only by the U.S. but around the world, where these materials come from should be a threshold concern.
The IEA reports that China is one of the top three locations for the mining of copper, nickel, rare-earths and lithium. When it comes to mining rare-earths, China is responsible for 60% of global extraction. But there’s more to these essential materials than mining; they must be processed as well.
When it comes to processing the ores, China is the leader for all of them plus cobalt, the latter of which is mostly mined in the Congo. China processes about 35% of the global nickel supply, 40% of copper, 55% of lithium, 65% of cobalt and 85% of rare-earths.
So thanks to its low-wage and slave labor and lack of environmental regulations, China has successfully positioned itself to have a stranglehold on the global production of raw materials essential for the goal of the climate agenda.
Does this matter to the U.S.? Yes. We get, for example, 80% of our rare-earths from China. And no “clean energy” technology happens without rare-earths. So rare-earths alone are a potential game stopper.
Would China weaponize its production of these materials? Last October 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported, “A new law will allow China to ban exports to protect national security.” In February of this year, Bloomberg reported, “China may ban the export of rare-earths refining technology to countries or companies it deems as a threat on state security concerns.” The U.S. is China’s main rival, so yes, that threat matters.
But would China really retaliate against the U.S.? One look no further than the ongoing one-sided trade war between China and Australia. For daring to criticize China over its handling of coronavirus, China has blocked or tariffed the import of a variety of Australian imports. Australian coal ships and their crews and have actually been stranded in Chinese waters for as long as 269 days waiting to unload their cargo.
Keep in mind that while Biden’s goal is for the U.S. to be at net-zero emissions by 2050, China’s goal is to be the lone global superpower by 2049.
Some American companies see this China problem as an opportunity and aim to mine some of the materials, like lithium, in the U.S. But as The New York Times reported last week on its front page, green groups are moving to block them.
Regardless of one’s views on climate and energy, the bottom line is this: No wind, solar or electric vehicle policies or mandates should be enacted until a supply of the necessary raw materials can be secured and made safe from China.