HomeEnvironment & Climate NewsNational Security Train Wreck: America's Dependency on Rare Earth Minerals and China
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National Security Train Wreck: America’s Dependency on Rare Earth Minerals and China

By Steven Bucci

The U.S. is currently heading for a major national security train wreck.

Bewildering environmental policies, energy plans detached from reality, and an incomprehensible practice of trusting China to provide critical components for both civilian and military technologies is an unsustainable trajectory.

The administration has rejected fossil fuels, driving us commercially and across the defense industry toward electric vehicles. The problem is, China has a near-monopoly on the mining and refinement of rare earth minerals (such as lithium and cobalt) that are used in EV batteries. China also monopolizes the production of those same batteries.

In short, America is being forced to tie its future to EVs while having no capability to provide key elements of the system. Adding to the dilemma is that China is “allowed” to do all the “yucky stuff” we won’t do, or don’t want to do. The rub here is that China is not a client we can order about. It isn’t even our friend.

Today, China is taking advantage of current geopolitics to further entrench itself as the leading global producer of rare earth minerals. Critical minerals are already in short supply and heavily controlled by foreign powers. China dominates the global marketplace for rare earth metals through its control of both the production and processing. China produces three-quarters of all lithium-ion batteries in the world, with a single Chinese manufacturer, CATL, controlling 30% of the global EV battery market.

China also refines 80% of the world’s cobalt and 60% of the world’s lithium, two critical minerals key for electric vehicles. Meanwhile, the United States refines 0% of the world’s cobalt.

As the White House report on “Building Resilient Supply Chains, Revitalizing American Manufacturing and Fostering Broad-Based Growth” (June 2021) acknowledged, by “operating well outside globally accepted practices,” China has been able to “develop battery-critical materials infrastructure well ahead of market drivers.”

China doesn’t care a wit for the environment. The mess it has at home and its drive for control of these elements prove it.

The Biden administration knows of this problem, acknowledging critical minerals as an important issue to address in one of President Joe Biden’s earliest executive orders. That order specifically identified the need for the United States to have “resilient, diverse, and secure supply chains to ensure our economic prosperity and national security.”

Unfortunately, the opposite has occurred.

That same executive order led to a 100-day review report that specifically identified how important a reliable supply chain is for U.S. national security. The importance of lithium-ion batteries to military equipment and the need for rare earth metals used in airplanes and defense equipment was highlighted.

The report also acknowledged that changes in future military advancements will require “high-density energy storage to support agile forces utilizing power-hungry propulsion, communications, sensors, and weapons.”

Read the rest at The Daily Signal, here.

Steven P. Bucci, who served America for three decades as an Army Special Forces officer and top Pentagon official, is a visiting research fellow at The Heritage FoundationRead his research.

Originally published by The Daily Signal. Republished with permission.

For more on critical mineral resources, click here, and here.

 

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Steven Bucci
Steven Bucci
Steven P. Bucci, who served America for three decades as an Army Special Forces officer and top Pentagon official, is a visiting research fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

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