By Danielle Butcher Franz
While referring specifically to the semiconductor industry, his comments apply well beyond.
A few short years ago, amid a global pandemic, Americans were shocked to learn the extent of China’s role as a global supplier of medical products, including personal protective equipment and antibiotics.
For many, the realization served as a sobering reminder of the risk we take in outsourcing critical production and manufacturing to adversarial nations. This was true at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, just as it is true now as we work to address climate change.
As the world pursues an energy transition, competing nations must increase their efforts to dominate clean energy markets and win economic favor. China and its leaders in the Chinese Communist Party have taken this sentiment to heart. Not only does China supply 90 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals, they also produce most of the world’s solar panels and wind turbines. If the U.S. is competing in a clean energy arms race, we’re sorely losing, largely because our supply chains begin with nefarious actors such as the CCP.
Still, many environmentalists pushing to accelerate our clean energy transition oppose new mining projects and permitting reform here in the United States. When Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia negotiated a permitting deal late last year, over 160 social justice and conservation organizations signed a letter condemning the mining provisions.
The hesitation to embrace domestic mining does not negate its’ necessity. In fact, despite concerns from environmental progressives, the United States continues to reap the rewards of mining – we simply import, rather than produce, the rare earth minerals needed to create clean technologies. To some, it seems, so long as mining is out of sight, it’s out of mind – the emissions don’t count. Unfortunately for them and the planet, that’s not true.
Exporting our emissions and environmental degradation is not a sustainable climate strategy. Mining is a serious business with a severe environmental impact, but it is an essential part of developing and advancing clean energy technologies. In a perfect world, we could have clean energy with no trade-offs. But we do not live in a perfect world, and we must make the best choices we can for our environment, energy needs, and economic prosperity.
Encouragingly, the United States has decoupled GDP growth and greenhouse gas emissions, meaning that we can continue to grow our economy while reducing emissions. Conversely, China has done no such thing. CCP climate targets explicitly state that the country will continue to increase its emissions until 2030. As long as we depend on China – or countries where the CCP wields influence – for our clean energy supply chains, we fail geopolitically and environmentally.
We must continue to unlock American resources responsibly, with attention to environmental protection. Right under our feet, we have incredible reserves of rare earth minerals required for solar panels and electric vehicle batteries. Allowing mining projects here at home doesn’t mean the process is worse for the environment.
As the president said in his address, there’s a lot at stake in securing American supply chains and ensuring they begin in America. This is a rare area in which those from across the ideological spectrum – Democrats like Mr. Biden to America-First conservatives – can agree. American energy should be made – start to finish – in America.
Danielle Butcher Franz is the executive vice president of the American Conservation Coalition (ACC). Follow her on Twitter @DaniSButcher
Originally Published by RealClearEnergy. Republished with permission.
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