By: Ian Prior
May 13, 2020
Donald Trump said in a recent interview that China wants him to lose his reelection this fall. Considering that President Trump has backed up his tough campaign talk with even tougher actions with respect to China, even the most ardent Trump opponents would have to concede that China would probably prefer a more compliant president in the Oval Office.
The fact is that Mr. Trump fully realizes the geopolitical threat that is the People’s Republic of China. To counter that, he has acted decisively.
For example, he made correcting unfair trade deals a pillar of his campaign and took particular exception to China’s behavior in world economic affairs. As commentator James Schultz said:
“For decades, multiple presidential administrations did little while China flouted the rules and gained an unfair advantage in the international trade market. That changed when President Trump took office, and his consistently tough stance led to a ‘phase one’ trade deal between the United States and China last week. And while it doesn’t solve all of the trade issues between the United States and China, it’s a good start.”
Further, Mr. Trump has been aggressive in leading America’s own energy revolution which certainly complicates China’s attempt to dominate the global energy market. He withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, cancelled the anti-coal Clean Power Plan, opened ANWR, approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, and repealed a record number of inefficient regulations.
The results have been positively staggering. America has surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s top producer of natural gas and oil. It is a net natural gas exporter for the first time since 1957. Meanwhile, we are enjoying its best air quality in the last half century or longer, thanks to natural gas and technological advancements in emissions reduction.
Despite that progress, if Mr. Trump loses reelection to Joe Biden, America’s energy industry would find itself like so many other industries – at the mercy of the People’s Republic of China. Consider that Mr. Biden wants to build 500,000 electric vehicle outlets in 10 years, fully restore the electric vehicle tax credit and put in place emission standards that go far beyond what the Obama administration put in place. Meanwhile, Mr. Biden is opposed to modern natural gas extraction techniques and is committed to solar power as part of a transition to “clean energy.”
Certainly, many voters will find Mr. Biden’s energy plan appealing at face value, but when it comes to energy policy the devil is in the details. In order to generate the power required for renewable energy, rare earth metals are used for the batteries. For example, solar panel batteries require yttrium and europium. Wind power uses neodymium. Electric vehicles rely on neodymium and dysprosium.
Where do we go to get those rare earth metals for renewable energy? China. China is home to 85% of the world’s capacity to turn rare earth metals into industrial use. As a result, China has supplied 80 percent of America’s rare earth metal imports from 2014-17.
In part because of its domination of the rare earth metal supply, as well as generous subsidies from the Chinese government, China accounted for 60 percent of the electric vehicles sold worldwide in 2018 and is working to expand its capabilities by acquiring more rare earth metal mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. To make matters worse, China uses its electric vehicle technology to track drivers.
Therefore, a switch away from American energy sources like natural gas and oil to so-called fully “renewable” technology will put America right back on the dangerous course to depending on fierce geopolitical rivals for our resources. That is not progress, but a step backward.
The United States is in the midst of an energy revolution. The natural gas revolution has brought us closer to full energy independence and we now have access to a clean source of domestic energy that can last us close to a century. However, if we throw that away to try and rush into costly and unreliable renewable technologies, we will trade dependence on Middle East oil for dependence on Chinese rare earth metals and electric vehicle technology.
So, when it comes to energy policy, Donald Trump is right: China doesn’t want to see the continuation of the American energy boom; it wants us to rely on it for a new Chinese-dominated “renewable” energy era in America.
• Ian Prior, spokesman for The Empowerment Alliance, is CEO of Headwaters Media, LLC.