Sunday, July 19, 2020

Green Activists Fuel China's Dominance in a Sector Critical to the U.S. Economy and Green Energy

The Wuhan coronavirus pandemic rightly alerted Americans to the fact that the U.S. supply chain for health care is extremely vulnerable to the very country from which pandemic originated. Another critical supply chain is dependent on China as well, and this one is vital not only for the consumer products Americans use every day but also for military tools that keep America safe — and the very “green” technologies climate activists insist everyone must transition to yesterday in order to save the planet. Yet those very same activists don’t want America to displace China as the manufacturer of these key goods — rare earth elements (REE).

According to an unsettling new study on rare earths from Power the Future, “By opposing greater U.S. production and development of REEs, green activists are fueling China’s dominance.”

Rare earths are integral components of more than 200 products, including cellular telephones, computer hard drives, electric and hybrid vehicles, flat-screen monitors, and more. The military uses them for “electronic displays, guidance systems, lasers, and radar and sonar systems.” A wide range of U.S. industries relies on rare earths, including glass, petroleum mining, steel, televisions/LED lights, medicine, and automobiles. Rare earths help reduce carbon emissions and they are necessary for batteries in hybrid electric cars.

Contrary to what the name might suggest, rare earths are actually “relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust.” What makes them “rare” is the fact that “they are not found on their own, but rather as constituent parts of larger minerals, making extraction an expensive endeavor.”

Rare earths are also essential for the green energy industry. The World Bank found that in order to meet the emissions reductions goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the “production of minerals and metals” would need to ramp up, specifically the production of “aluminum, copper, lead, lithium, manganese, nickel, silver, steel, zinc, and rare earth elements (REEs).”

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energy sources “generally require more minerals than fossil fuel-based counterparts.” For instance, “An electric car uses five times as much minerals as a conventional car and an onshore wind plant requires eight times as much minerals as a gas-fired plant of the same capacity. Even in fossil fuel-based technologies, achieving higher efficiency and lower emissions relies on the extensive use of minerals. For example, the most efficient coal-fired power plants require a lot more nickel than the least efficient ones in order to allow for higher combustion temperatures.”

In 2018, Vice noted that in order to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, “global production of several rare earth minerals used in solar panels and wind turbines—especially neodymium, terbium, indium, dysprosium, and praseodymium—must grow twelvefold by 2050.” Production must grow twelvefold.

Tragically, the People’s Republic of China — yes, the country that lied about the pandemic, puts Muslims in detention camps, seized Hong Kong, and restricts its citizens’ religious freedom, among other things — enjoys a stranglehold over the production of these materials that are central to America’s economy and any hope of developing a green energy industry.

In 1992, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping set out to dominate the rare earths industry. As Power the Future explains, “They did this by ‘strategically flooding’ the global REE market and pumping up Chinese state subsidies for favored companies. When these typical Chinese tactics were ‘coupled with lower labor costs and less stringent environmental standards,’ the rest was history, enabling ‘China’s rare-earth rise.'”

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Chinese firms “control more than 85 percent of the costly processing stage of the supply chain and produced more than 70 percent of the world’s rare-earth-metal supply in 2018.” As Foreign Policy magazine explained, “the critical bottleneck for the United States, and especially the defense sector, isn’t access to rare-earth ores…it’s that the rest of the value chain— processing those ores, refining them into metals, and turning that metal into advanced products like permanent magnets—is dominated by China.”

China offered a foretaste of potential aggression with rare earths in 2010. After a Chinese fishing trawler slammed into a Japanese coast guard ship near disputed islands, China reduced REE exports to Japan, forcing the island nation to seek imports from Australia and India. Japan conducted its own research on rare earths, and by 2017, turned to Vietnam, which became the largest source of Japan’s REE imports.

The U.S. was “self-sufficient” in rare earths in the latter half of the twentieth century, and America produced “well over half of the world’s supply” until the 1980s. But China eclipsed the U.S. and the rest of the world. Between 2014 and 2017, the U.S. imported 80 percent of its supply from China.

“China’s rare earth producers, who control the lion’s share of the world’s output of the elements, said they are ready to use their dominance of the industry as a weapon in the country’s year-long trade war with their customers in the United States,” the South China Morning Post reported last year.

So why isn’t the U.S. working to ramp up the production of rare earths stat?

Last year, the Department of Commerce under President Donald Trump released a strategy to promote minerals development in the U.S., including improving access to resources on federal lands, reducing federal permitting timelines, and strengthening “America’s critical minerals supply chains and defense industrial base.”

Yet the Sierra Club attacked this commonsense first-step. The environmentalist group slammed the strategy as “dangerous” because it allegedly “puts mining companies first, before the needs of communities and workers and at the cost of some of our most important landscapes.”

The Sierra Club opposed mining rare earths in the U.S. even though the group’s executive director, Michael Brune, acknowledged last year that mining is “problematic” since much of “the world’s cobalt … currently comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where so-called artisanal (or small-scale) mining is rife with pollution and human rights violations, including child labor.”

As Power the Future put it, “Instead of a practical strategy to weaken China’s dominance, end child labor, and increase environmentally protective mining in the U.S., the Sierra Club has offered only the usual pabulum about the need to protect ‘front-line communities’ from the ‘climate crisis.’ A mining ‘strategy,’ by their lights, ‘must consider the effects on our environment and respect our nation’s most iconic places, and ensure that the clean energy economy doesn’t replicate the problems of the fossil fuel economy.’

Mining is heavily regulated in the U.S., while China’s rare earths mining is largely unregulated, leaving environmental devastation. As YaleEnvironment360 reported, in Jiangxi, “Today, concrete leaching ponds and plastic-lined wastewater pools dot the hills. At one abandoned site, large wastewater ponds sit uncovered and open to the elements. Satellite images show dozens of similar pools dotting the mountains, all just one landslide or barrier failure away from a spill of their contaminated contents into waterways or groundwater.”

Even environmentalist Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) admitted in 2010 that he was “troubled … that the world’s reliance on Chinese rare earth materials, in combination with China’s apparent willingness to use this reliance for leverage in wider international affairs, poses a potential threat to American economic and national security interests.”

Even so, green activists insist that mining for rare earths can be reduced over time, replaced with mineral recycling. However, recycling rates for critical metals are below one percent, with some rare earths not recycled at all.

Last year, the Chinese official Communist Party paper, the People’s Daily, highlighted America’s “uncomfortable” dependence on China for rare earths. “Will rare earths become a counter weapon for China to hit back against the pressure the United States has put on for no reason at all? The answer is no mystery.”

As the People’s Republic of China flexes its muscles around the globe, and green groups in the U.S. oppose rare earths production in America, the Trump administration must prioritize securing the REE supply chain.

Republicans should also challenge Democrats and green activists on this issue. Given China’s horrific record on health, human rights, and trade; given the fact that American mining methods are so much safer; and given that any plan to meet the demands of the Paris Agreement requires a twelvefold increase in REE production, how could anyone possibly oppose ramping up rare earths production in the U.S.? If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wanted to make the Green New Deal more possible, this would be the first step she would take.


California Congressman Ignores Wildlife Science for Environmental Zealotry

Follow the science. That’s the mantra of the likes of U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). Except, that’s not what he’s doing.

The California congressman is cherry-picking studies and carrying the water for disgraced animal rights activists to introduce legislation that punishes the wildlife he claims to safeguard. Rep. Lieu is taking a “Washington knows best” approach to wildlife conservation in his attempt to ban traditional ammunition on National Wildlife Refuges. The only thing he is conserving is a bureaucratic quagmire of Washington, D.C. overreach and denying the role of wildlife biologists to make science-based decisions and set sound wildlife management policy for the regions for which they are responsible.

Congressman Lieu introduced the H.R. 7547, the Lead Endangers Animals Daily (LEAD) Act. The bill is an attempted redux at the failed Director’s Order 219, President Barack Obama’s last-minute attempt to ban the use of traditional ammunition by hunters on federal lands in 2016. Former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe slipped in the regulation literally hours before shutting out the lights, only to have the policy rescinded by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on his very first day.  Director Ashe’s short-lived ban was excoriated by the U.S. House of Representatives for skipping steps and ignoring scientific input.

Congressional oversight found the order was drafted by a single staffer at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Noah Matson, who had previously worked with an environmental activist group. Congress noted then that there was no implementation plan, no impact studies and even U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff normally involved in the process were blindsided.

Now, Rep. Lieu wants to do it again. This time, though, he wants the force of law.

California Dreaming

Rep. Lieu’s legislation aims to ban traditional ammunition on the 95 million acres of land that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages. He points to the California condor model and the plight of the American bald eagle as animals vulnerable to ingesting fragments of lead from animal carcasses. California banned all traditional ammunition for hunting claiming it was necessary to protect the endangered birds but relied upon a flawed, addenda-driven “study” and ignored evidence that they were ingesting lead from other sources. Two condors were observed eating paint chips from a fire lookout tower. Those birds fed the regurgitated lead-based paint chips to their fledgling chicks. Even after traditional ammunition was banned in the condor’s original range, instances of lead levels in condors remained static or actually increased slightly, even through there was over a 98 percent hunter compliance rate. This was information the Obama-era USFWS purposely withheld from the California legislature.

California banned the use of traditional ammunition for hunting in the condor’s range and later expanded it to the entire state. The firearm and ammunition industry warned this was misguided and was really a path to suffocating hunting and wildlife conservation. The state now faces a wildlife conservation funding crisis. Hunting license sales dropped 70 percent from 1970, from 750,000 then to just 225,000 in 2019.

The misguided laws intended to aid wildlife are choking off the funding streams to programs that are sustaining their recovery. By banning traditional ammunition, hunters are being priced out of the market. Alternatives exist, but they are prohibitively expensive for many. This is evidenced by the low one percent market share of metallic non-traditional ammunition.

Punishing Wildlife and Industry

It’s not just the end user. A traditional ammunition ban would punish American workers. It is estimated that 29,700 people could lose their jobs following the implementation of legislation and regulations banning traditional ammunition. This would reduce national GDP by about $4.9 billion and would cost Federal, state and local tax revenues up to $655.1 million and excise tax collections of up to $113.8 million.

It is proven that conservation programs funded by the sale of the firearms and traditional ammunition works. Congressman Lieu invoked bald eagles, but those populations are soaring. The American bald eagle is a conservation success, increasing 724 percent from 1981 to 2006. Over 15,000 nesting pairs fly in the lower 48 contiguous states. They’ve been removed from the Endangered Species and Threatened Species Lists and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service no longer tracks population levels.

That’s largely due to conservation efforts like the $13 billion paid by the firearm and ammunition industry through the Pittman-Robertson Excise Tax. The industry pays a tax on every firearm and every cartridge and shotshell produced, which funds the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. That industry self-imposed tax has been in place since 1937 and is responsible for the abundant wildlife enjoyed in America today, including wild turkey, Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn antelope, waterfowl and the fauna and habitats in which they thrive.

Cheap Seat Accolades

Rep. Lieu has his cheerleaders. First among them is the architect of the first attempt to do this, Dan Ashe. He’s now President and CEO of the Association of Zoo and Aquariums. Ashe has literally used his podium to denounce people-as-the-problem to wildlife conservation and belittled hunters for not accepting his vision of gun control. He told hunters that they stand in the way of his vision of progress by not trusting the biologists that manage wildlife populations. In Ashe’s mind, hunters should roll over to whims of increasingly hostile environmental zealots.

“We are reflexive, defensive, and increasingly angry, at the proportion of the population that just doesn’t get it,” he wrote in a 2018 Mountain Journal op-ed. The inconvenient truth, however, is that the don’t-get-it-crowd is a lot bigger and growing, while we and our island culture are, again, moving in the opposite direction.”

Congressman Lieu’s progressive base should be glad to know he’s got Wayne Pacelle in his corner on this too. Pacelle is now president of Animal Wellness Action, an activist group he founded after his fall from leading Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Pacelle was the CEO there until he was forced to resign after allegations of sexual harassment were reported.

America’s wildlife deserves more. The answers to wildlife management are best left to the biologists on the ground, not politicians in gilded Washington, D.C. offices who enjoy the fawning accolades of discredited and disgraced hacks.


Will the Left Kill America’s Energy Dominance?

If the "liberal" green movement had the political power during earlier periods of our nation's history that it has now, we would not have built the railroads. Also, there would be no interstate highway system, and the electric grid system that powers our country would be disconnected and shattered.

What else can one conclude when a significant and vital energy pipeline, the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline from West Virginia into the southern states, has been canceled because of environmental activist opposition? Another pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, has been suspended by a federal judge's order in recent days. Even the urgently needed Keystone XL Pipeline, which will transport natural gas and oil from energy-rich areas in Canada and the Dakotas down to Houston for export and delivery across the country, faces a court-ordered injunction. These actions are all said to be in the name of wetlands preservation, Endangered Species Act issues and other environmental protections.

It isn't safeguarding the safety of our nation. It is sabotaging it.

Pipelines are the most environmentally safe way to transport America's oil and gas resources across the country. They are vital infrastructures that enable America to be the world's energy superpower and make us no longer reliant on Saudi Arabia, Russia and other hostile OPEC countries. The alternative to pipelines is trucks and rail cars, which crash, derail and explode.

The crusade to stop pipelines has nothing to do with clean air or clean water. Natural gas is a wonder fuel. It is cheap, abundant, made in America and clean-burning. The fracking revolution that gave us low-cost natural gas has done more to reduce carbon emissions in the United States than all environmental groups since the beginning of time. It is an environmental blessing.

Let's be honest about what is going on here: The left hates fossil fuels and uses any tactic it can to stop energy development. They want to force America to use "renewable" wind and solar power, both of which are unreliable as stand-alone energy sources. They are also multiple times more expensive ways to generate power. More expensive energy makes everything else America produces more costly and less competitive in global markets.

Liberals say they care about working-class people, but between 5 million and 10 million jobs would be lost without U.S. access to abundant oil, gas and coal resources, according to the American Petroleum Institute. These are mostly union jobs and would be put at risk. At least 1.5 million would be put at risk in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other Midwestern states if the Marcellus Shale "shale revolution" were to end. But when the greens are pitted against the blues (blue-collar workers), the Democrats choose their precious environmental friends. This year, Joe Biden admitted that he is willing to lose thousands of oil and gas jobs to "go green." So much for "Lunch Bucket Joe."

The absurdity of the pipeline bans is that we don't have a cheap way to transport oil and gas from Ohio and middle Pennsylvania to significant urban Northeastern areas such as New York, Boston and the rest of New England. Without a pipeline, these cities may have to continue to import natural gas from Vladimir Putin in Russia. How is that in America's interest?

Free market advocates want to continue to drill here in the U.S., where we have at least 200 years of extractable energy resources, provide low-cost energy to families and businesses, and save millions of high-paying, middle-class jobs. The greens want to shut it all down. Stopping pipelines is the first step toward choking off production and surrendering economic and energy power to our enemies.


Australia: Call for used car imports to boost EV sales

There should be plenty of secondhand electric cars to buy.  When people in cold climates such as Canada discover how useless such cars are in their long Winters, many would wish to cut their losses

Australia should pump-prime sales of electric vehicles by grey importing used EVs, according to a new report prepared with funding from the federal government’s renewable energy agency, ARENA.

Compiled by the EV lobby group Evenergi, the report is part of ARENA’s ‘Knowledge Bank’ series.

It says an opportunity exists for the import of used electrified passenger vehicles into Australia from fellow right-hand drive markets Japan and the UK, where EVs have sold in volume for some years.

It cites the Nissan LEAF and Renault ZOE battery electric vehicles and Toyota Prius and Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrids as candidates for local sale as grey imports.

“The establishment of a viable market for the importation of used electric vehicles represents a significant business opportunity, and is one of the most important ways that the adoption of electric vehicles can be accelerated in Australia,” the report stated

“In the absence of significant legislative and regulatory change in the short term, there is a clear opportunity over the next two-three years to create an opportunity for a ‘player’ to enter the Australian market at scale to establish themselves in the long term value chain.”

Not including Tesla, which doesn’t report to VFACTS, sales of plug-in vehicles (EVs and PHEVs) are up more than 18 per cent in a dramatically reduced Australian auto market in 2020. However, those 1516 sales to the end of June are still only a tiny 0.34 per cent share of the total.

A key impediment to growth is the price of new EVs, which start at best just under $50,000 in Australia and are usually much higher in price. A flow of used EVs would offer potential buyers a cheaper option.

Unsurprisingly, the concept of an EV grey market is not being received with much enthusiasm within the Australian automotive distribution and retailing network, which fought off a push to deregulate personal vehicle importation in 2017.

“We hope that report remains just that and simply gets presented to ARENA and that’s it,” said Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) chief executive James Voortman.

The report used motoring body NRMA as an example of an organisation well positioned to become an EV importer.

“It has the complementary products required to fully articulate the revenue opportunities, and to lend the credibility needed to ensure the initiative is a success.

“Alternatively aggressive and well capitalised start-ups or existing importing incumbents could capitalise on the opportunity.”

The business model the report advocates is for the import of a small number of EVs for test driving, while vehicles are purchased sight unseen overseas and then imported for delivery.

The local sales company would provide warranties and post-sales support, the report explains.

“The supply and diversity of electric vehicles is growing globally and as such a reliable and cost-effective supply can be established. With a strong brand and streamlined process, initial estimates are that a business with strong margins can be established and scaled quickly with little capital,” the report says.

“Work by Evenergi and NRMA has demonstrated that there is significant and growing demand from a range of buyers for electric vehicles that cannot be satisfied by the current electric vehicle supply – primarily due to price or availability.”

The report recommends using the updated Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicles Scheme (SEVS) as the conduit for the import of EVs.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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