by Las Vegas Review-Journal, May 4, 2022
President Joe Biden’s energy policy consists of catering to progressive greens while pretending for voters that he’s doing everything he can to fix the damage he’s caused by catering to progressive greens. His recent executive order on mining represents more of the same incoherence.
A few weeks back, the president signed a measure invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950 to boost domestic production of minerals — lithium, cobalt, nickel — critical to clean-energy technology. Yet it’s anything but clear that the White House actually wants these minerals out of the ground.
Less than three weeks after signing the order, however, the administration revoked a Trump-era regulation intended to eliminate the red tape that delays transportation, energy, mining and other projects. This was done with much fanfare and applauded by liberal environmental groups.
Those same groups, while claiming to support a switch to renewables, regularly oppose energy and mining endeavors necessary to make the transition. For instance, two proposed Nevada lithium mines — which would tap a resource vital to the production of EV batteries — face multi-faceted opposition on environmental grounds.
Mr. Biden’s mining move is ostensibly at odds with that agenda and supposedly intended to ensure that the United States has a steady domestic supply of lithium and other materials that are now produced largely overseas, including in China. “We need to end our long-term reliance on China and other countries for inputs that will power the future,” Mr. Biden said. He added that he will “use every tool I have to make that happen.”
But that’s patently false.
While mining interests applauded the executive order as a step forward, it will have little practical effect. That’s because the primary roadblocks to U.S. mineral production are the kudzu-like regulatory barriers and lawsuits that create lengthy delays and increase costs. Currently, it can take a decade or longer to receive government permission for a new mining operation.
“Unless the president streamlines permitting,” said Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, “we should not expect to see any meaningful increase in American mineral production.”
So Mr. Biden insists he takes seriously the need to reduce foreign dependency for critical minerals while simultaneously embracing environmental orders that will make such a goal more difficult to achieve. Actions speak louder than words. And again, Mr. Biden’s actions reveal that, no matter his rhetoric, he really has no interest in ensuring this nation’s energy and mineral independence.