A few weeks back President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney answered a series of questions as part of Science Debate 2012. I noticed one question that touches on topics previously covered here at Wizbang. Question 13 was as follows:
Critical Natural Resources. Supply shortages of natural resources affect economic growth, quality of life, and national security; for example China currently produces 97% of rare earth elements needed for advanced electronics. What steps should the federal government take to ensure the quality and availability of critical natural resources?
Here’s President Obama’s answer:
Rare earth elements and other critical minerals are used by American manufacturers to make high-tech products like the advanced batteries that power everything from hybrid cars to cell phones. My support for the development alternatives to rare earth materials is helping to ensure we have the materials necessary to propel our high-technology economy forward.
Being able to manufacture competitive products in America is too important for us to stand by and do nothing. We’ve got to take control of our energy future, and we can’t let the energy industry take root in other countries because they are allowed to break the rules. That’s why we have joined with Japan and some of our European allies to bring a trade case against China for imposing restrictions on their exports of rare earth materials.
Part of our strategy is also to use the natural resources we have more efficiently, so we are less reliant on other countries in the first place. To achieve that, I have invested in a series of innovative projects to decrease our reliance on rare earth material and unveiled a federal strategy to promote U.S.-based electronics recycling to keep American manufactures competitive. We are also launching a new, multidisciplinary energy innovation research “hub” to advance our leadership in manufacturing products that rely on rare earth materials and other critical materials. The hub — which will bring together scientists, materials specialists, and others – will aim to develop efficiencies and alternatives that reduce the amount of rare earths that we need as well as develop strategies to ensure that we have a reliable supply of rare earths and other critical materials going forward.
You can see background information on the national security implications of our reliance on China for these critical minerals here and about China’s REE (Rare Earth Elements) dominance here.
If you read between the lines of Obama’s answer to the question you will see that he’s not in favor of attacking the problem by tapping America’s abundant REE resources, he’s gunning for top down government action to replace REE’s with some element(s) to be named later. This will involve spending billions of taxpayer dollars like they did with Solyndra and others. Given the cronyism featured in previous Obama “investments,” it seems pretty likely that lots of money will be spent but we won’t be any closer to REE independence.
With Obama’s EPA actively working to pre-emptively shut down new mining projects and close existing coal plants do you really think there’s any chance that he’ll be trying to ensure our independence by harnessing our REE resources? No way.
Obama is delusional to think that pumping money into green energy projects or recycling REE’s is going to be a sustainable substitute for responsible development of our existing energy and mineral resources. He’s already tried that approach and it hasn’t made us any more energy independent and it certainly didn’t create great new jobs or help the economy.
A few weeks back I previewed what to expect from the EPA in a second Obama term. In regards to critical natural resources that we need to high tech products and advanced military systems expect that we will edge ever closer to the day when lack of access to a critical mineral will keep us from deploying a particular weapon or leading a new technology category. It doesn’t have to be that way, but under President Obama we are racing in that direction.