- - Thursday, January 19, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As a geologist who spent years exploring for hard minerals, I believe we must ask ourselves what would happen if our sources of non-fuel mineral commodities — the necessary ingredients of most manufactured products — were cut off. The best illustration of this dangerous reliance is in the table “2015 U.S. Net Import Reliance,” a table contained in the U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Commodity Summaries 2016. This is a report prepared annually by the USGS. The latest table shows that we currently import 100 percent of 19 important and critical minerals — and for 10 of those, China is a source. (It is important to recognize and accept that the raw materials for everything, from cell phones, to wind turbines, solar panels, guns, ships and ammunition, are ultimately earth-sourced.)

Compounding this dangerous situation, we have made vast areas of prime federal lands off-limits for even basic assessment and exploration. These untested lands may hold unknown quantities of the strategic commodities (both fuel and non-fuel minerals) that will be immediately needed to sustain our economy and security in the event of an international crisis. Since motorized access to these lands is prohibited, even serious evaluation by federal scientists is denied.

This is not to suggest that commercial exploitation should be encouraged, but at a minimum we should be prepared to use all secure, on-shore resources to reduce our vulnerability to hostile players. We should also recognize that imports would be quickly interdicted and lost — probably to submarines or missiles — should the relationship in question fail.

So it is at our peril that we fail to appreciate that all the government money in the world cannot buy us the time we are squandering today by not exploring and evaluating our vast land mass for critical fuel and non-fuel resources. It is not inconceivable that our current Utopian approach to the hard truths contained in FDR’s concept of the “Arsenal of Democracy” will fail, leading to defeat, occupation and the exploitation of the very environment and protected lands we foolishly seek to lock away for our grandchildren’s benefit.

JOHN LUCAS

Vienna, Va.

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