Unfortunately for the United States, one of its political parties has become the home of magical thinking about energy. Here’s a hint: It’s not the Republicans.
Despite the Biden administration’s hopes to create a world in which solar panels and wind turbines power an all-electric automobile fleet, just last week, President Biden announced that the administration is considering a 20-year delay of new mining operations in northern Minnesota. These new mines eventually will produce copper, nickel and cobalt, all of which are essential minerals in manufacturing electric vehicles, batteries and transmission lines.
Apparently, no one told Mr. Biden that the administration’s entire energy policy is built on copper, nickel and cobalt. By delaying the mines, Team Biden is making communist China richer and Americans poorer. They are trading our energy independence for reliance on China for minerals, a dependence that may be far greater than any we ever had on the Middle East for oil.
At its worst, we imported less than a quarter of our oil from the Middle East. Right now, China owns or controls about 80% of the rare earth minerals on the planet.
Republican Rep. Pete Stauber from Minnesota was clear. “Rather than promoting the dignity of work, they’re comfortable seeing Minnesota’s union members and skilled workers sidelined. Instead of empowering Minnesotans to develop the minerals necessary for almost every sector of our economy under the strongest labor and environmental standards in the world, they are willing to rely on hostile nations that utilize child slave labor and terrible environmental practices.” He’s right.
There’s more. Just last week, in a spasm of lack of self-awareness, senior officials in the administration asked oil and gas industry executives how best to moderate price increases. That is odd, given that the administration has spent its entire time in office trying to increase the cost of energy, especially oil and natural gas.
If Team Biden really believes what they say about climate change being an existential threat, they should welcome higher prices for oil and natural gas. Of course, higher energy prices are politically and economically toxic, and very few people actually believe that climate change is an existential threat. Heck, Gina McCarthy, the climate change czarina on Team Biden, routinely flies home to Boston on the weekends.
This trouble in comprehending the physics, economics and politics of energy is not limited to the administration. On Thursday, the Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee will hold a hearing at which officials from BP, Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and the Chamber of Commerce will testify.
The House Democrats want to make this hearing all about climate change, which few people other than Democratic donors care about. Multiple surveys across the years have made it clear that approximately no voters are willing to pay anything material to address climate change.
The good news is that the hearing is much more likely to wind up highlighting rising energy prices. Natural gas prices are up 100% in the United States, and oil prices are at their highest point in a decade. Natural gas is up 600% in Europe, partly because natural gas-fired electricity generation was used this summer to cover the underperformance of solar and wind power. Consequently, and unfortunately, there is no doubt that people will die in Europe who would have survived if officials and businesses were focused on providing affordable, reliable energy rather than the shambolic, ideological, pointless “transition” to less reliable and ultimately more expensive energy sources.
By delaying needed mines in Minnesota, by asking for help in reducing higher gas prices that they themselves helped increase, and by having a hearing on climate change as we wander into what is likely to be a brutal winter for energy consumers, the Democrats show themselves to be fundamentally unserious concerning energy.
It’s time to forget magical thinking and focus on reality.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to President Trump and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.