His war on fossil fuels fosters US oil sales to China and US complicity in child and slave labor
Presidential candidate Joe Biden promised to reunite America following its “season of darkness” under President Trump, and “shut down the virus, not the economy.” That hasn’t worked out as planned.
His promise that there’ll be “no more drilling, no more pipelines, no more fossil fuels” has been far more successful. Within hours of taking office, President Biden ended Keystone XL pipeline construction and began imposing leasing and drilling moratoriums, slow-walking permits, pressuring banks not to fund oil companies, and taking other steps to turn his promises into policies.
Unfortunately, with a little assistance from Putin’s savagery in Ukraine, Mr. Biden’s war on fossil fuels brought a host of political problems.
Gasoline and diesel prices more than doubled since November 2020; they reached $9.50 per gallon in parts of California before falling slightly. Mr. Biden’s approval plummeted, as food prices and inflation soared, and farmers, families, commuters and truckers voiced outrage.
But because allowing more drilling would anger climate cultists obsessed with the catechism of climate cataclysm, Mr. Biden asked Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Iran to increase their oil production, so that he could keep America’s resources locked up.
He also released 125,000,000 barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve’s emergency stockpiles – and on July 26 said he’d release 20,000,000 additional barrels. The administration claims this will “help lower energy costs,” “reduce the pain Americans are feeling at the pump,” and combat the “Putin price hike.” Perhaps minimally.
Worse, Team Biden sent some 5,000,000 barrels of this oil overseas. Still worse, it sold 950,000 barrels to the China Petrochemical Corporation. That’s China as in Chinese Communist Party – not Taiwan. The same Chinese government that is buying up thousands of acres of U.S. land, much of it near sensitive military installations.
The optics are not good. And for an administration (and Democrat Party) focused on “racial justice” and America’s terrible legacy of slavery, public perceptions and outrage will only get worse, as the realities of the “green energy transition” become clear.
First, this energy is not clean, green, renewable or sustainable. The sheer numbers of wind turbines, solar panels, and vehicle and backup batteries defy imagination.
President Biden intends to eradicate coal and natural gas for generating electricity (by 2035), and then gasoline and diesel for powering vehicles, natural gas for smelting and manufacturing, and natural gas for heating, cooking and water heating in homes, hospitals, schools and businesses (by 2050).
This would send America’s annual electricity requirement to almost 7.5 billion megawatt-hours per year by 2050: nearly three times the fossil fuel portion of today’s U.S. electricity generation. It would require tens of thousands of wind turbines, billions of solar panels, and billions of half-ton battery modules (to back up this expensive, unreliable, unpredictable, weather-dependent energy) sprawling across America. Electricity demands would be lower, if the government compels us to lower our living standards.
Oil and natural gas are also feed stocks for paints, plastics, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers and numerous other products. How does Team Biden plan to replace them?
President Biden’s proposal for 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind power alone would require 2,500 enormous 800-foot-tall 12-megawatt turbines. Even if they operated at full capacity 24/7, they wouldn’t meet peak summertime electricity needs for New York State, much less the entire USA.
But the turbines would require millions of tons of raw materials from hundreds of new mines – for steel, aluminum, copper, nickel, rare earth elements, fiberglass, concrete and others, whose extraction, processing and refining are energy- and land-intensive and highly polluting.
Billions of solar panels would require massive amounts of polysilicon and other materials, from hundreds more mines. Billions of battery modules would require prodigious quantities of cobalt, nickel, lithium, rare earths, copper and other metals. More transformers and transmission lines – still more materials, from still more mines.
Second, American environmentalists and climate campaigners steadfastly oppose these activities anywhere in the USA. The supply chains for most of these materials run through China – which controls most of the mining (in Mongolia, Africa, South America and elsewhere), processing (in China and Mongolia) and manufacturing (in China).
China and the Chinese Communist Party achieve this because they have acquired mining properties all over the world; have huge coal-fired power plants to generate cheap electricity; pay little attention to air and water pollution, mined land reclamation or workplace safety standards required in Western countries; and utilize dirt-cheap, slave and child labor, most notably in Africa and Uyghur territories.
Some 40,000 children already labor with their parents in Democratic Republic of Congo cobalt mines, for a few dollars a day, under threats of cave-ins, and with constant exposure to toxic air, mud, dust and water – just to meet today’s cobalt needs for manufacturing batteries. Those needs would skyrocket under a U.S. Green New Deal, and vastly more under an international “energy transition.”
The cobalt ore is processed in China, under equally abominable safety and pollution conditions. Air and water pollution and an enormous toxic waste dump for effluents from processing rare earths in Inner Mongolia have created serious health issues for plant workers and local residents.
China also uses Uyghur slave labor to manufacture solar panels it sells to the United States. And Mr. Biden wants to suspend tariffs on Chinese solar panels, to make importing them even easier and cheaper.
Over the past decade, the United States significantly reduced its (plant-fertilizing) carbon dioxide emissions, largely by replacing coal-fired electricity generation with natural gas.
Meanwhile, in 2020 alone, China put 38,000 megawatts of new coal-fired power plants into operation. It relies on coal for 60% of its electricity and expects to mine 300 million more tons of coal in 2022 than in 2021. Beijing is also building, planning or financing more than 300 coal plants in Turkey, Vietnam, Indonesia, African countries and elsewhere, to raise their people out of poverty. India too burns millions of tons of coal annually. They do not plan to end fossil fuel use for decades to come.
The United States could go fossil-fuel-free, and it wouldn’t affect global greenhouse gas levels one iota.
But America could easily go from being a net oil and gas exporter two years ago, to being almost totally dependent on often unfriendly foreign sources for the materials required for its “renewable” energy, economy, manufacturing, living standards, communication, transportation – and national defense. Energy, food and consumer prices would climb even higher, hammering minority and other poor families.
Moreover, every increase in “green” energy makes the United States more reliant on China which, like Russia, increasingly wields its energy, mineral and economic power as a weapon, to keep its client countries in line, dependent and subservient. Every increase makes us more complicit in slavery, eco-colonialism, environmental degradation and climate injustice.
This Land of the Free must change course. As America reflects on its past, seeks “a more perfect Union,” reassesses the Separation of Powers, and endeavors to be a world leader in environmental protection and human rights, it must chart a future based on reality and true justice for all people.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books, reports and articles on energy, environmental, climate and human rights issues.