President Biden speaks hard about winning with green energy. However, China is already ahead in one critical area.
When President Joe Biden talks about competition with China, it can sound like he took the microphone with him at an encouraging rally.
“They think they are going to win. Well, I have news for you, they are not going to win this race. We cannot let them,” said Mr Biden during hisin Dearborn, Michigan.
The “race” is the competition for the production of green energy technologies. Global superpowers are trying to dominate the market for critical minerals – the commodities like copper, nickel, lithium, zinc and rare earth elements that are the building blocks of the energy sector of this century. These minerals are used in electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbines, as well as in smartphones, robots, and military devices.
“We have to take over the world market,” Biden told an employee when he toured the Ford factory on Tuesday. However, experts say America is way behind.
According to the European Commission, the United States is the second largest supplier of critical raw materials in the world and supplies 7% of the world market. China, which has access to two-thirds of the world’s critical minerals, is by far the leader at 45%.
China is also a leader in processing these materials, managing the supply chain up to manufacture and down to consumers. Their power is strengthened by bringing African children and political prisoners to work in compliance with poor environmental standards.
Given the economic opportunities presented by the proliferation of green technologies, many nations, particularly the United States, are trying to challenge China. This change could strengthen and diversify supply chains, but tighten geopolitics.
A report by the International Energy Agency earlier this month showed the “looming mismatch between the world’s heightened climate change efforts and the availability of critical minerals,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the agency.
Electric vehicles consume six times the natural resources of traditional cars. An onshore wind turbine requires nine times the mineral input than a gas-powered system of comparable size. The demand for lithium batteries alone could increase 30-fold by 2040. The agency predicts that the need for critical minerals in the energy sector could increase sixfold for the global economy to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
To fill this void, the report states that great powers should work and work together to mine and process critical minerals, not against each other.
“The challenges are not insurmountable,” said Birol. “By acting now and together, you can significantly reduce the risk of price fluctuations and supply disruptions.”
Trying to even out China’s dominance is a major challenge for the Biden government, a point highlighted in a report by the non-partisan energy innovation reform project.
“Energy transition or increased competition alone would be enough to keep US officials and congressmen in multiple administrations. Together, these two challenges will test the United States, even if they offer the opportunity to renew America’s role as an innovator and.” to speed up the economy. ” Grow, strengthen national security, and maintain US international leadership. “
The project’s report advocated working with US allies such as Japan, South Korea, India and the European Union to build more critical supply chains for minerals. Paul Saunders, the group’s president, said the establishment of a multilateral organization similar to the organization of the petroleum exporting countries could raise standards and improve the playing field with China.
While a February ordinance to strengthen the country’s critical minerals supply chain included working with allies, Mr Biden’s public statements have positioned the US and China on opposite corners on energy innovation.
Saunders told CBS News that Mr. Biden’s language was “cautious” and could be a tool to unite policy makers and sell his plans by promoting their pro-American benefits.
“The problem, of course, is that many other people will use these arguments too. And many of them will be less careful about language,” he said. “Competing with China: Yes. Constant crises and conflicts with China: No.”
But the US has long made the future green energy transition “bipolar,” said Sophia Kalantzakos, professor of the environment and public order at New York University, describing Biden’s repeated anti-Chinese sentiment as “counterproductive.”
The American approach to strengthening the critical minerals supply chain has economic ramifications in the US and abroad and geopolitically as the world shifts towards green economies. Kalantzakos said these goals made the nations closer together than ever, making it impossible for the US to completely decouple from China and dominate the critical mineral industry.
An example of this networking is China’s “Belt & Road” initiative, which was launched in 2013 to establish trade relations with almost 70 countries in Eurasia, Africa and South America.
At a White House event last month on the resilience of the domestic semiconductor and battery supply chain, the president said it was “not American” to lag behind on 21st century technologies.
Mr. Biden’s blunt anti-China rhetoric could be a means to correct Congressional support, said Jane Nakano, a senior fellow in the energy security and climate change program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But Nakano said the president’s rhetoric could incriminate US allies.
“Certainly, European economies are quite concerned that these bilateral tensions between Washington and Beijing could really damage their own economies, but also [their] Climate protection plans, “she said.
Ultimately, rhetoric and politics against China can have national security implications. The US can work with allies to build supply chains that rival those of China, but that will take decades. Meanwhile, a disgruntled Chinese government could withhold materials from other countries – as it did in Japan in 2010 – and potentially stall the president’s plans to install green energy technologies across the country.