ELECTRIC CARS AND SOLAR CELLS RELY ON CHINESE MINERALS. HERE’S HOW TO CURB THE RISKS.
The Washington Post | Opinion
The Editorial Board
August 25, 2023
The U.S. transition to cleaner energy technology is underway, supported by new incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act. Benefits to the planet could be significant. Yet so could the geopolitical risks to the United States. Moving from fossil fuels to wind and solar power means shifting from reliance on resources the United States produces to reliance on imported ones. And for many of the materials — lithium, nickel, copper, cobalt — the United States’ long-term adversary China is a key producer, processor or both.
To cite one example: China dominates rare earth elements, crucial inputs for green technologies (and defense systems). Last month, Beijing moved to limit exports of two such elements, gallium and germanium, probably as a response to Washington’s blocking of Beijing’s access to advanced technology that the United States and its allies control.
The United States has designated 50 “critical” minerals; it needs a strategy to secure global supply chains in them. The Inflation Reduction Act took an initial step, in the form of domestic content rules for electric cars. Yet the complex law confused consumers and irritated European allies, whose industries feared U.S.-subsidized competition. Washington and Brussels managed to prevent the dispute from undermining their united front against Russia’s war in Ukraine. It was a reminder, however, that, unless pursued in harmony, neither vital clean-energy goals nor vital foreign policy interests can be achieved. A smart policy to limit reliance on China would follow these principles:
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