Biden Spent Billions To Cut China Out of Green Energy Supply Chain. Now His Admin Says That Can’t Happen.

'We are perfectly happy to work with them,' Biden admin economic official says of China

Joe Biden and Chinese president Xi Jinping (Getty Images)
September 25, 2023

The United States cannot cut China out of the green energy supply chain, a top Biden administration official acknowledged Friday, just one month after President Joe Biden said he was "bringing critical supply chains and technologies home."

"This is not about China. We are perfectly happy to work with them on this and right now we purchase many of the minerals from Chinese companies," Biden's under secretary for economic growth and the environment, Jose Fernandez, said during a press briefing. "The broader picture is climate change, and we're not going to solve the climate crisis without the involvement of the PRC."

Fernandez's comments undermine the Biden administration's reasoning behind the Inflation Reduction Act and other climate-focused measures, which allocated more than $8.5 billion to counter China and secure a domestic green energy supply chain. China dominates the production and processing of the minerals required to build electric car batteries, solar panels, and other green technologies, an issue that Biden has pledged to combat through his climate spending.

"For years, China dominated the clean energy supply chains. … Not anymore," Biden said during an August 16 speech touting the Inflation Reduction Act. "We are building it here and sending the product over there. No, I mean it. We're bringing critical supply chains and technologies home for electric vehicle batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, critical minerals."

Fernandez's Friday admission, however, shows that the administration is content to continue working with China in its bid to combat the "climate crisis." Fernandez during his briefing lauded China as the "second-largest economy in the world" and "a major trading partner of the U.S.," adding that the Biden administration will "continue working with them."

The Biden administration has attempted in recent months to reach a new climate agreement with China, which emits more greenhouse gas than the entire developed world combined. Those efforts have thus far failed. In July, for example, Biden administration climate czar John Kerry took a three-day trip to Beijing in an attempt to "break new ground" on the communist nation's climate commitments, an objective he was unable to achieve. Still, Kerry argued that the trip was a success, as he held "long and very detailed meetings" and engaged in "very frank conversations."

While Fernandez on Friday said the Biden administration is "happy to work with" China on climate change, Chinese president Xi Jinping has not extended the same courtesy. During Kerry's visit, Xi—who did not meet with the Biden administration official—said his nation's climate goals "will never be influenced by others."

Kerry later expressed his agreement with Xi's statement and argued that the United States should not make demands of the Chinese.

"We all agree that nobody should be 'dictated to,' and we're not doing that," Kerry said before leaving Beijing.

The White House did not return a request for comment.