President Joe Biden's interior secretary acknowledged that a transition to electric vehicles increases America's reliance on China, an admission that comes as the administration kills domestic mines that would produce the materials required to make those vehicles.
During a Tuesday House Appropriations Committee hearing, Pennsylvania Republican congressman Guy Reschenthaler grilled Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on China's dominance of the green energy supply chain. The communist nation, Reschenthaler noted, controls the majority of the world's "rare earth elements," which are needed to produce electric vehicle batteries and other crucial components. "By deductive reasoning, that would mean that electric vehicles and renewables deepen our reliance on China, correct?" the Republican asked. "Yes, OK," Haaland responded.
As a Biden cabinet official, Haaland has moved to curb U.S. mining projects that would ease China's grip on electric vehicle minerals. In January, for example, Haaland issued a 20-year mining ban in a Minnesota area that holds 95 percent of the nation's nickel reserves and 88 percent of its cobalt, both of which are key parts of the green energy supply chain. That decision, Republicans said, kneecapped America's ability to compete with China on strategic minerals, something Biden has long promised to achieve.
"If Democrats were serious about developing renewable energy sources and breaking China's stranglehold on the global market, they would be flinging open the doors to responsible mineral development here in the U.S.," Arkansas Republican congressman Bruce Westerman, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, said after the administration announced the ban. "While Democrats play political ping-pong with American industries, China and Russia are laughing straight to the bank."
Asked if Haaland stands by her agreement that electric vehicles increase America's dependence on China, Interior Department communications director Melissa Schwartz denied that Haaland did so in the first place. "That is not what she said," Schwartz told the Washington Free Beacon. "She acknowledged what members were saying to her as a polite gesture."
Biden in December 2020 announced his intention to tap Haaland to run the Interior Department, calling her a "barrier-breaking public servant" who will be "ready on day one to protect our environment and fight for a clean energy future." Prior to her stint in the Biden administration, Haaland served as a Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico, a job that saw her repeatedly call to ban oil fracking and drilling on public lands. In a November 2018 tweet, meanwhile, Haaland expressed her "100 percent support" for the Green New Deal due to her status "as a Native American woman who's [sic] ancestral homeland is under attack from the fossil fuel industry." Years later, new oil leasing under Biden and Haaland has slowed to its lowest level since World War II.
Update 5:06 p.m.: This piece has been updated with additional comment from the Interior Department.