ICYMI: Are Critical Minerals the Next Semiconductors?

Fighter jets like the ones I flew in Syria as an Air Force pilot, electric vehicles (EVs), and wind turbines all have one thing in common—they need critical minerals to function. These critical minerals, like semiconductors, are a prerequisite in the production of a range of products. If the access to critical minerals in raw or processed form was cut off, not only would large parts of the economy quickly grind to a halt, but our national security apparatus would be at risk. No longer would the United States be able to produce new airplanes, satellite communication systems, and other key materiel in the case of a conflict.

Instead of building the energy infrastructure we need here in America to secure our energy supply chains, the Biden Administration prefers to buy oil, gas, and critical minerals from dictatorships while hamstringing domestic energy companies creating a massive national security risk.

Astonishingly, the U.S. is highly reliant on dictatorships for most critical mineral imports. China has a stranglehold on the processed rare earth market and controls at least 80% of the market for rare earths imports to the U.S. This is especially concerning given the willingness of China to use critical minerals as a method of accomplishing their policy objectives—from cutting off Japan from Chinese critical mineral exports to using critical minerals as leverage during the Trump administration's trade negotiations

For decades, Democrats have bowed to green interest groups while demonizing American energy producers. The cult-like efforts by the left to halt the production of traditional energy production has created an impossible situation for American energy companies. Coupled with Russia’s war on Ukraine, Americans are suffering under some of the highest energy prices ever.

Instead of correcting his anti-American energy policies, President Biden is blaming energy producers for high prices and telling Americans to purchase expensive electric vehicles (made with Chinese-sourced minerals). American companies could mine for and process additional copper, lithium and rare earth minerals domestically, but the mine permitting process takes on average seven yearsto navigate due to overburdensome regulation and mineral processing procedures are similarly onerous. These processes require tremendous upfront legal costs and investment without assurances that companies will be allowed to mine or process minerals. If this is eerily reminiscent of the current crisis affecting Americans at the pumps with American energy producers blamed for this administration’s failed policies, it’s because it has happened for essentially the same reasons—this administration pretends they believe in a so called “green economy” but won’t acknowledge that the same infrastructure needed to power their new “clean” future requires massive amounts of minerals and instead of mining and processing domestically, they prefer to buy from abroad and pretend that solar panels and electric vehicles appear magically out of thin air.

It is a simple fact that if America wants to minimize emissions and fight inflation without  kowtowing to dictatorships like those in Russia or Venezuela or countries committing genocide like in China, we will have to not only mine and process critical minerals here in America, but will need to invest in oil and gas pipeline infrastructure and reform the permitting process for new wells to ensure that Americans have access to clean, cheap, and plentiful natural gas.

America is blessed with abundant natural resources. Failure to invest in energy infrastructure here in America means ceding control over not only America’s supply chain for products that require critical minerals, but also giving foreign adversaries leverage over America by letting them turn on or off the spigot of energy imports. We could be producing the energy we need here at home in a way that is cleaner, free of forced and child labor, all while creating more jobs here in America.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also shown just how brittle American supply chains can be, especially in industries dominated by foreign suppliers (or American companies producing overseas). Shortages of semiconductors in particular have led to slowdowns or total shutdowns of production at factories across industries, causing billions of dollars in economic losses and panic in military circles, which prompted a rapid policy response from the Biden administration. To prevent a similar situation from happening in the critical mineral sector, the United States needs to engage in aggressive action immediately. Thankfully, my colleagues in the Republican party including Senator Cotton, Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Representative Stauber have been relentless in advocating for permitting and other reforms that would help to break China’s stranglehold on critical mineral supply chains.

However, despite the increased attention given to the issue including the President’s recent invocation of the Defense Production Act and releasing more oil from the strategic reserve, solutions proposed by the administration to strengthen the American critical mineral supply chain are too little too late given the extremely high dependency the U.S. has on China. I call on the administration to immediately work to reform the permitting process in the United States for all energy sectors to ensure that Americans have access to energy products at reasonable prices and do not help to prop up dictatorships abroad.

Energy security is national security, and it’s time that this administration started acting like it. I will continue introducing legislation to address the issue and demanding that the Biden administration change its failed energy policies to stop punishing everyday Americans with high energy prices and putting our national security at risk.


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