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Environmentalists push energy efficiency but block development of mineral resources required for clean energy transition


The issue of the White House blocking several Department of Energy regulations was raised at a recent Congressional hearing, the New York Times reports. The rules in question would require greater energy efficiency for appliances, as well as building and lighting.

Critics argue that in spite of a 1993 executive order requiring the White House to act on proposed regulations within 90 days, the Administration has been dragging its feet on this issue for two years. During the hearing, the President’s nominee to lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs vowed to speed up the agency’s review process times if confirmed.

Yet even as environmentalists call on the Administration to move forward with these energy efficiency regulations, they also work to block mineral resource development projects that would allow U.S. manufacturers to implement these policies.

Herein lies an often-overlooked irony; the renewable energy sources environmentalists prefer rely heavily on critical minerals, the domestic development of which they oppose.

An excerpt from the Department of Energy’s website providing information on the recently created Critical Materials Hub underscores the importance of critical minerals for so-called “clean energy” projects:

“Critical materials, including some rare earth elements that possess unique magnetic, catalytic, and luminescent properties, are key resources needed to manufacture products for the clean energy economy. These materials are so critical to the technologies that enable wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient lighting that The Department’s 2010 and 2011 Critical Materials Strategy reported that supply challenges for five rare earth metals—dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium, and yttrium—could affect clean energy technology deployment in the coming years.”

Copper – currently in the crosshairs of environmentalists in Alaska, is a case in point. Consider that Copper content of a single wind turbine ranges anywhere between three and four and a half tons. As we have outlined in our report entitled “Gateway Metals and the Foundations of American Technology,” Copper is also the source for Selenium, which, along with Gallium and Indium (also derivatives of what we have termed “Gateway Metals”) is a key component for the manufacture of next-gen CIGS solar panels.

The fact of the matter is that we can’t have our cake, and eat it, too. If we want to make the transition to a green-tech and clean energy future, we will continue to rely on critical minerals, and we would be well advised to explore and develop the resources we’re blessed to have beneath our own soil.

The “not in my backyard” crowd may be quick to point to potential environmental damage associated with domestic mining, but they fail to acknowledge that in order to meet domestic manufacturing needs, we otherwise have to rely on foreign imports with all strings attached – and, as we have pointed out, that all too often means less stringent environmental standards or human rights abuses in supplier nations.