National Security

AOC’s Shortsighted ‘Green New Deal’ Undermines America’s Energy and National Security

The Left’s moderate-to-heretic focus on reframing climate change as a national security concern is going nowhere in the New Year. In fact, in the run up to taking charge of the lower chamber, House Democrats are forming a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, something anticipated House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says is “critical to the entire Congress’s mission to respond to the urgency of this threat, while creating the good-paying, green jobs of the future.” In the few blips of media coverage on it over the holidays, much of it was focused on pushback by progressive representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) of New York saying, via a spox, that the panel “sounds about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.” Also about “as useful as a screen door on a submarine,” however, is AOC’s own “green” strategy. In fact, it may be worse than anything Pelosi could pile up to collect dust on President Donald Trump’s desk.

AOC has been the star of a high-profile push for a “green New Deal” mandating a 100 percent national transition to renewable energy within ten years of passage, complete with carbon taxes akin if not worse than those being rioted against by the Yellow Vests in Paris. As far as domestic economics, her plan has also been thoroughly denounced as one that would “destroy our economy,” per the Henry Dearborn Institute for Liberty’s Justin Haskins in a Fox News op-ed. However, beyond domestic economics, AOC’s plan is a myopic national security disaster despite its rather incredulous backing by some 40 U.S. senators.

Before Christmas and congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s distracting “refugee” Christmas tweet,’s Jazz Shaw dared to challenge her warm-and-fuzzy sounding “Green New Deal” platform being hyped in the wake of the United Nations COP24 climate summit in Katowize, Poland:

But the bigger crisis we’re looking at with the Green New Deal has to do with our ability to actually manufacture all the equipment required to generate that kind of energy. A new report from Leiden University in the Netherlands reveals one factor that progressives don’t seem to have considered. Expanding production of solar and wind power facilities is going to require a vastly larger supply of what are known as “rare-earth metals” like neodymium, terbium, dysprosium, and praseodymium.

These so-called “rare-earth metals” are obtained through a process akin to strip-mining; so, not exactly environmentally friendly or “green,” not to mention U.S. supply would have to increase 12-fold by 2050 to make it happen. Though the U.S. has reserves, we currently do no mining. A new mine can take 10-20 years and is expensive. China, the country which does the most of it and has a near monopoly on the supply, is among the worst polluters in the world. Along with China, Brazil and Russia also have more than the U.S. in these metals. (That’s 3 of 5 of the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] economic alliance, for anyone tracking.) The larger point missing from AOC’s pedal-to-the-metal 100-percent energy strategy is that both mining U.S. reserves (good luck getting that past the environmentalist and bureaucratic red tape in a timely fashion) or increasing “trade” in these resources empower countries. Namely, China and Russia have the potential to leverage pricing against us for our future energy supply. Such a plan as that put forward by AOC is replete with reckless disregard of “grand strategy” when it comes to national security.

Setting aside the politics of global warming and climate change, those who bother to take a closer look find that China, like Russia, has an established track record of manipulating supply and demand as a means of price inflation for the materials and resources it controls. Perhaps back in 2014, AOC just missed an insightful article from The Diplomat warning that China’s long-term natural resource strategy regarding minerals, oil and natural gas is to “win without fighting.” The authors warn: “[T]hese long-term planning decisions have created a situation in which much of the world now relies on China for critical natural resources.” (A cursory review of China’s energy efforts in South Africa paints a rather bleak scenario.)

The current situation is that the United States is getting outflanked by China in South Africa, and the worldwide impacts on the coal, minerals and financial markets as well as the environment and society in the post-Apartheid nation will not only be felt but require high-stakes intervention with limited room to maneuver. But there is still time, for now, for a strategic shift. Just as China plays to win the long war, so too must the U.S. The United States must find a way to turn South Africa back towards multilateral diplomacy that does not play into the hands of China’s long-term aspirations to win the global resource long war.

Even climate change critics and politicians playing to their constituents should recognize the dangers of such a long-term strategy, whether the pursued monopoly is on neodymium (essential for hybrid car motors!) or coal. It is also a disservice to constituents for lawmakers to stay within the confines of political tunnel-vision nurtured in turn to a media enterprise determined to play partisan politics and mislabel anything they dislike or disagree with as some modern manifestation of Nazism. AOC’s present political strategy has included targeting Nancy Pelosi on Twitter or camping out in her office (which probably will not help AOC with anything on her agenda once Pelosi again wields the gavel of leadership).

AOC, if she truly wants to pursue “green energy,” needs to do her homework. Then she needs to go back to the drawing table to propose a “deal” that puts America’s long-term strategic interests –and all Americans, by default– in first, second, third order (and so on) in terms of consequences. It does not require abandoning environmental goals wholesale, but it does require a cold shower of geopolitical reality and strategic forecasting. She could start by reviewing progress on Interior Department plans to address America’s rare earth minerals’ supply and demand vulnerability as requested last year by the Trump administration.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Sheena Hutchison

Sheena Hutchison is a political and media analyst with nearly a decade of experience specializing in providing media and policy articulation on domestic and national security issues.

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