We recognize that politicians occasionally shade the truth and engage in hyperbole. And a few too many are willing to engage in a bit of demagoguery at times. We all learn to take that with a grain of salt. Yet the almost daily dump of nonsense that emanates from the office of Eighth District Congressman Pete Stauber is disturbing, in large part because it demonstrates the congressman’s toxic, partisan approach to almost every issue.
The latest example was Stauber’s response to the Biden administration’s efforts to increase domestic production of critical minerals and metals as a way to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign sources of minerals. Within days of taking office last year, President Biden signed an executive order requiring a review of vulnerabilities in the U.S. supply chain, particularly for critical minerals. Last June, the administration released an analysis that found an over-reliance on foreign sources, including adversaries like China and Russia, in some cases, and the administration has now developed a plan to address the issue.
It’s a multi-faceted approach that includes invoking the Defense Production Act, which will give the administration more tools, including federal funding, to help companies engaged in the mining, processing, and recycling of critical materials, like lithium, nickel, and cobalt.
To hear Stauber tell it, of course, “There has not been a single policy put forward by Biden, including his [recent] announcement, that will bring back domestic oil and mineral production.”
That’s the definition of political nonsense, and it fails to acknowledge that it was Stauber, among other Republicans, who opposed investments in job-creating industries that could help to ramp up domestic mineral production. The Biden administration, for example, recently announced a $140 million Department of Energy demonstration project to recover rare earth elements and critical minerals from coal ash and other mine waste, potentially creating a whole new industry that could create thousands of new jobs while weaning the U.S. off our dependency on China for rare earths. The DOE will also invest $3 billion in new technology to refine battery materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite, and to improve battery recycling capabilities.
These new investments were funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, a measure that Stauber voted against, even as he shamelessly tries to take credit for every dollar the new law sends to the Eighth District.
That same law invests tens of billions of dollars to advance our transition to clean energy, which will create tens of thousands of new jobs, address climate change, and help to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, regardless of where they are produced. While those are long-term solutions, the administration is addressing short term supply concerns by releasing oil from the U.S. strategic reserve and pressing our allies to do the same from their own reserves. That will not only help reduce prices at the pump (indeed, they’re already dropping), but will take money out of the Kremlin’s coffers as it pushes down the price of oil globally. In other words, the administration has put forward a comprehensive plan intended to actually do something about the problem in both the short and long-term. Not surprisingly, Stauber is opposed to all of it.
It’s always easy to take potshots. What you don’t hear from Stauber are any actual solutions. The Keystone XL pipeline, a frequent GOP talking point, wouldn’t have produced a single drop of oil in its entire lifetime, and it was designed primarily to ship Canadian crude, not U.S. supplies. And the Twin Metals copper-nickel mine, which Stauber has backed despite its well-established risks to the Boundary Waters, would have, at best, produced a drop in the proverbial bucket in terms of America’s need for strategic metals And there was no guarantee any of it would have been used domestically since the refining was expected to be done overseas, where it would simply have become part of the same global supply chain we’re currently worried about. What’s more, a Harvard economic study suggested the mine would actually lead to less economic growth, and greater dependence on unsustainable industries, in the Ely area than without it. And that didn’t even consider the devastating impact to the local economy in the event of a major toxic leak. That’s why the U.S. Forest Service opposes the project. It’s high risk with little to no ability to mitigate the damage such a mine could well cause. Even the Trump administration moved to block mining near Yellowstone for some of the very same reasons as with Twin Metals’ project. If Stauber doesn’t believe the science that convinced the U.S. Forest Service, where’s his science showing otherwise?
Rather than serving up demagoguery and pot shots seven days a week, Stauber should start doing the hard job of actually bringing some solutions to the Eighth District. And, by that, we don’t mean photo ops with every Eighth District funding initiative he voted against.
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