Biden’s Climate Change Policies Work More in China’s Interest: Ex-NSA Officer

Biden’s Climate Change Policies Work More in China’s Interest: Ex-NSA Officer
Hundreds of climate protesters walk from Times Square to New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s office to demand more action against climate change in New York City on Nov. 13, 2021. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Venus Upadhayaya
Tiffany Meier

The Biden administration’s focus on climate change can be geopolitically hazardous as green policies can shift power into the hands of China, which has monopolized the supply chain of rare minerals required in the production of renewable energy technology, said Steve Yates, former deputy national security adviser at the White House from 2001–05, in an interview with The Epoch Times’ sister media NTD Television on Nov. 10.

“I don’t think they found a sustainable path toward the goal they see. Certainly, it has shifted a lot of power towards China. And China has not proven willing to work with them on this either,” said Yates who’s also a senior fellow at the China Policy Initiative Chair of America First Policy Initiative.

China is the largest investor in renewable energy in the world, domestically and abroad. Five of the world’s six largest solar-module manufacturing companies and the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer are also owned by China, according to a 2017 report from World Resources Institute. China’s Tainqi Lithium is one of the largest manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries, an important component of electric vehicle batteries.

U.S. policy on climate change hasn’t reduced China’s stakes in the renewable energy market and its near monopoly over the supply chain of rare earth minerals considered indispensable for renewable energy technology production. The latter has been considered a foreign policy challenge for the United States because of its own dependence on China’s rare earth supply chain.

Yates said the Biden administration should not make policies that support China’s interest in the renewable energy market and should urgently work to catch up by first using the resources it is endowed within the country.

The U.S. Senate, which remains intensely divided on climate change policies, approved its first international climate change treaty in three decades on Sept. 21 when it approved a 2016 agreement to phase down refrigerant chemicals that are among the worst pollutants.

By doing so, the United States joined other 136 nations and the European Union in approving the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol that promises to cut down on refrigerant chemicals by 80 percent in the next three decades.

The legislation is aimed at jumpstarting U.S. solar manufacturing, however, Cullen S. Hendrix, a senior fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics said in an analysis that the agreement doesn’t secure U.S. solar supply chains from China, which control 70–80 percent of the global production.

“[The bill] would help close the gap in solar module production but would leave the United States dependent on China for critical links in the supply chain. This dependence needs to be addressed. The current situation is a significant source of US strategic vulnerability,” said Hendrix.

The Celukan Bawang 2 power plant in Singaraja on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Oct. 29, 2020. (Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP via Getty Images)
The Celukan Bawang 2 power plant in Singaraja on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Oct. 29, 2020. (Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP via Getty Images)

Economic Destruction

Yates called the administration’s focus on climate change a “problematic proposition” and said it can destroy the American economy even before the climate delivers disasters, because the green policies can increase fuel prices and likely become the cause of massive inflation.

“And that’s hard on households,” said Yates. “So hopefully, they will sober up and come back to work with Americans and more broadly in this hemisphere, to do things ourselves without having to rely on them [China].”

The situation requires that the Biden administration think and act differently, he said.

“Part of it means focusing with renewed vigor on our own hemisphere, there’s a lot that we could be doing with countries like Brazil or other parts of our hemisphere. And other parts of the world,” he said adding that rather than depending on China’s “carnivorous market,” the United States should also support countries in Asia and Africa to work with the other free world nations to undo China’s monopoly.

Ironically, the promises China made on climate change go far beyond the tenure of any Chinese leader as well as beyond the commitment bindings by other nations, according to Yates.

“And so while the United States and Europe might set these bold goals of having a net zero impact by 2030, or 2035, China’s is like 2060. And beyond! So even when they’re making a promise, it’s so far off, that it can’t really be taken seriously,” he said adding that all this while China has continued to be a leading polluter globally.

China generates over 30 percent of all the global emissions, while the United States produces 14 percent as per the 2019 statistics from Climate Trade. China’s carbon output continues to rise every year, and some of its companies put more pollution than entire nations, such as China Petroleum & Chemical which contributed more carbon dioxide in 2020 than Canada, according to a 2021 Bloomberg report.

“And so I think they’ve been pursuing a pattern of strategic decoupling themselves, trying to block against potential sanctions or potential adverse impact from the United States, Europe, and others,” said Yates.

He suggested that the United States should reactivate the development and use of clean nuclear energy within the country and even in its hemisphere with other partners. “There’s small modular reactors that are efficient and more recyclable.”

Yates believes that the administration can collaborate with Elon Musk on things like battery development.

“None of this is perfect. But we have to be realistic about the energy supply necessary to run modern life. That’s not going to be wind and solar. We’re going to have to have some degree of batteries involved to avoid brownouts and blackouts from time to time,” he said adding a potential collaboration among the creative free market is more likely to solve this problem than either a government recommendation in the United States or cooperation bilaterally with China.

Venus Upadhayaya reports on India, China and the Global South. Her traditional area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her other areas of interest.
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