The New Joe Biden – Friend of American Industry?

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In recent months, President Biden has undertaken several measures he claims will encourage domestic drilling, mining, and manufacturing. It’s a big change from 2021 when he offered next to nothing for these sectors. But his new agenda won’t make any difference, since his administration is still strangling these and other job-creating industries with environmental red tape.

Domestic Oil. Within a week of taking office, President Biden halted all new oil leasing on federal lands, and even a June 2021 court order requiring the resumption of such lease sales did not stop the administration from recently cancelling several offshore leases and reconsidering thousands of Trump-era onshore ones. The administration did announce a very limited onshore lease sale in April, but the Biden administration has likely negated even this modest move by ramping up the already-stringent permitting requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Thanks to NEPA and other regulatory roadblocks, it will be a long time before any of Biden’s handful of new oil leases see the light of day.

Minerals Mining.The administration has aggressively pushed electric vehicles (EVs) and wind turbines, but not domestic mining and processing of the minerals needed to make them, including lithium, cobalt, rare earths, copper, nickel, graphite, and manganese. Lately, the president has been talking a good game about enhancing the domestic supply chain for critical minerals, announcing last March that he will use his emergency authority under the Defense Production Act to procure minerals and ramping up federal grants to mining companies.

But handouts do nothing to help proposed new mines navigate the decade-long federal permit approval process, and the above-mentioned NEPA provisions can only make things worse. Indeed, when given the opportunity to actually approve new mines, Biden’s environmental bureaucrats repeatedly choose to reject them. This includes recent actions taken to stop the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, America’s most promising new mine in decades and a potential source of several needed minerals.

Semiconductor Manufacturing.In response to insufficient supplies of semiconductors and growing reliance on imports, President Biden has strongly supported legislation that would throw $52 billion dollars at domestic semiconductor makers. But at the same time, he is pushing for Senate ratification of the Kigali Amendment, a United Nations climate treaty that would restrict supplies of compounds called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) needed to make semiconductors. Biden’s promised increase in domestic semiconductor production could be impeded by rationing of HFCs, and the Kigali Amendment would exacerbate existing Environmental Protection Agency restrictions on them. Worse, the United Nations treats China as a developing nation under the Kigali Amendment and thus extends far more lenient treatment to it, tilting the playing field in favor of semiconductor production there.

In sum, President Biden has announced steps that purport to favor at least some new domestic drilling, mining, and manufacturing, but his administration is still taking away more than he is giving by piling on new regulatory restrictions instead of streamlining or eliminating rules.