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September 19, 2011

Job Creation Caught in Web of Green Tape

September 19, 2011
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We are an energy rich nation. In fact, America is home to the largest coal deposits in the world. Not to mention, we rank high on the list for oil and natural gas. The United States is also is home to vast amounts of mineral resources. One example of our mineral wealth is the proposed Pebble mine in Alaska, where an estimated 80 billion pounds of copper and 5.6 billion pounds of gold are located. Unfortunately, unelected bureaucrats, a handful of members in Congress, and anti-energy activists want to trap our mineral wealth there forever and sacrifice economic growth.

The story of Pebble mine is complicated, but has a similar theme in the energy debate. It begins with anti-energy activists who lobby the EPA to use the Clean Air Act in an unprecedented fashion. This maneuver by the EPA has the support of Senator Cantwell. In other words, activists have convinced the EPA to study large-scale mining efforts even before the Pebble Partnership has proposed an actual mine. Now, Senator Cantwell has announced the she will support the EPA taking the unprecedented step of trying to preemptively veto the mine before all the permits and evaluations have been considered.

As the Washington Post noted:

“Cantwell is making her request [for EPA to attempt to preemptively veto the mine] as the EPA conducts a scientific analysis of the proposed mine that is expected to be released this fall…If she is successful, she will help thwart a project that could result in the extraction of more than 107 million ounces of gold and 80 billion pounds of copper from a 150-square-mile site, an area as large as the city of Chattanooga, Tenn.”

Given Sen. Cantwell’s affinity for renewable energy, her support for the EPA on this issue comes as a shock, since the minerals in Pebble mine will provide the key elements (namely copper) for electric cars and renewable energy production.

Sen. Cantwell argues that we should reduce our dependence on foreign oil by using electric cars, but she probably does not realize that an electric vehicle requires three times as much copper as a conventional vehicle. This means we need to either mine the rare earth metals and create jobs here or import them from China.

Similar to electric vehicles, wind farms are copper intensive. For example, the Sweetwater Wind Farm in Texas is installing 61 1.5 megawatt General Electric turbines, making it the largest wind project in the world. However, this one project requires 47,500 linear feet of copper cable for the transformers and an additional 30,000 linear feet for transmission lines. Again, we can create jobs at home by developing our own resources or we can import the rare earth metals from abroad.

There are many more examples of how copper and other minerals (especially rare earth minierals) play an integral role in renewable energy development, but these two examples demonstrate that Senator Cantwell backed herself into energy corner. If we can’t mine our natural resources, we can’t produce the renewable energy that she supports legislatively in Congress.

We have the power to grow our economy and the natural resources to develop new technologies, but we need government to end its campaign against energy production and put Americans back to work. This might be too much to ask, but if Congress and state legislatures mandate the use of renewable energy as part of a renewable portfolio standard, at least allow our companies to produce the raw materials and create the jobs that come with energy production.

 

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