Ned Mamula and Stephen Moore
Energy, minerals, and metals are indispensable for our American standard of living. But unlike the case with energy, the U.S. is chronically import-reliant on other nations for the minerals and metals that are needed for our country’s economy, infrastructure, and military. Mineral imports have steadily increased for at least the past two decades because draconian permitting requirements and environmental opposition have made it hard to supply those needs from sources within the U.S. Now there is not enough domestic mining to meet robust manufacturing demand.
However, the real problem is that more and more mineral imports are coming from China, Russia, and third-world dictatorships. The nation’s vulnerability to a mineral embargo has become sufficiently serious that President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) on December 20, 2017, to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals for the nation.
For the first time, a presidential EO puts forth an official government definition of what a “critical mineral” is, along with its role in the economy: “a non-fuel mineral material essential to the economic and national security of the U.S.; the supply chain of which is vulnerable to disruption; and that serves an essential function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for our economy or our national security.”
This new definition enables federal agencies and others to focus on how serious the issue of critical mineral imports has become from an economic, geological, technological, and manufacturing standpoint.
Domestic mining could supply most of our mineral needs, if only environmentalists would allow it.
In response to the president’s EO, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) last week published a list of 35 “critical minerals” that are important for American economic health and military readiness. The draft list includes aluminum, platinum, rare-earth elements, tin, titanium, and over two dozen other critical minerals and metals. These are the minerals that will be required to sustain our standard of living and begin rebuilding the American infrastructure, as proposed by the president.
According to the USGS, as of 2017, the U.S. is importing an alarming 64 minerals and metals in quantities above 25 percent. Of those 64, approximately 35 are imported in various quantities from China, and 10 from Russia. Put another way, we are importing approximately two-thirds of these 64 key minerals from adversaries.
Worse, the U.S. is 100 percent dependent on imports for 21 minerals and metals now listed as “critical minerals” by the USGS, with more than half of those imported from China. If the 15 rare earths were counted as individual metals, the number of minerals and metals imported at 100 percent would jump from 21 to 35.
The problem is definitely not a shortage of domestic mineral sources. In fact, the U.S. is well endowed with mineral resources, according to numerous reports by the USGS. The nation was much more mineral self-sufficient in the 1990s, when it led the world in mining output. Since then, however, the U.S. has lost much of its capacity to mine, refine, smelt, or process critical minerals and metals because of a broad anti-mining agenda among many of the more militant environmental groups.
Ironically and unfortunately, “greens” oppose many mineral-resource policies that would actually facilitate environmentally beneficial outcomes, such as renewable energy. For example, the average wind turbine requires over three and a half tons of copper to generate and transmit electricity. The typical thin-film solar panel requires rare metals, such as indium and tellurium, to convert the sun’s rays to electricity. Most hybrid gas-electric vehicles use magnets that include quantities of the rare-earth metals dysprosium and neodymium, while electric vehicles need reliable supplies of lithium, cobalt, nickel, and rare-earth elements to produce smaller, lighter, and more powerful batteries.
The rising price of these metals due to restricted supplies by exporters could mean higher prices for Teslas and Volts, inducing cost-conscious American consumers to feel more comfortable behind the wheel of cheaper gasoline-powered autos. A further irony is that China is steadily racing ahead of the U.S. on green-energy technology — while at the same time Beijing is rapidly building dozens of coal-fired plants across the country to power its industrial and manufacturing base.
Despite these trends, environmental groups continue to impede “green progress” in their unyielding stand against mining for metals and rare-earth minerals that are widely distributed in the mountain states of the American West and Alaska. This de facto moratorium on mining has perpetuated our very unhealthy dependence on China, Russia, and several dictatorships. For example, surging battery demand for electronics and electric vehicles may lead to sudden and unexpected shortages of cobalt, lithium, and copper.
Many if not most of these mineral-import vulnerabilities are avoidable. The U.S. sits on a vast treasure of mineral resources and reserves that are probably more extensive than those of China and Russia combined. The National Mining Association estimates there is in excess of $6 trillion worth of minerals and metals beneath our feet.
Based on USGS reporting, the amount of minerals just on federal lands — America’s mineral endowment, owned by the people — is beyond our imagination. Numbers cannot be assigned to our mineral wealth yet because geologic mapping of these lands, as a first step toward exploration and evaluation of mineral deposits, is lagging. This is partly because of the vastness of federal lands, but also due to poor federal stewardship policies that restrict exploration in areas of known mineral deposits. However, in what could be a huge turnaround for reducing dangerous mineral imports through responsible mining, the president’s EO states that it “shall be the policy of the U.S. to identify new domestic sources of critical minerals, and increase their exploration, mining, concentration, separation, alloying, recycling, and reprocessing; and streamline permitting for creating mines — for the benefit of the American people and in an environmentally acceptable manner.”
This EO commits the country to reducing its vulnerability from mineral-import overreliance while paving the way for a cleaner and safer planet through existing and new technologies used by America’s mining industry. Increased domestic mining of abundant mineral resources is absolutely necessary for the economic health of our nation and is a long overdue America First strategy.Ned Mamula is a geologist and adjunct scholar in geosciences at the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute. Stephen Moore is an American economic writer and policy analyst.
Austin, Texas — I went to South by Southwest for the first time since 2002. My how times have changed.
Back then, I was a law student on spring break, looking for a good time and finding it at this quaint little music festival that had just started gaining national acclaim. Sixteen years later, as a grizzled policy wonk with a newborn and a toddler at home, I was looking for sleep more than diversion. This was a business trip — I was there to speak at a First Amendment event organized by the Newseum Foundation — and any entertainment was mere happenstance.
Luckily, SXSW delivered again, with a disorienting mix of trendy tech panels and sweaty queues to nowhere. The music festival didn’t even start till after I returned to the real world.
Luckily, the festival delivered again, with a disorienting mix of trendy tech panels and sweaty queues to nowhere.
But apparently I wasn’t the target demographic. It’s not that “South by” doesn’t necessarily cater to 40-year-olds specializing in constitutional law and dad jokes, but that it’s a “safe space for the resistance.” Indeed, there was even an avant-garde music/art program incorporating yarn and wires into something called “Conductors and Resistance.” (Get it?)
In other words, I had somehow stumbled into Davos for the hipster set.
“Artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and the ever-more-fraught relationship between platform and publisher felt like some of the other themes du jour, but,” that Vanity Fair write-up described in an on-the-nose summary, “much of the buzz revolved around Donald Trump.” And not just the president himself, but an alternate universe where trust-fund babies compete with would-be Keith Olbermann go-fers for a place on Al Gore’s latest cross-platform startup.
Just look at some of the presentations on offer: Let’s Tech the Borders Down, Return on Inclusion: Investing in Diverse Startups, The Authoritarian Playbook, Diversity and Inclusion in the Sports Industry, RompHims and Boyfriend Jeans: Ungendering Fashion, Why Ethereum Is Goint to Change the World, and of course Jake Tapper’s interview of Bernie Sanders. (Not to be confused with the Bernie Sanders impersonator — not Larry David — who conducted a town hall.) And that’s just the first day!
I actually attended the CNN opening-night party referenced in the aforelinked piece. It was crowded and the apple old fashioneds were too sweet. I missed Dan Rather and David Axelrod — at least Brian Stelter attended my panel — but you’ll excuse me for skipping a return visit to that venue for Axe’s interview of Jon Lovett the next morning in order to work out.
By the time I got to the New York Times party, it was late and there was a long line even for those of us “on the list.” So I just went to Sixth Street and got my fill of non-SXSW music — even if it wasn’t quite as good as my last Nashville trip, when I discovered the incomparable Eskimo Brothers while honky-tonkin’ down Broadway.
The next morning, Fox Sports House — which had taken over the Hangar Lounge (across the street from CNN’s base at The Market & Tap Room) — featured international fare in a nod to the network’s upcoming World Cup coverage. It turns out that kimchi tacos and Hoegaarden go surprisingly well together, but the boisterous mood was spoiled by programming that built on the previous day’s wokeness. I now know that my personal hell is listening to three appropriately diverse and gendered humyns stringing together buzzwords from the digital and corporate worlds. It makes one wistful for a discussion of firearms policy with Beto O’Rourke.
The highlight of my visit was undoubtedly local radio personality Dave Hill’s interview of Dick Cavett, the comedian and talk-show host. Cavett’s heyday was long before mine, but hearing a legend tell stories that would’ve gotten him twitter-mobbed today made all the inanity worth traversing.
On the other hand, someone who’d never be ratioed is the judiciary’s “Twitter laureate,” Fifth Circuit Judge Don Willett, with whom I lunched across from the convention center. Willett only recently moved a few blocks from the state supreme court — his handle remains @JusticeWillett, which perhaps will be apt again in future — and is still settling into his new digs. Here’s hoping that the tweetin’ judge returns to his normal digital activities once he takes his new colleagues’ temperature.
In sum, do visit Austin — I recommend downing Shiner Bocks and Stubbs BBQ at a Johnny Cash-themed dive bar called the Mean Eyed Cat — but skip South by Southwest unless you’re getting paid for the pleasure.Ilya Shapiro is a senior contributor to The Federalist. He is a senior fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute and Editor-in-Chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review.
Ted Galen Carpenter
When news reports broke that President Trump had agreed to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, reactions in the United States were sharply divided. Some pundits and politicians expressed hope that a summit might defuse the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Others argued that Trump had fallen into a trap and made a foolish concession, giving the so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) a diplomatic triumph it had sought unsuccessfully for decades: a prestigious bilateral meeting with a U.S. president. Members of the latter faction breathed an audible sigh of relief when the White House seemed to retreat from the prospect of a summit, returning to the longstanding demand that the DPRK first take “concrete steps” to end its nuclear and missile programs. Subsequent statements, though, appeared to put the meeting back on track.
If Kim is serious about disarming, Trump should offer a Korean peace treaty, diplomatic recognition, and an end to economic sanctions.
Demanding North Korean concessions in advance reflects a fundamental flaw in Washington’s entire diplomatic strategy to this point regarding the Korea crisis. The U.S. approach emphasizes sticks with little willingness to offer any meaningful carrots. That strategy has proven utterly futile, and it is time to adopt a radically different approach. The Trump administration should offer the DPRK a “grand bargain” in exchange for that country’s complete denuclearization. Such an offer is the best (probably the only) chance of resolving an increasingly dangerous situation. It also would be a definitive test of whether Pyongyang would agree to resume a nonnuclear status under any circumstances.
Thus far, the United States has given North Korea virtually no incentive to abandon its nuclear and missile programs. The Trump administration has continued the policy of its predecessors: tightening unilateral economic sanctions and leading the effort to impose harsher international sanctions every time the DPRK conducts a new nuclear or missile test. That strategy has failed for nearly a quarter century. Trump’s main innovation has been to escalate the usual warnings and threats if Pyongyang does not comply with Washington’s demands. His actions have increased the danger of a miscalculation and the onset of a disastrous second Korean War.
Achieving a grand bargain would require addressing North Korea’s longstanding goals and demands. Some of the necessary steps are low-cost, and include actions that the United States should have taken years, if not decades, ago. Washington’s initial offer needs to include:
More difficult concessions, but measures that would greatly sweeten the offer, would include:
U.S. negotiators would need to stress that these steps must occur in stages to match Pyongyang’s measures to freeze and then dismantle its nuclear and missile programs. The easiest concessions (a peace treaty to end the original Korean War, suspending the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises, and establishing diplomatic relations) should be implemented first. A partial lifting of sanctions and the conclusion of a bilateral nonaggression pact could follow relatively soon. All of those steps are reversible if the DPRK reneged on commitments it made.
If Pyongyang proceeded toward abolition of its menacing programs, the lifting of all remaining sanctions, along with the phased withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea, should be the penultimate step. Full and sustained implementation of North Korea’s commitments (verified by international inspections) could then culminate with the termination of the U.S. defense treaty with South Korea. Given Soeul’s current and potential military capabilities, its alliance with Washington is an obsolete obligation in any case, so that U.S. “concession” is less dramatic than it might appear.
Prospects for success of a grand bargain offer admittedly are slim. For a variety of reasons, the DPRK is unlikely to accept a grand bargain and relinquish its nuclear weapons and missiles. Possession of a credible nuclear deterrent enhances the regime’s prestige and gives a small, poor country international influence that it otherwise lacks. North Korea’s pathetic economy, increasingly antiquated conventional military, and comic-opera political system certainly provide no foundation for prestige or influence. North Korean leaders also fear that without a nuclear deterrent, they would be vulnerable to another forcible U.S. regime-change war. They noted how Washington treated non-nuclear adversaries Serbia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. They especially drew lessons from the Western assisted overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, who had given up his nuclear program in exchange for a promise from the United States and its allies of normal relations.
Nevertheless, offering a grand bargain is worth a try. There is always a slight chance that Kim would be willing to trade his nukes and missiles for the extensive benefits that would flow to his country. If Pyongyang turned down such a generous offer, we would at least be certain that there is no chance whatsoever that North Korea will be willing to return to nuclear virginity.
Such clarity would be valuable on multiple levels. China has long prodded the United States to negotiate more seriously with the North Korean government. A DPRK rejection of a proposed grand bargain would make it clear to Chinese leaders that Kim’s regime was incorrigible and that Beijing might need to take more drastic steps to rein in its loose cannon ally before it triggers a catastrophe on the Peninsula. U.S. policymakers also could formulate policy based on the certainty that Pyongyang is determined to be a nuclear power. Options would include relying on a policy of U.S.-led deterrence to deal with a nuclear-armed DPRK, urging Japan and South Korea to create their own nuclear arsenals to deter and contain their disruptive neighbor, or rolling the dice and incurring the grave risks entailed in taking preventive military action.
One thing is clear. The current strategy of incremental increases in sanctions, making periodic warnings that “all options, including military action are on the table,” and issuing a laundry list of demands without offering meaningful concessions, is not working. Proposing a grand bargain would at least bring clarity and might bring a peaceful conclusion to a chronic crisis.Ted Galen Carpenter a senior fellow in defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at The American Conservative, is the author of 10 books, including (with Doug Bandow) The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea.
Look homeward, “change agents:” My #nationalwalkoutday message
by Michelle Malkin
Here is my homework assignment for all the fist-clenching, gun control-demanding teenagers walking out of classrooms this week (and next week and next month) to protest school shootings:
Ask not what the rest of the country can do for your local school’s safety; ask what your local school boards and superintendents have been failing to do for you.
Chances are, the adults closest to you — those most directly responsible for your security — have been shirking their primary duties, squandering scarce resources and deflecting blame.
Yes, it’s glamorous and exciting to appear on “The Ellen Show,” rub elbows with Eminem at the iHeartRadio Music Awards, pal around with Anderson Cooper, and soak up praise and donations from George Clooney and Oprah for shouting at the NRA, Republicans and President Trump.
Sure, it’s fun to ditch your homework, parade around in “March For Our Lives” swag, and watch your Twitter mentions explode like SpaceX launches every time you indignantly accuse gun-owning moms of hating their own children.
It’s lit like Bic to be the Democrats’ new junior lobbyists, fundraisers and voter registration captains.
But when the media whirlwind dies down and the Everytown buses ship you back home, mundane realities will set in.
Negligence, incompetence and inattention to the core mission of education and ensuring students’ safety don’t just spring out of nowhere. They are not alien invaders descending upon your neighborhoods from thousands of miles of away to impose chaos and misery upon your erstwhile Edenic existence.
Take Broward County, Florida. The current superintendent, Robert Runcie, was hired to clean up encrusted corruption in the district and school board that dates back to the early 1990s and resulted in three statewide grand jury investigations in 1997, 2002 and 2011. That last report blasted “malefeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance” on the Democrat-dominated school board and within top management at the district. In fact, the grand jury concluded after probing waste, fraud and favor-trading in capital construction projects:
“The culture of misfeasance and malfeasance at the school district is so deeply ingrained, so longstanding and so severe that we believe (employees who blow the whistle) will either be subsumed into the existing culture or drummed out of the District as soon as current attention is diverted from the Board and District.”
Indeed, one former building inspector who was fired in retaliation for warning about building code violations received a $45,000 settlement from the crooked school board. One board member was convicted on extortion, wire fraud and bribery charges involving school construction. Under Runcie, an $800 million renovation bond passed by voters in 2014 for school repairs on moldy, decaying buildings has been abjectly squandered; critics have alleged more bid-rigging, lax oversight and circumvention of graft reforms passed seven years ago.
The grand jury had issued a prophetic warning: “Bad habits and corrupt practices often return when the light of inquiry is turned off.”
Five years later, the district was entangled in yet another fiscal scandal after the state auditor general determined the schools had misallocated $23 million in federal Title 1 funds for low-income students; had “failed to correct safety violations at some schools;” and “paid health insurance premiums for former employees who were ineligible and in some cases dead,” according to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
When public scrutiny is diverted to red herrings and politically expedient scapegoats, feckless educrats are all too happy to participate in accountability Kabuki theater. After the Parkland, Florida, shooting last month, Runcie immediately pounced: “If we really want to do something, spend money on adding more school resource officers and law enforcement.”
What bunk. Continued profligacy is no violence prevention strategy. If school leaders can’t exhibit basic fiscal discipline and stewardship, how can they be trusted to ensure classroom discipline and physical safety?
Is it any surprise that Runcie’s social justice pandering to dismantle the “school to jailhouse pipeline” won him Obama administration accolades — while endangering the lives of children used as political pawns?
The same set of corruptocrats who were in place while cronies rigged bids for personal gain stood by while book-cookers rigged crime statistics to appease racial bean counters.
There were no district-wide walkouts and nationwide protests when Broward County parents of special-needs students were laughed at during a school board meeting as they exposed how their children had been bullied, beaten and bitten by tormentors without consequences in 2016. Nor was there a massive uproar last fall when the district acknowledged a whopping 480 incidents of alleged sexual harassment and abuse in its schools.
As a famous Chicago community organizer once quipped, “Change is hard.” Selfies with gun control armbands is easy. Cleaning your own house, district and county is hard. Junkets to D.C. are easy. Digging through audits and public records is hard. Regurgitating Mad Libs-like talking points against the NRA and Second Amendment is easy.
Go back to class and look homeward, all you young “change agents.” The faultiest faults are near, not far.
Here’s the paradox of immigration in America right now: The economy is roaring, and wages are rising, yet 2017 was another year of virtually no illegal border crossings. On average, each Border Patrol agent apprehended just 16 people all year — one every three weeks, tied for the lowest rate since World War II. This is down from when Border Patrol agents apprehended an average of 261 crossers per agent in 1996.
Where have the illegal crossers gone? Newly released statistics from the Department of State give a plausible answer: They haven’t disappeared; they’ve become legal.
The 16 apprehensions per agent in the entire year was significantly fewer than the 21 apprehensions that each agent was making in a month throughout the 1990s. This figure actually overstates the agency’s current workload because so many of today’s “apprehensions” are, in fact, asylum seekers, families and unaccompanied children who turn themselves in to the agents.
Changes in Mexico’s economy, border security and demographics all played a role in the steady reduction in illegal immigration. But one factor deserves far more attention than it has received so far: Legal entries are becoming the norm.
Of course, many factors affect the number of border crossers. Changes in Mexico’s economy, border security and demographics all played a role in the steady reduction in illegal immigration. But one factor deserves far more attention than it has received so far: Legal entries are becoming the norm.
From 1996 to 2017, the number of temporary visas issued to seasonal workers on farms and other industries increased tenfold, from 23,204 to 236,695. Even while Congress has done little on other immigration issues, seasonal worker programs have gradually expanded.
Entries using these visas have increased twice as fast as the number of legal documents issued themselves, meaning that each worker is crossing back and forth legally in a way that was much less common in 1996. This is partly because an increasing share of the visas are going to Mexican workers who can easily criss-cross the border. In 1996, Mexicans made just 60 percent of all border crossing entries. In 2016, that figure was 90 percent.
While Border Patrol has tripled its manpower and constructed a system of more than 600 miles of fences and barriers during this period, increased security is not the primary explanation for the reduction in illegal immigration. We know this because it hasn’t actually worked very well. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the agency caught only half of the people who actually attempted to evade entry in 2014 and 2015 (i.e., not the asylum seekers or children). The best estimate by Princeton University’s Douglas Massey finds that in the 1990s, 95 percent or more border crossers eventually made it across after multiple attempts. All of the increased enforcement decreased the success rate only to 75 percent. In other words, now that the economy has rebounded, many more people ought to be attempting to sneak into the country.
Instead, potential undocumented border crossers have found their way into the legal system. As the number entering legally has increased, the Border Patrol’s job has become much easier. They have effectively gained control over the border for the first time since the early 1960s, and it is in an important way thanks to these guest worker programs.
America has two guest worker programs for seasonal laborers, the H-2A for agriculture and the H-2B for other industries, both created in 1986. Although the H-2B program has a quota, employers rarely reached it during the 1990s, and several times since then Congress has temporarily increased the limit. The H-2A program has no cap, which has allowed for a steady expansion over two decades.
In the early 2000s, H-2Bs were 70 percent of the flow, but the H-2A is now almost two-thirds. Farms have found creative ways to reduce the costs and risks of the program. The North Carolina Growers Association has pioneered a model whereby the association sponsors the workers on behalf of the individual farms, allowing businesses in the association to share the workers and share the costs.
While anti-immigrant groups on the right and union-founded groups on the left have fought the H-2 trends, a coalition of moderate Democrats and Republicans has defended the programs, citing solid evidence that they don’t displace U.S. workers and do increase economic growth. President Trump’s businesses use both programs, and he defended the practice in a GOP primary debate in 2016.
The trends paint a compelling picture of what would happen if the administration does limit the flow: a lot more illegal immigration.David Bier is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute.