Something else worth noting happens toward the end of this video clip, when Stauber tries to plant a green flag. “If you are at all serious about emissions reductions, you will vote to support H.R. 1. We need to pass H.R. 1 for energy independence and critical mineral dominance.”
There has already been plenty of commentary around the misleading claim that this bill would reduce emissions. Common Dreams published a pretty good rundown. Opponents have labeled H.R. 1 the Polluters Over People Act; the Center for Western Priorities notes that it would reverse many of the Inflation Reduction Act’s reforms to the onshore oil and gas leasing program; and as for the notion that this bill is “serious” about the energy transition, Chuck Schumer called that “laughable,” and declared this “wishlist for big oil” Dead On Arrival in the Senate.
Equally specious is the Trumpian claim that this legislation is a formula for “critical mineral dominance.” This US Geological Survey presentation on global distribution of critical minerals or these maps from The Wilson Center suggest just how infeasible that is. Misleading claims and rhetorical swagger on this score can lead to bad policy at home and serious missteps abroad.
Take a closer look and it’s clear that this is an act of legislative mischief. The stated legislative purpose of H.R. 1 is to “lower energy costs by increasing American energy production, exports, infrastructure, and critical minerals processing”; but when it comes to critical minerals the bill does nothing of the sort. In fact, the piece of H.R. 1 Stauber wrote (the not-so-subtly entitled Permitting for Mining Needs Act, or Permit-MN) would do nothing to help secure “critical minerals dominance.” Instead it would effectively do away with critical minerals.
Permit-MN goes through 30 U.S. Code § 1607, the “Critical Minerals Supply Chain and Reliability” section of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and at every opportunity strikes the word “critical” from the books. It changes the title of the section to “Minerals Supply Chain and Reliability.” It removes the word “critical” from “each place such term appears” in the Sense of Congress section. That section currently reads:
It is the sense of Congress that-
(1) critical minerals are fundamental to the economy, competitiveness, and security of the United States;
(2) many critical minerals are only economic to recover when combined with the production of a host mineral;
(3) to the maximum extent practicable, the critical mineral needs of the United States should be satisfied by minerals responsibly produced and recycled in the United States; and
(4) the Federal permitting process has been identified as an impediment to mineral production and the mineral security of the United States. [emphasis mine.]
Sense becomes nonsense. And Permit-MN makes the same move in subsequent sections, striking the word “critical” wherever it appears. In other words, H.R. 1 would extend the special legislative consideration given to critical minerals, because they are “fundamental to the economy, competitiveness, and security of the United States,” to any and every mining project.
Permit-MN has already won Stauber some favorable local press but it only makes a mockery of serious concerns about national security and the energy transition. What really counts here is not the public interest, or making responsible industrial policy to meet the country’s critical mineral needs, but the immediate financial interests of mining companies. And if this is an indication of the reckless permitting reform we can expect from this Congress, then we are better off leaving things as they are.