Now that Dr Al (the Kiddie’s Pal) Gross and his supportive third party groups have made support of Pebble Mine a central issue in their campaign, perhaps it is time to take a look as just how damaging to the national security of the US and our ability to defend ourself that sort of scaremongering actually is.
Gross would have us all to believe that opposition to what is essentially a rare earth mine is somehow a positive lifestyle choice for Alaska and America. Sadly, this opposition by definition makes the US dependent on China for rare earth minerals. In 2013, the US was tied for last in the time it takes to permit a mine. As a result, the US is now 100% dependent on other nations for 19 strategic rare metals and minerals. 11 of those are from China. There is only a single active rare earth mine in the US located in California.
Gross, along with our two incumbent US Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, now oppose Pebble, which BY DEFINITION, makes us dependent on our strategic enemy, China, for our strategic metals. Note that these strategic metals are all required in high technology manufacturing and renewable energy generation.
Lisa cites Ted Stevens 2006 opposition to Pebble as her current excuse. Problem is that at the time, the mine was being sold as a gold mine, of which we have several currently operating in the state. The situation has changed over the last 14 years, with China becoming a strategic threat. And having your largest enemy in charge of the metals and minerals you base your war machine upon is normally a recipe for disaster. Ted was always supportive of national defense and likely would have listened to that argument. God only knows what Lisa will listen to.
Dan Sullivan’s kneejerk opposition to Pebble came in response to Gross attacks on him rather than any overall strategic analysis. Dan has been a great US Senator for Alaska with just a couple hiccups along the way. Sadly, those were doozies – his stated opposition to Pebble this year and his refusal to support Donald Trump in 2016 following the release of the Billy Bush tape.
But Gross’ opposition to Pebble is yet another in a long line of smarmy little, poll driven personal attacks on Sullivan, one that demonstrates complete cluelessness about the strategic importance of rare earths to American high-tech manufacturing. Message to Dr Al: If you are a US Senator, you’re probably charged with doing something (anything) more than simply calling your opposition names.
Final point in this discussion is precisely who or what is funding green opposition to Pebble? During the last 20 or so years, green opposition to oil and natural gas development was based in large part on contributions to a variety of green NGOs by Russia and Saudi Arabia. China has been more careful with their donations, laundering it like they have laundered their donations to Joe Biden. But the NRDC does have a headquarters in China and there is enough smoke that there are congressional calls for an investigation into their funding stream.
Somebody is going to be elected US Senator from Alaska next week. I hope it is Dan Sullivan, as he will actually listen and consider the ramifications to his opposition to Pebble. Dr Al (the Kiddie’s Pal) can be trusted to do little more than find the next Alaskan to publicly call names. Somewhere along the line Alaska’s US Senators must consider the very real impact of being dependent on China for our strategic rare earth metals. Gross is too busy calling names to even have a clue this is important. Sullivan will listen. Lisa? Who knows?
We’ve got to do better than this.
Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He was a small business owner and Information Technology professional.