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As US Invests in Clean Energy, There's a Big Problem: China Controls the Supply Chain

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America's clean energy transition is underway, bolstered by money in the new infrastructure bill.

Over the next decade, consumers will start to see options to power their homes, businesses, and even vehicles through renewable resources. 

"We're standing at an inflection point in world history. We have the ability to invest in ourselves and build an equitable, clean energy future and in the process, create millions of good paid jobs and opportunities around the world," President Biden said speaking at the Glasgow Climate Change Conference in November.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is now law, provides money to pursue the administration's overall plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions at an accelerated pace. The bill provides $65 billion for clean energy transmission and the electric grid. 

Some states are already implementing renewable energy sources. Virginia-based, Dominion Energy, launched an offshore wind pilot program over the summer and is now moving forward with a large-scale commercial wind project.

"The pilot program, the total rating of the project is 12 megawatts (MW), whereas the commercial project will be 2,600 MW. So that 12 MW at peak output powers 3,000 homes in our Virginia service territories. Whereas that 2,600 MW will power up to 660,000 homes at its peak output," said GTHollett, the Director of Offshore Wind for Dominion Energy.

The pilot turbines are the first built in federal waters, and just one rotation of the powerful arms could power a home for an entire day.

"It's a nice compliment to solar power. So solar power will produce the most energy in the middle of the day, in the summer, that'd be actually when we have the lightest wind for offshore wind. But then in the nights and in sort of the winter portion of the year, you're getting more power out of offshore wind, so it sort of ebbs and flows almost opposite of the solar power," Hollett explained to CBN News.

Fossil fuels will remain part of the larger power generation mix as a reliable backup, but when the clean sources are producing, they'll knock the fossil fuels out, helping to reduce the state's carbon footprint. 

Experts say it's important for the Biden administration to stick to this slow phasing in of renewables, especially for consumer acceptance. If the old supply goes away too fast, while demand stays the same, prices would skyrocket. We're seeing some of that right now at the gas pump. 

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During the pandemic, oil production decreased because people weren't traveling. When restrictions eased, people started moving again, while production stayed at pandemic levels. 

"Fuel prices, our pump prices, is the most transparent energy price consumers, voters, see. They see it every day they drive down the road, and so nothing makes you angrier as when you have to pay 30 percent, 40 percent more for the same thing that you were paying just a few months before. So you see this juxtaposition between wanting to move forward with transitioning, but also do that in a way that doesn't harm consumers, harm voters," said Frank Fannon, the inaugural Asst. Sec. of State for Energy Resources under former President Donald Trump.

Fannon now runs an advisory firm focused on all aspects of the energy transition. One thing he says needs much more focus, is the critical minerals required to make clean energy happen.

"You know, wind turbines and solar panels just don't show up. They have to be created and there's an entire supply chain and there are minerals and metals that go into that supply chain to realize these clean carbon-free forms of energy. The U.S. isn't in control of that supply chain today, China is," Fannon told CBN News.

The Trump administration sought to create an alternative supply chain. The goal: avoid more reliance on our greatest competitor, ensure clean energy is developed in a manner upholding U.S. values and remains attractive to investors who value human rights, environmental protections, and transparency.

The Biden administration has continued this approach.

Fannon says the next step would be using funds from the new infrastructure bill towards accelerated development of mining in North America. 

"You can't get to the clean energy transition without metals and mining. You can't get there. So we have to deploy this money in a way that makes sense and gets some real returns, which means building stuff," said Fannon.

There are also efforts underway to reshore major manufacturing facilities so that we aren't having to import the parts that make up things like wind turbines and solar panels. The new infrastructure bill offers manufacturing tax credits, and also cuts through some red tape like permit timelines.

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About The Author

Caitlin Burke Headshot

Caitlin Burke serves as National Security Correspondent and a general assignment reporter for CBN News. She has also hosted the CBN News original podcast, The Daily Rundown. Some of Caitlin’s recent stories have focused on the national security threat posed by China, America’s military strength, and vulnerabilities in the U.S. power grid. She joined CBN News in July 2010, and over the course of her career, she has had the opportunity to cover stories both domestically and abroad. Caitlin began her news career working as a production assistant in Richmond, Virginia, for the NBC affiliate WWBT