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OPINION

No Matter How One Connects the ‘Green Energy’ Dots, America Needs Pebble’s Copper

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Al Grillo, File

If President Biden sees electric vehicles in everyone’s future, he ironically will have to rely on copper mines to get there.

Consider the current bipartisan infrastructure package, a $1.2 trillion mishmash of boondoggles and eco-centric priorities ostensibly designed to alleviate the “climate crisis,” while simultaneously starting another crisis, by putting hundreds of thousands of current American energy jobs at risk. The president’s “Build Back Better” plan is a brilliant one, if you want lower-paying solar and wind jobs to replace high-paying oil and gas ones, or if you want Chinese-owned companies to prosper while American manufacturers are priced out of the market. But I digress.

If the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package doesn’t grind your gears, the accompanying $3.5 trillion budget bill surely will. This monstrosity includes another laundry list of ‘green energy’ projects and demand. The simple fact is for every one of those projects, priorities, regulations, jobs and traditional energy transition plans, America will need to have copper. Just looking at electric vehicles (EVs) alone, the need is clear: the average EV contains three times the amount of copper traditional vehicles do – a whopping 183 pounds!

And it just so happens that my home state of Alaska has plenty of copper to support those initiatives, if Biden would just move forward with the Pebble Mine Project.

Unless Alaska is home, or you have seen the work-product of the tens of millions of dollars spent to fight the mine across the nation, you’ve probably never heard of Pebble. It is a massive copper, gold, molybdenum and rhenium discovery, located approximately 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, and over 100 miles away from Bristol Bay, one of the nation’s busiest fishing areas for ten weeks every year.

Despite what the well-financed environmental lobby would have you believe, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Final Environmental Impact Statement continually noted Pebble’s development would have no measurable impact on the fishing in Bristol Bay. Even if there is a catastrophic mine failure? No impact. That hasn’t stopped major environmental organizations from continuing to press for the Biden administration to permanently shut down the area from Pebble’s development.

So, unless Biden and his team are only joking about transitioning to “green energy,” they need Pebble open. Its potential deposit could yield as much as 56.9 billion pounds of high quality copper. With a 2016 study finding that the push to ‘go green’ will increase demand by as much as 350 percent by 2050, exhausting current reserves sometime between 2035 and 2045. And that study was written before Greta Thunberg and her Millennial militia started Tik-Tok campaigns on the urgency of doing something even more aggressive to combat the “climate crisis.” If you believe Greta, the Extinction Rebellion and others, without drastic change – including new copper development – that 2045 number looks exceptionally soon on the calendar.

Even overlooking the $1 trillion in estimated reserves and the $84 million Pebble would provide in royalties and taxes to the state of Alaska, with tens of millions more annually to local and federal governments, another reason America needs Pebble is for the jobs in the region. While the commercial fishing lobby touts the 14,000 full- and part-time work associated with the Bristol Bay fishery, most of the workers – and therefore, most of the money – is earned by those from outside of Alaska. According to a 2016 news article, over 80 percent of the Bristol Bay fishing permits are owned by non-area residents.

This region in my home state has some of the highest unemployment in the nation, and its indigenous population lacks opportunities to work near their lands. Without opportunities like Pebble, they are forced to move to larger cities and away from traditional and subsistence lifestyles. For all the talk from the Biden administration about systemic injustices against low-income and indigenous people, not aggressively moving forward with Pebble would show blatant hypocrisy. The mine has a local hiring requirement and would pay an average six-figure income for its nearly 1,000 person permanent workforce. In a borough with less than 2,000 residents total, Pebble would be a generationally changing job creator for my state.

Ultimately, the Biden presidency needs to realize that copper and other strategic metals are needed in much greater quantities in order to move its “green revolution” forward. It can either source them from America or from China, Russia, Afghanistan and its Taliban leadership and other unfriendly-to-the-US countries. Here’s hoping it sees through the rhetoric of the environmental left and the commercial fishing lobby and allows the Pebble Project to continue its path to development, economic opportunity and help for the “go green” movement.

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