MARIETTA, Ohio — In the 1970s, the harmful effects of an oil embargo shocked Americans. The sudden realization that we needed to take responsibility for our own energy future had quite an impact. Politicians responded accordingly.
Now we must address a huge new concern — the danger of becoming hostage to China for critically important industrial materials.
It’s only a matter of time. China is our leading supplier of minerals and metals, giving it great leverage over our supply chains for advanced technologies. Consider the possibility of waking to the news that China has cut off exports of electric-vehicle battery metals — lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite and rare earth minerals.
What if China decides it has had enough of U.S. pressure with regard to human rights abuses and decides to retaliate by restricting the export of key metals? Then consider the panic that would set in as the price of metals skyrockets.
Anyone who doubts that could happen ought to do some rethinking. In 2010, China embargoed the shipment of rare earth metals to Japan during a dispute over access to the South China Sea.