EPA’s Tailpipe Emissions Rule Is a National Security Threat

Requiring up to two-thirds of local automobile production to be fully electric by 2032 will open up our nation to geopolitical disadvantages.

Americans of all stripes, from our top national security and intelligence officials to everyday citizens, broadly agree that China is the biggest threat facing the United States.

Facing this adversary down will require a whole-of-government approach that extends far beyond just the Pentagon, and leaders throughout Washington must consider their actions through the lens of combatting this threat.

As such, the Biden administration must understand the significant national security consequences that will surface if proposals such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tailpipe emissions rule are finalized as written.

Electric Vehicle Transition

Released in May as a part of regulations that aim to set pollution standards to rapidly accelerate the transition to electric vehicles (EV), little consideration has been given to what it would mean economically, geopolitically, and environmentally, amongst other things.

Since taking office, President Joe Biden has used a series of subsidies and mandates to artificially accelerate the EV transition. The EPA’s proposed regulation to force strict limits on tailpipe emissions on gasoline and diesel vehicles would further compound this trend by forcing up to two-thirds of new automobiles sold in the US to be electric by 2032.

However, wide-scale EV adoption is concerning for the American people as China possesses a virtual monopoly on the materials and production means needed for their manufacturing process — particularly the batteries that power them.

China's President Xi Jinping inspecting People's Liberation Army soldiers
China’s President Xi Jinping. Photo: Dale de la Rey/AFP

China’s Monopoly

China has made deliberate moves to gain a foothold in the upstream and downstream segments of the EV supply chain. It possesses 36 percent of the world’s known rare earth metal reserves, controlling more than 70 percent of global extraction capability and a staggering 90 percent of the world’s processing capabilities.

Allowing America’s top geopolitical foe to control such large swaths of the raw materials needed to manufacture EVs means that a rapid transition away from traditional gas-powered vehicles poses an existential security threat to the entire United States.

Given these realities, America should not even begin to consider placing such critical parts of its automobile production in the hands of Chinese manufacturers, as it could force the country’s hand down the line.

American Dependence on China

There is already a growing realization amongst policymakers in Washington that proposals like the tailpipe emissions regulation could cripple the US transportation network. This has led scores of members in the Senate and House to write letters to the EPA asking to withdraw the proposed regulations.

It’s also why over a dozen national security leaders and experts, including myself, penned a letter to President Biden highlighting the severe national security consequences that will result from a rapid EV transition that would increase American dependence on China.

The letter noted that the proposed rules, if passed, “will undoubtedly open the US up to economic manipulations by China, identical to what Russia is doing with Ukrainian grain exports, and [become] a major threat to our national security.”

US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden talking to reporters in Washington, DC. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP

Neutralizing China’s Advantage

Without solid infrastructure and secure access to the rare earth materials that make up EV batteries, an aggressive transition toward electric vehicles could become a significant national security issue.

The US could lose the strategic advantages that increased domestic oil and gas production has provided in keeping our transportation sector moving and would be beholden to foreign countries to facilitate this monumental shift in the makeup of the country’s fleet of automobiles and trucks.

Through targeted investment along the supply chain related to the production of EVs, the United States may be able to neutralize China’s competitive advantage. However, that process will take some time to achieve, and the pace at which the Biden administration seeks to force this transition is simply too fast.

More policymakers must understand the threat the Biden administration’s new tailpipe rule would pose to national security.

Requiring up to two-thirds of local automobile production to be fully electric by 2032 will put too much strain on the US manufacturing system, leave our supply chain vulnerable to foreign manipulation, and open up our nation to geopolitical disadvantages.

We cannot allow measures like this — that will position America far behind its enemies ‑- to move forward.

Lt. Gen. Headshot E.G. “Buck” ShulerE.G. “Buck” Shuler, US Air Force (Ret), is the former commander of Strategic Air Command’s 8th Air Force and was responsible for Strategic Air Command operations in the eastern half of the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Defense Post.

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