President Joe Biden is set to use the Defense Production Act to promote the use of clean energy.
The Defense Production Act — passed in 1950 under President Harry Truman — lets the commander-in-chief use emergency powers to promote the manufacturing of key materials needed for civil defense. As Yale University scholar June Rhee noted, the law allows the president to “compel the private sector to work with the government.” President Donald Trump, for instance, used the statute to produce protective equipment in response to the spread of COVID-19.
A statement from the White House argues that the Defense Production Act is needed for “critical materials to bolster our clean energy economy by reducing our reliance on China and other countries for the minerals and materials that will power our clean energy future.”
“The DPA will be authorized to support the production and processing of minerals and materials used for large capacity batteries — such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, and manganese — and the Department of Defense will implement this authority using strong environmental, labor, community, and tribal consultation standards,” the statement continued. “The sectors supported by these large capacity batteries — transportation and the power sector — account for more than half of our nation’s carbon emissions. The President is also reviewing potential further uses of DPA — in addition to minerals and materials — to secure safer, cleaner, and more resilient energy for America.”
Over the weekend, Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) blasted President Biden in anticipation of the move. “After begging for oil from dictators, Biden is now using emergency war powers to produce batteries for the 1% that drive electric cars,” he wrote. “Most Americans suffering due to high gas prices don’t have the luxury of spending $50k+ on an electric car. Unleash American energy today!”
Indeed, officials from the Biden administration traveled to Venezuela and met with President Nicolás Maduro earlier this month in an effort to import more oil. In response, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) noted that “rather than produce more American oil he wants to replace the oil we buy from one murderous dictator with oil from another murderous dictator.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also confirmed that “all options are on the table” when he was asked whether Biden would consider “working something out with Iran” in response to high gas prices. Likewise, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) called on Saudi Arabia to “open taps and produce more oil so the world can turn its back on Russian oil.”
Republican lawmakers have called for the United States to increase its domestic energy production. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) issued statements demanding that the Biden administration revitalize American energy production to ease costs for Americans and strengthen American leverage against Russian aggression.
“President Biden must act now to hit Vladimir Putin where it hurts, beginning with Russia’s energy sector. The Biden Administration should sanction Russian energy production to a halt, and help arm the Ukrainians to defend themselves,” Hawley said. “At the same time, the White House should reopen American energy production in full. This is the time to show Russia and the world that America will not reward aggression and it will not be dependent on its enemies.”