Our region understands the consequences of China’s malicious behavior better than most. In 2015, Washington County made national headlines when a deadly batch of fentanyl-laced heroin, an illicit substance exported from China, tragically caused 25 overdoses in the span of 48 hours. In 2014, a federal grand jury indicted five members of China’s People’s Liberation Army for stealing technologies from multiple Pittsburgh-based companies. On the banks of our rivers, abandoned factories serve as a stark reminder of China’s unfair trade practices, such as the dumping of cheap steel.
And, like many communities across our nation, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) deceit and negligence in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic led to unimaginable levels of economic hardship in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
I was honored to be appointed by Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to the China Task Force last month. The select group of members of Congress are tasked with developing solutions to counter the emerging threats posed by the CCP. On the task force, I will focus on employing Pennsylvania’s abundant natural resources, particularly natural gas, clean coal, and critical minerals, to counter the CCP’s rising influence around the world.
To grow their economic and political influence, China is projected to spend upwards of $1.3 trillion by 2027 on global infrastructure projects through their Belt and Road Initiative. According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, this includes over $21 billion in coal-fired power plants, which lack the same safety and health technology standards as U.S. plants.
By exporting clean coal and liquified natural gas to our allies around the globe, Southwestern Pennsylvania’s natural resources, and their associated technologies, will counter China’s Belt and Road initiative. Congress should prioritize exporting American energy resources in partnership with private-sector industry, universities, and research laboratories. Congress can expand export capacity and potential through expedited development of coastal terminals, increased global market access through unilateral trade deals, and critical infrastructure improvements.
To secure our critical supply chains, Congress must also reduce our dependence on Chinese imports of critical minerals. In recent years, the CCP has attempted to restrict U.S. access to critical minerals, which are vital components for products like cellphones, medical devices, electrical vehicles, and defense weapon systems. Today, 14 of the 35 critical minerals are imported to the U.S. at a 100% rate, with a vast majority coming from China.
The potential for high concentrations of critical minerals in Pennsylvania’s coal beds, acid mine drainage, and hydraulic fracturing flow-back fluids in the Marcellus basin could prove vital to securing a domestic source of critical minerals. Congress must better coordinate federal efforts with private industry and expand public-private partnerships to provide research funding to improve processing and extraction capabilities.
In the 2017 National Security Strategy, the Trump Administration provided a new framework to counter adversaries by reducing federal regulatory burdens and streamlining the approval processes for energy infrastructure, securing critical supply chains, and exporting energy to allies around the globe.
Southwestern Pennsylvania is at the forefront of these efforts, and I am working in Congress to ensure we capitalize on these economic and national security opportunities to uphold our position on the world stage over the next century.
U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler represents Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional District.