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Biden’s Build Back Better measure, although stalled in the Senate, did call for funding that would prioritize Made in America requirements. As well as plans for large investments in climate change technology and getting the U.S. on track to become a player in rare earth supply chain.
U.S. taxpayer money would not go directly to China. But based on the use of rare earths, China would derive a secondary benefit from increased spending on wind turbines, climate change technology and other products bolstered by Biden’s plan.
The "America First" doctrine was a central part of Republican President Donald Trump’s administration, with some lawmakers rallying around Trump’s approach to international relations, including skepticism of international organizations and trade deals.
Now, with Democrat Joe Biden in the White House, U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wisconsin, argues the opposite is happening when it comes to efforts to address climate change..
In a Feb. 3, 2022 tweet, Grothman said: "The US has made strides in reducing carbon emissions that other parts of the world have not. Meanwhile, @POTUS is trying to send taxpayer dollars to manufacturers overseas that do not abide by the same standards we do at home."
We previously checked the first part of the claim, on the U.S. making progress even as some other countries have not, and rated it True. For this fact check, we are focused on the second part of the claim: Biden trying to send taxpayer dollars overseas to high-pollution countries.
Is Grothman right?
In this case, China – the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases – plays a key role, particularly as it relates to some of the products being boosted by Bidens plan.
When asked for backup, Grothman’s staff cited an Oct. 22, 2021 Solar Reviews article that stated two-thirds of all solar panels are made in China, and an April 17, 2021 CNBC report that said China also dominates the rare mineral market.
(According to the U.S. Geological Survey, in 2019, China was responsible for 80% of rare earths imports.)
This is what the CNBC report had to say about their importance and use:
"Once extracted from mines, rare earths are shipped to separation facilities, where they are separated from other minerals. Then rare earths are individually separated into oxides, metals and finally magnets that are used in everything from missiles to wind turbines, medical devices, power tools, cellphones and motors for hybrid and electric vehicles."
Grothman’s team connected that dominance by China with Biden’s stalled Build Back Better plan, which includes increases in energy tax credits for solar, wind, geothermal, waste, fuel cell, and energy storage technologies.
The implication is that subsidies for the purchase of solar panels, and other items that include rare earth minerals, means that tax dollars would be on the way to Chinese manufacturers.
This is where Grothman’s claim runs into problems.
First, in its phrasing – "trying to send" – the claim suggests a primary objective of the Biden plan is to send the money overseas.
That ignores the fact the Build Back Better plan includes a "Made in America" provision to make products manufactured here a priority, as well as a plan to help make the U.S. a player in the rare earths supply chain. Indeed, "Made in America" has been a hallmark of Biden’s presidency.
For instance, in his March 1, 2022, State of the Union address, Biden declared:
"There’s been a law on the books for almost a century to make sure taxpayers’ dollars support American jobs and businesses. Every Administration says they’ll do it, but we are actually doing it. We will buy American to make sure everything from the deck of an aircraft carrier to the steel on highway guardrails are made in America."
That’s all great in theory. But how does it work in practice?
Abdur Chowdhury, professor emeritus in economics at Marquette University, noted that "in global geopolitics, you cannot always achieve what you want."
"As China controls the global supply of rare earth minerals, it is true that some U.S. taxpayer dollars would go to high polluting nations like China, India," Chowdhury said. "So the U.S. has to participate in various global climate change negotiations in order to force these countries to reduce environmental pollution."
He added: "Withdrawing from the international discussion and negotiation on a number of environmental issues is not the answer. The U.S. can and should use its leverage to force countries to reduce environmental pollution."
For our purposes, we’re left with a claim that overstates the intent and effect of Biden’s proposal, particularly in the way a reader would likely understand it.
The taxpayer money would not go directly to China. But based on the use of rare earths, China would derive a secondary benefit from increased spending on wind turbines and other products bolstered by Biden’s plan.
Grothman claimed Biden "is trying to send taxpayer dollars to manufacturers overseas that do not abide by the same (carbon emission) standards we do at home."
That is certainly not the intent of the Build Back Better plan, which includes "Made in America" provisions and efforts to guard against this happening. But economists note that China’s dominance in rare earths, for instance, means they would benefit from the spending as well.
For a statement that is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context, our rating is Half True.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, Twitter, Feb. 3, 2022
Email, Grothman staff, Feb. , 2022
Email, Abdur Chowdhury, March 8, 2022
Phone call, U.S. Rep. Grothman, Feb. 23, 2022
The White House "The Build Back Better Framework,"
Politico "Biden’s climate agenda stalls, and progressives fume," Feb. 13, 2022
Yahoo News "Biden uses State of the Union to rebrand dead Build Back Better plan," March 1, 2022
USA Today, "Biden pivots on COVID, immigration, Build Back Better in State of the Union," March 2, 2022
President Joe Biden, State of the Union, March 1, 2022
National Law Review "Key Energy Provisions in Biden Administration $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act," Nov. 17, 2021
Solar Reviews "Chinese solar panels: Are they any good?" Oct. 21, 2022
CNBC "The new U.S. plan to rival China and end cornering of market in rare earth metals," April 17, 2021.
U.S. Geological Survey "Rare Earths"
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