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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chinese Choke Japanese "Green Tech" Industry Over Politics - Are We Next?

On January 1, 2010, I wrote of The Coming "Green" Collapse.  The issue was "rare earth elements" which are vital to so-called "green technology" and are mined almost exclusively in China.  I warned at the time:
The green economy envisioned by the Obama administration as the means by which we will grow "green jobs" and lessen our dependence on foreign oil in fact simply puts us at the mercy of the Chinese
Last January, the threat was that China would restrict exports for its own domestic consumption.  Now, the Chinese are using their domination of the rare earth elements market to exert policital pressure on Japan, as reported by The New York Times:
Sharply raising the stakes in a dispute over Japan’s detention of a Chinese fishing trawler captain, the Chinese government has blocked exports to Japan of a crucial category of minerals used in products like hybrid cars, wind turbines and guided missiles.

Chinese customs officials are halting shipments to Japan of so-called rare earth elements, preventing them from being loading aboard ships at Chinese ports, industry officials said on Thursday....
Deng Xiaoping, the late leader of China, is widely reported to have said that while the Middle East has oil, China dominates rare earths. But while Arab states used restrictions on oil exports as a political weapon in 1956, 1967 and 1973, China has refrained until now from using its near monopoly on rare earth elements as a form of leverage on other governments.
With regard to the Obama administration policy of restricting domestic oil production in favor of unproven "green technology" for which we are dependent upon China, I asked the following question:
This is a monumental policy failure in its infancy. Is anyone in Washington listening?
This may be the siren that gets the administration's attention.  As reported in The Times' article, the problem has so worried Defense Department officials (because many of these minerals are vital to military technology as well) that Congress and the administration are looking at ways of diversifying supply.

The problem is that extraction of the minerals is environmentally messy, so don't expect a solution any time soon.
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  1. Rare Earth elements are used in magnets, specifically Neodymium, and Samarium. These rare earth magnets are far superior to the magnets you are used to. Of course, electricity is generated by the cutting of the lines of flux of a magnet with a conductor, usually copper. What the "green revolution" has failed to realize is that the "Alternator" is much more efficient at producing electricity...it requires that a set of coils be excited by an outside source of electricity to form a magnetic field...an electromagnet...to generate electricity. The automotive industry figured this out years ago, hence the use of an alternator in you car as opposed to a generator or "magneto" as they were formerly called. Why are we bowing and scraping to China so much these days? Are we already an extension of China, or could it be the other way around?

  2. So, these "rare earth" minerals are vital to 'green tech', yet extracting them is environmentally messy?

    Does that make no sense to anyone else?

  3. Rare earths are also vital in the manufacture of LCD screens - which is why the Chinese want to dominate and protect that market. They need the stuff to make TVs, computer monitors, etc., and they also want to stifle the competition.

  4. Scooter Jay: good post

    "Why are we bowing and scraping to China so much these days? Are we already an extension of China, or could it be the other way around?"

    Because as much as we don't like it, whey Lenin declared that "we will hang the last capitalist with the rope he sold us.", there was a lot of truth to it. That is how we got into this "one-world-without-borders" crap. Nations are being systematically stripped of their sovereignty and being reduced into mere markets. Borders are their to keep the USA market ink from bleeding into the Mexico market.

    BTW, California used to be a major source, if not the biggest, of rare earth and those mines are chugging again.

  5. Rare earths are also important components of catalysts used to make gasoline. Not sure what the impact will be on a gallon of gas. Hopefully mines in Australia and the US will come on soon so the Chinese will no longer be able to hold us hostage. Back a few years ago, the Chicoms tried to buy Unocal. Smart money is that they were not after the oil and gas, but the rare earth mine in Mountain Pass, CA.