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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rare Earth Metals Become Rarer

Last January, and again in late September, I wrote that the Achilles heel of the Obama green energy agenda -- which involves a stifling of carbon-based energy use through taxation and regulation in favor of "green" energy sources -- failed to take into account that green energy technology depended heavily on "rare earth" minerals mined almost exclusively in China.

Once again, this near monopoly is coming home to roost, as China has announced an across-the-board cut back in rare earth exports.  As reported by The New York Times:
China, which has been blocking shipments of crucial minerals to Japan for the last month, has now quietly halted shipments of those materials to the United States and Europe, three industry officials said on Tuesday.

The Chinese action, involving rare earth minerals that are crucial to manufacturing many advanced products, seems certain to further intensify already rising trade and currency tensions with the West. Until recently, China typically sought quick and quiet accommodations on trade issues. But the interruption in rare earth supplies is the latest sign from Beijing that Chinese leaders are willing to use their growing economic muscle.
As I stated before, Obama merely is trading our dependence on foreign oil -- as to which there are numerous suppliers -- for dependence on a single foreign source of green technology raw materials.

What possibly could go wrong?

Related Posts:
The Coming "Green" Collapse

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

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  1. Its not that there's any shortage of these metals in the US, its just that our government makes it impossible to actually mine them. The officially stated US minerals 'reserves' (this includes oil/gas reserves in the US) list only those in the rapidly shrinking areas where it is legal to mine/drill. Our actual reserves are, of course, massively more abundant.

  2. China has been in Africa and South America etc. signing agreements for rare earth metals etc. They have been successful because they don't get involved in local politics. They don't insist of these governments following policies like human rights, etc.

    The batteries being developed for hybrid vehicles will be impacted most. China's excuse is always that they need these rare earth metals for their own people.

    China has trade agreements for military weapons with Pakistan and Iran.

    As a civilian I have been writing about this at On My Watch for a year now. Why hasn't this been more widely discussed?

    The rare earth metals issue is an area of weakness for the Obama Administration and should have been discussed at least while he was stumping tor 2010 candidates. His record is miserable internationally and we need him to clarify his stand on key issues that would impact green job growth.

  3. "No War for Rare Earth Metals"

    Hmmm...doesn't have the same ring does it?

  4. What green job growth? That is another pie-in-the-sky feel good socialist agenda to snooker people into high taxes on energy.

    We need to drill for domestic oil and develop alternative and foreign-independent energy technologies in a calm deliberative way.

    Manufacturing a crisis with which draw urgency is just so Socialist.

    Available minerals are used in "path of least resistance" engineering. Loss of availability need not be a panic issue... and can be engineered around.

    This is why transition to alternative energy must be a long-term endeavor not a short-term contrived socialist "crisis" not to be "wasted."

  5. These "rare" earths aren't all that rare--we have plenty. The problem is as noted--impossible to open a mine in the US. One known large deposit is in the CA Sierras--can you imagine?

    Second, and harder is that we have long since lost the technology to refine and process the materials.

    A determined US Gov't could change the environmental policies. Hard to imagine it happening, but it could. Learning to refine and process is another matter. Takes time.


  6. Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, is an energy resource Obama & Co turned their backs on. Virtually nothing these socialists do, or chose not to do, is without a socialist ideological reason.

    Hydrogen combined with Oxygen is water. Got water? Does China have a corner on the water market? No. Is China aggressively developing Hydrogen energy technologies? Of course they are. duhhh

    I am an engineer who has been interested in Hydrogen as a combustible energy source, and as an energy carrier, for decades.

  7. Let's not forget that both Clinton and GWBush combined to demolish rare-earth processing and mining (respectively) in the USA.

  8. I agree with Aarradin comment about the shortage in the US. Also it's no surprise that China would do this. It keeps the manufacturing of the products that use the rare earth resources in country. One thing that should be watched of course is that this will spike prices in these metals. Silver is definitely one worth watching right now.

  9. Not necessarily a good move for China, restricting exports of Rare Earths will do several things they won’t like: Reduce China’s income from exports, increase the profits for any of China’s competitors in RE manufacture, slow down the US economy, and cause manufacturers who use REs to look for alternate materials including changing the materials used or improving the refining processes used to make REs in other countries.

  10. I have also written on the subject of the looming crisis with regard to rare earth minerals:


  11. @Dad29, what you said is not strictly accurate, especially blaming GWB.

    The last mine in California was closed around 2000. The closure of the mine was not a smart move.