By Mark Halper
Posting in Energy
Beijing deprives world of vital metals after U.S. takes down Chinese stock exchange. Armageddon follows. Brave men to the rescue. Watch the trailer. See why the Congressman likes it.
It's June 19, 2025. Battered, disgusted, zombie-like and surprised to be alive retired U.S. marine sergeant Frank Woods growls and scowls, "Technology got stronger. The weak got weaker. We built computers. Robots. Unmanned armies. And no one ever asks - what happens when the enemy steals the keys?"
Ooooh. I don't know Frank. How about if we politely ask for them back?
Well, this is a shoot-em-up video game, so that ain't gonna happen. No room for diplomacy here.
Wikipedia and the review site "PickMyPerk" describe the action in Call of Duty: Black Ops II as a Cold War between the U.S. and China. But events get a bit sizzling in the trailer for the Activision game due out later this year.
Los Angeles sinks, the Middle East rises and Armageddon breaks loose.
"The things they built to keep us safe are turned against us," Woods explains with told-you-so-jerks smugness.
Never fear! There will always be "men like us," Frank assures. What sort of men are those, oh grizzled one? "Those who are willing to do what others cannot."
Thank goodness for that. You fight, Frank, along with your compatriots who can shoot with deadly accuracy while wearing those scary looking black agualung gas masks. I'll eat some hot dogs at the baseball game tonight. We'll be both be proud Americans, performing our respective patriotic duties.
Here's what Frank and his brave buddies get up to:
Any way, what on earth is all of this killing and annihilation about?
Rare earth metals, of course. You know - those 17 elements that the global economy cannot do without, because they go into everything from missiles and weapons to wind turbines, cars, computers, light bulbs and iPhones. Rare earths are also tied into thorium, the alternative to uranium that could usher in a future of safe nuclear energy.
Imagine a world without iPhones. Call of Duty does. China - which if you can come back to the present for a moment, controls over 95 percent of the market - takes its domination a step further in 2025, and outright cuts off America's supply.
Serves the country right. You see, the final straw for China was that - in the video game - the U.S. takes down "the Chinese Stock Exchange" with a cyberattack, according to Wikipedia. So China retaliates by strangling the metals flow.
"Aside from the fact that I'm still alive," Sgt. Woods intones in the trailer before allowing the soundtrack a few beats of the doom-doom drums, "none of this surprises me." (I'm reporting his words in as much as I can make out what he's saying. Frank, I know you're a zombie, but please try to articulate).
Nor does it surprise congressman Mike Coffman, R, Colo., either. In May, he wrote of the game in an op-ed piece in the Washington Times:
Though the kinetic pace of the action is pure Hollywood, the competition between the countries for these critical materials is anything but fiction.
Coffman blasts the Obama administration for failing to enact policy that would assure American supply of rare earths, and faults recent actions as inadequate (yes, he's the same Rep. Coffman who recently questioned whether Obama is American). He points out that Call of Duty is way ahead of the U.S. government in comprehending the issue:
Although players have many options to win in the game, it is unclear whether the Obama administration, which is neglecting proven mining and development strategies that could develop a domestic rare earth supply, is playing to win in the real world. The contours of this neglectful rare earth policy have become clear through the attitude of the Department of Defense and the widely announced recent World Trade Organization case...
Sweeping our supply problems under the rug does not appear to be a long-term strategy for success. In the end, these actions align closer with the political agenda of the administration than with the needs of a high-tech economy or national security.
He's not the only one concerned. In this YouTube video, aeronautical guy Rob from "PickMyPerk" explains why the video game plot is plausible, and why he thinks Chinese rare earth control could ground America's fleet of Blackhawk and Apache helicopters:
Somehow, I think we can avoid this mess.
Images: Frank Woods, and "Aqualung" from screen grabs of Activision's YouTube trailer. Call of Duty box art from Activision/Treyarch via Wikipedia.
More rare business on SmartPlanet:
- The two-timing white knight of U.S. rare earth metals
- U.S., allies seek China’s rare earths resolution
- America’s only rare earth metals mine gears up
- Toyota breaks out of China’s rare earth shackles
- Watch replay of nuclear’s future, with dash of rare earth, political intrigue
- Why safe nuclear will rely on rare earth minerals
- America’s rare earth independence
- Largest rare-earth metal mine in U.S. back open for business
- An LED rarity
Click here for a collection of thorium stories on SmartPlanet.
Jul 5, 2012
I'm sure the owners of rare earth mines here in the U.S. would finally get the financing to open their mines here. This just doesn't seem like a realistic scenario.
I think most people don't understand the main issue. US and Japan is controlling the distribution of rare earth material while China is producing them. The unfortunate fact is China has to sell them below cost to US and Japan, otherwise almost no one else can buy them because US and Japan are controlling 95% of world's distribution. Do you think China should sell them below cost forever? Last year alone China loss over $10B While US and Japan are not friendly to them. If I am the people in charge in China, I would stop sell them to US and Japan unless I can make money at least 2X present price. Or better yet sell them in open market. Then China will make at least 3X what they get paid. Chinese labor cost is cheap but mining the material still expansive because they need to import the machinery. Beside there is a huge environmental cost that one can observe with dark smoke everywhere in China.
The only problem is that mining them can be very aggressive to the environment. It's like China does not have that concern and they love the idea of controlling something to benefit their agendas, exactly like any country in the world... The thing about Thorium, the alternative fuel for safer nuclear reactor, is something else... Thorium is actually a sub-product of rare earth mining. Probably it would be a good idea to try developing some cleaner mining practices, just for that sub-product. Differently from the 'boiling-water' concept used on Uranium reactors, Thorium requires some energy input for the production of more energy, and they are safer because just cutting that source input will make them shutdown nicely... America once had that technology (search for Doctor Alvin Weinberg...) and currently a lot of countries are running for a commercial viable model.
Only war mongers see fit to describe the only solutions as war, or war, or war. These people need to be kicked out of Congress.
Good recommendation, FuzzyIce. "Alvin Weinberg Thorium" well worth the search. Readers should also go to the Weinberg Foundation's website: www.the-weinberg-foundation.org., and visit the "thorium" link posted at the bottom of the post above, which takes them to a collection of thorium stories on Smartplanet, many mentioning Dr. Weinberg. They should also get a hold of Richard Martin's new book, SuperFuel, www.superfuelbook.com, a vivid, all-in-one telling of the Weinberg and thorium saga.
You are wrong, China does concern with the environment. The issue is WTO ruling and distribution channel. China is not allow to sell them in open market because US and Japan controlling 95% of the distribution. They have to sell them below cost. If they allow to sell in open market, they would make at least 3X the money. Last year alone, China loss over $10B. If for you, would you like to sell below cost forever?
It would be better if they served in the military before shipping boots to fight wars of choice. Those who have had to serve in combat tend to be more reluctant to send anyone to fight without a good reason or a plan for end of hostilities. The chicken hawks are too eager to have someone else die for their pet peeves.