Posting in Energy
The Obama administration and Congress are seeking to diversify the global supply chains of rare earth ores used in the development of clean energy technology. China currently dominates the world's supply.
China's monopoly over the world's supply of the rare earth metals has prompted the United States Department of Energy to devise a plan to globalize supply chains. The metals are vital the the development of clean energy technologies.
Yesterday, Energy Department officials testified before a U.S. Congressional hearing to examine the concentration of production in China and what steps should be taken to manage supply risk. The Obama administration plans to encourage more rare earth extraction among U.S. trading partners.
The 17 elements are used to manufacture many staples of the modern world ranging from electronics, hybrid cars, solar panels and wind turbines to guided missiles.
David Sandalow, U.S. Assistant Energy Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, told Congress that "diversified sources of supply are important for any valuable material," and suggested that there be a roadmap for "multiple, distributed sources of clean energy materials."
Domestically, Congress is also crafting legislation to ramp up domestic production by offering federal loan guarantees to mining companies. The House of Representatives passed the Rare Earths and Critical Materials Revitalization Act of 2010 on Wednesday.
"We need to act now to begin the process of creating our own supply of rare earth materials so the United States is never dependent on China–or on any other country–for crucial components for our national security," Pennsylvania Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper said in a prepared statement.
China holds 37 percent of the world's known reserves of the metals within its territory, and its capacity to process rare earths outpaces any other nation. China currently produces 95 percent of rare earth metals sold worldwide, Reuters noted in a report.
In comparison, the United States holds 13 percent of reserves; however, a recent report by the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that the country sits upon a largely untapped stockpile of rare earths. The remaining concentrations of the elements are scattered across the globe.
The exportation of rare earths was used as a blunt instrument in a recent territorial tussle between China and Japan. China froze exports of rare earth minerals to Japan in retaliation for Japan's detention a fishing trawler captain who was fishing in disputed waters (and incidentally collided with several Japanese coast guard vessels).
The Japanese government may be establishing a fund to develop alternate supply sources at the behest of Japanese corporations who do not want to be reliant on China to source their products, the Wall Street Journal reports. Given the aforementioned remarks, I'd imagine that the United States government is of kindred mind on the issue.
Oct 1, 2010
It is sad to see politics messing up so much of the worlds attempts to do right by the earth. Would there be quabbling if the US was the one hold china's stake in the rare earth market? I don't think so. We need to not get so mad just cause others have what we think we may need later on. To say the country with all the toys wins is not the way run things. Why not spend $$ on ways to use what we have at hand? China's way of governing may not be the same as our's but they were smart in looking ahead to their future. Something we can't seem to do in this country. This is why there is so much pork in bills passed. Its all about mine "RIGHT NOW". If the government were run more like a business building quality and looking to the future -- we would be in a much better place.
ShortyStuff - it isn't limited to steel manufacturing. In 2009, the last factory in the U.S. that made antibiotics closed down and moved overseas. Now, ALL of our major antibiotics are made elsewhere and are at risk. It is part of THE ZERO's FAILURE to act in an appropriate manner. If he REALLY wanted to get us off imported oil, he would PUSH for using all of our resources to the maximum. Instead, THE ZERO has banned more drilling in the Gulf, ANWR, etc., raised taxes and fees on the businesses that drive our economy, given 2 BILLION DOLLARS to the Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras for the development of their newly-found oilfield in the South Atlantic. This also benefits THE ZERO's major funder who is heavily invested in Petrobras. Can anybody say "PAYBACK"??
Aren't there a lot of rare earth elements in Arizona and they were discovered by David Hudson back in the 1970's and nothing was done about that?
I live in Colorado, where many mines in the Rockies which produce limited amounts of rare earths have been shut down over the past few decades. It's not just one reason; but often it's because the ores simply aren't high enough quality to make economic production feasible. There are also environmental issues, particularly with water quality. Mining makes heavy use of water in the first level of processing and often this leave local streams polluted. The truth is that the US no longer has the highest quality ores in the world, for the same reason we no longer have the largest oil reserves. As the world's largest superpower for decades, we've played our resources out. When I was growing up in the '60s, I remember visiting relatives in the upper MN region. Back then, taconite mining in the area was a very big business. Taconite is a lower quality iron ore which (then) new technology had made profitable. Now even taconite is largely played out and not economical. In addition to having a lot of its own reserves, China has worked hard to secure the rights to minerals in areas as diverse as Asia, Africa and Australia. Because it is only now building a large industrial base that eventually must dwarf America's to satisfy its people, they're much more sensitive than we are to securing the rights, and they have less qualms than we do in dealing with dictatorships in the countries that have them.
ShortyStuff, as Scott pointed out the lack of steel production as well as many other critical materials in the US has more to do with globalization than it does with any environmental regulations. The part that bothers me the most about it is that there are things that are strategically necessary for our military that we don't have the capability to produce in the US any more. In my mind that's pretty dangerous.
Steel production (other than "Specialty Steel") did not leave the U.S. due to environmental concerns and/or actions, nor liberal politics. Steel was/is produced more cheaply in India and China, where many former owners of U.S. steel mills shipped their machinery and American jobs. This is a direct result of the bogus economics of the "Global Economy" foisted upon us by the Chicago School (followers/worshipers) of Milton Friedman, a philosophy pushed then by the Reagan administration and now by the Republican Party. The Democrats were pretty useless pushing back, and eventually rolled over and played dead. As for the EPA, created by a Republican who was not brain dead (Richard Nixon), their oversight (What there is), will probably take a back seat to whatever new entities replace the federal organizations who were responsible for monitoring BP's natural resource exploitation activities. Since the "liberal fascists", I'm guessing this is your term for the Obama Administration, are the people promoting the idea of mining for these 'rare earth' materials in the first place, I think your concerns are unfounded. I must say that I am surprised to read that China has the largest reserves. I thought those were in Russia.
Ha ha ha, and you think the environmental wackos and the EPA are going allow mining in the US? Unless we can get the liberal-fascists out of office this is just a pipe dream. We've already put our national security at risk by the (lack of) steel production. This is just another example of environmentalism ruining not only our freedoms, but our security as well.
If only the Reagan administration or the GHW Bush administration had taken similar steps to reduce dependence on Mideast oil...