Ed Morrissey has a post up at HotAir today discussing China’s hoarding of rare earth metals. Rare earth metals are needed for green energies such as the batteries in electric cars and in CFL light bulbs that will be mandated in the coming years, as well as in the cell phones and other technologies. Morrissey writes:
Elements required for critical components such as lithium batteries for electric cars cannot be found in massive quantities within the US, and a number of the rare-earth elements needed for these components are mainly found in China — which can be fairly described as an economic competitor of the US at the very least. Today’s report from the Financial Times should drive that point home and send up red flags on “green” mandates, both literally and figuratively:
EPrices of some rare earth metals have doubled in just three weeks amid heavy stockpiling in China that has raised fears over global supplies.
China produces more than 90 per cent of the world’s rare earths, 17 elements used in hybrid cars, fluorescent lights and many high-tech applications. …
Japan and the US, the world’s biggest importers of rare earths, have repeatedly voiced concerns to China, while complaints from industrial users of rare earths have been growing. Last year, China cut their exports by 40 per cent and temporarily banned exports to Japan during a political dispute.
This news is something that Governor Palin warned about in October 2010 Facebook post where she wrote (emphasis mine):
Some of the countries we’re now reliant upon and will soon be beholden to can easily use energy and mineral supplies as a weapon against us.
The solution? Simply, please don’t elect politicians who cast votes that lock up our plentiful supplies. Please consider the case of China bending us over a barrel as it develops rare earth minerals while we ban mining. Please consider Venezuela and Russia and Saudi Arabia and Brazil (as we subsidize their off-shore drilling) and all other energy-producing countries as the Left locks up ANWR, NPR-A, and other American lands that are teeming with our own needed energy supplies.
“Drill, baby, drill and mine, baby, mine.” Yep, the mantra may be mocked by the Democrats, but serious consequences ensue when we let the Left make us rely on foreign countries to feed us energy. The joke is on us if they win.
America is already beholden to China due to our massive debt. Now, we are beholden to them because of our self-imposed green initiatives that have handcuffed us on multiple levels. President Obama’s plans to make us energy independent using green technologies cannot even be achieved when China is our main source of rare earth metals. We have the opportunity to drill for traditional and proven sources of energy that are just below our feet, yet the federal government is handcuffing oil and gas rich states and coastal areas. Just last week, the Obama administration expressed opposition to a bill that would increase oil and gas development in Alaska. This only makes us more dependent on foreign countries to provide needed resources for both green and traditional energies, not to mention material needed for communication technology such as cell phones. Governor Palin is both right and prescient once again.
Update: The Alaska Dispatch reports that Alaska has large quantities of rare earth elements, and the US House is proposing legislation aimed at developing these resources:
The cost of dysprosium oxide, used in magnets, lasers and nuclear reactors, for example, has risen to about $1,470 a kilogram from $700 to $740 at the start of the month.
Enter Alaska. A mine at Bokan Mountain near Ketchikan, to name just one, is thought to be one of the three largest sources of REEs [rare earth elements] in the U.S., probably the largest for dysprosium.
All told, Bokan Mountain is thought to hold about 3.8 million tons of REEs. As U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski put it, "more than enough to break China’s stranglehold on the market and protect America’s access to the rare earths that are vital to the production of cutting-edge technologies in this country."
Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan recently delivered to a U.S. House subcommittee last week in testimony on a couple of pieces of legislation aimed at finding and developing REEs. Read Alaska Dispatch coverage of his testimony here. And more coverage on REEs here, and here.