A supply of clean, affordable energy depends on little-known substances
There’s one problem with the silicon age: its magic depends on elements that are far scarcer than beach sand. Some aren’t merely in limited supply: many people have never even heard of them. And yet those elements have become essential to the green economy. Alien-sounding elements such as yttrium, neodymium, europium, terbium and dysprosium are key components of energy-saving lights, powerful permanent magnets and other technologies. And then there are gallium, indium and tellurium, which create the thin-film photovoltaics needed in solar panels. The U.S. Department of Energy now counts those first five elements as “critical materials” crucial to new technology but whose supply is at risk of disruption. The department’s experts are closely monitoring global production of the last three and likewise the lithium that provides batteries for pocket flashlights and hybrid cars.
Earlier this year the DoE took a major step by launching the Critical Materials Institute, a $120-million program to avert a supply shortage. Led by the Ames Laboratory in Iowa, with backing from 17 other government laboratories, universities and industry partners, the institute represents a welcome investment in new research. Unfortunately—like the original Manhattan Project—the program is driven more by the threat of international conflict than by ideals of scientific cooperation. The appropriation made it through Congress almost certainly because of legislators’ fear of China’s dominance in many critical elements and Bolivia’s ambition to become “the Saudi Arabia of lithium.”
The worries are probably inevitable. China—historically a prickly partner at best to the U.S.—effectively has much of the world’s critical-materials market at its mercy. Take the rare earth elements neodymium, europium, terbium and dysprosium. Despite their name, rare earths are many times more common than gold or platinum and can be found in deposits around the world. In recent years, however, cheap labor and lax environmental regulation have enabled China to corner the global market, mining and refining well over 90 percent of rare earths.
At the same time, China has consistently fallen short of its own production quotas. In 2012 the U.S., the European Union and Japan, suspecting China was manipulating the market, filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO). China argues that production cutbacks were necessary for environmental cleanup. At press time, a preliminary ruling in October 2013 against China will likely be appealed. Meanwhile Japan has announced discovery of vast undersea deposits of rare earths, and the Americans, among others, are working to restart their own disused facilities. The shortages won’t last.
Bolivia’s lithium is a different story. The impoverished, landlocked country needs no artificial shortages to boost the market. As the lightest metal, lithium has unmatched ability to form compounds that can store electricity in a minimal weight and volume. At least half the world’s known reserves are located in a relatively small stretch of the Andes Mountains, where Bolivia and Argentina share a border with Chile.
There’s more at stake here than fancy gadgets for the rich.
The Latest on: Rare earths
via Google News
The Latest on: Rare earths
- EVs Gobble Up Rare Earth Minerals as Miners Struggle to Keep Upon January 25, 2022 at 1:08 pm
Arguably the biggest challenge to the rise of electric vehicles is their outsized demand for rare earth minerals. Cheddar's Alex Vuocolo does a deep dive into the struggle over securing supply chains ...
- MV Index Solutions GmbH Licenses the MVIS Global Rare Earth/Strategic Metals Index to Hanwha Asset Managementon January 25, 2022 at 7:53 am
MVIS today announced the licensing of the MVIS Global Rare Earth/Strategic Metals Index (ticker: MVREMX) to Hanwha Asset Management.
- U.K. Rare Earth Firm Pensana Joins Equinor to Look at Recycling Magnetson January 25, 2022 at 6:40 am
As governments look to secure supplies of crucial rare earth materials, the U.K.’s Pensana Plc signed an agreement with energy company Equinor ASA to look at developing a low-energy method for ...
- Chinese rare earth minerals are ‘a national security risk’: Sen. Mark Kellyon January 23, 2022 at 9:48 am
For decades, the only rare earths mine in the country is in Mountain Pass, California, and it has dominated global supply. But, concerns around its environmental impact, treatment of workers, and ...
- Is Lynas Rare Earths Limited's(ASX:LYC) Recent Stock Performance Tethered To Its Strong Fundamentals?on January 21, 2022 at 1:40 pm
Most readers would already be aware that Lynas Rare Earths' (ASX:LYC) stock increased significantly by 51% over ...
- Chinese rare earth minerals are ‘a national security risk’: Sen. Mark Kellyon January 21, 2022 at 7:52 am
The U.S. has been here before. For decades, the only rare earths mine in the country is in Mountain Pass, California, and it has dominated global supply. But, concerns around its environmental ...
- US Bill Seeks to Prevent Defense Industry From Becoming Dependent on Chinese Rare Earthson January 20, 2022 at 6:09 pm
On Jan. 14, the U.S. Senate introduced a bipartisan bill that aims to prevent American defense contractors from buying rare earths from China by 2026. The ...
- Rare Earth Elements (REE) Market 2022 Industry Growth Opportunities, Industry Size, Product Scope, Future Demands, Business Share and Forecast 2026on January 20, 2022 at 1:22 am
Market ” report includes the detailed study of Porter’s Five Forces analysis, market size estimation, revenue and growth rate, competitor landscape, industry development, product scope, detailed cost ...
- Rare Earths: Fighting for the Fuel of the Futureon January 19, 2022 at 3:59 pm
Rare earth metals, or simply “rare earths,” are the essential, irreplaceable materials powering most of modern technology and, since 1985, China has systematically gained near complete control ...
- Rare Earth Elements Market Size 2022 Segment by Key Players, Development, Trend and Competitive Landscape Analysis by 2029on January 18, 2022 at 7:56 am
A latest report titled, “Global Rare Earth Elements Market Research Report 2022-2029” has been added to the category archive of market research studies. The report includes detailed analysis of the ...
via Bing News