Erika Johnsen

Run the gamut of green pet projects – heavily-subsidized solar panels and windmills, costly hybrid and electric cars, soon-to-be-required compact fluorescent lamps – and you will find that the production of these holy grails of green all require the use of rare earth elements (REEs). Although these seventeen elements were considered ‘rare’ when they were first discovered, REE resources are actually relatively plentiful – they can be found in low concentrations throughout the Earth's crust and in higher concentrations in various minerals. According to the 2010 U.S. Geological Survey: "Undiscovered resources [of REEs] are thought to be very large relative to expected demand."

However, the expensive, complex extraction process for REEs is both chemically- and energy-intensive (but never forget that technology and efficiency are improving all the time). Ergo, those oh-so-scrupulous, farsighted environmentalists have used legal channels to all but completely curtail domestic production of REEs, permitting neither extraction nor exploration. In a nutshell, they refuse to take complete ownership of all of the processes involved in their ‘clean, green’ projects.

Here's the real rub: the United States has proven natural gas and oil reserves available in cost-effective spades, as well as the possibility of clean nuclear energy. Of course, greenies eschew these energy methods as dirty and dangerous. Environmentalist-in-Chief Obama has championed measures to move America toward energy independence, not by issuing drilling permits, but instead by encouraging clean energy projects – except that the United States no longer produces the needed materials for these projects.

So who supplies the vast bulk of the world’s REEs? You guessed it – the foreign nation with the greatest share in our national debt. China contributes well over 90% of the world’s REEs supply, and the socialist country is currently disposed to cutting exports, stockpiling REEs, and inducing a shortage (not to be confused with scarcity), all of which will make Obama’s coveted wind/solar/hybrid projects even more expensive.

China, supplier of 95 percent of the 17 elements known as rare earths, has clamped down on rare-earth mining and cut export quotas, boosting prices and sparking concern among overseas users such as Japan about access to supplies. The government may further reduce export quotas, pushing prices higher, Goldman Sachs & Partners Australia Pty said last month.

“China has long said it will consolidate the industry but it’s moving more rapidly than many observers anticipated,” said Dudley Kingsnorth, a former rare earths project manager and now chief executive officer of Perth-based advisory Industrial Minerals Co. of Australia. “There might be an element of speculation but I think the price rises have been driven by people who are desperate for the product.”

The world’s most populous nation will raise standards for exporters and won’t approve new project expansions in an effort to curb overcapacity, illegal mining and sales, the government said last month. The Ministry of Land and Resources said yesterday it wants to set aside some rare earth deposits.

If China faced a little more competition in the REE industry from the worldwide economic stage, it would not have the ability to so drastically affect the prices of REEs (and, just to be clear, China is moving to "consolidate the industry" to more effectively bring REE production under the socialist government’s total control). My larger point, however, is that President Obama has promised energy independence through the increased use of renewables, while EPA regulations withold the means of renewable-production independence - which leads me to conclude that logic was not a factor in the decision-making here. The paradoxes and incompetencies of 'green' energy truly know no bounds.

Addendum: From the desk of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, another fresh example of how the government, the Interior Department, the EPA, and their many minions shoot themselves in the foot over and over again, and somehow never seem to get any wiser.


Erika Johnsen

Erika Johnsen is a Web Editor for Townhall.com and Townhall Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @erikajohnsen.