Obama on Rare Earths: Blame China not Me

President Obama is bringing China before the WTO claiming that it is artificially limiting the export of critical rare earth elements – elements necessary for nearly all modern electronics and numerous other fields including weapons systems and green energy technologies.   Because China controls 95 to 97 percent of the market in rare earths, exports of the minerals are necessary for manufacturers outside of China.  China admits that they have limited rare earth exports but argues that the restrictions are justified for environmental reasons under the WTO.  In addition China argues that domestic demand precludes it from exporting more than its established quota.  It’s certainly true that China’s domestic demand for rare earths has grown – in part because by artificially limiting rare earth exports in prior years when there was definitely a surplus, many downstream users of rare earths, unable to pay escalating prices, moved their factories to China where prices were less and the needed elements more abundant.

Whatever the merits (or lack of) of the President’s action, one is tempted to admonish him with Matthew 7:5 (New International Version 1984) “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  While China has fostered mining for rare earths, in 2002 environmental restrictions shut down the last operating rare earth mine in the U.S. and it was only recently allowed to reopen after spending $100s of millions on environmental and technological upgrades – money not spent producing ore.  In addition, the Obama administration is actively closing hundreds of millions of mineral-filled acres of public lands to production.  Every ton of rare earths placed off limits in the U.S., puts China more and more in the catbird seat.

Rather than going hat in hand to China, or crying “I’m gonna tell, you’re not playing fair,”  let’s get our own house in order and remove regulatory barriers to domestic production of rare earth elements via mining on public lands.

Comments (7)

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  1. Pam says:

    It never ceases to amaze me that the very industries that the president and others of his mindset are trying to keep in the United States are the very ones that are “off limits” due to environmental restrictions.

  2. ” let’s get our own house in order and remove regulatory barriers to domestic production of rare earth elements via mining on public lands.”

    This applies to onshore and offshore oil, to pipelines, to refineries, to natural gas, coal, and other proven and traditional energy sources that the environmental extremist oppose. Their position is so irrational and extreme as to make one question their real motives.

    • John Oh says:

      The words say it all. “vague generalization hyperbole” “Balls in mouth” A disgusting type of comment only a hippy would use.
      Nuts to you mate…The environment needs protection from guys like you as you make yourself hated by stupid statements like this, and make the environment seem less important!!

  3. John Oh says:

    If they were to invest in Australia they would have no problem. Except the current soon to be removed government.

  4. Ray says:

    All great ideas, except one fact, the american public owns those lands, and having lived in the Inter mountain West for as long as I have, local folks tend to think of that government property as their own back yards for recreation and beauty.
    What I find interesting is the thought process that makes it sound like we have just endless lands to be exploited and we should get right along with doing so…with respect to the mine that closed down, during GWB’s presidency I might add, I still find it hard to believe it has anything to do with Obama, the mine is in California and the last time I checked, that state still has a very desirable quality of life. the mine is up and running and most likely is profitable even under these draconian laws that require it to be less polluting…so what is so bad about that?

  5. John Oh says:

    All great ideas, except one fact, the american public owns those lands? In Australia? I wouldnt be one bit surprised.

  6. Tabgo1 says:

    There should be some spare parts in the around 14,000 idle wind mills due to either loss os tax payer subsdies or maint problems or both. And either solar or wind power which is about 28% efficient at best requires these rare metals that we don’t have and if we did mining for them would probbaly be shut down by the EPA. So here we go again putting our selves at the mercy of a foreign govt like we have with the middle east. Not to mention the carbon foot print of solar or wind which would be about a third of the US land mass. But not to worry esp this admin because in my opinion if they need your land they will just take it.

    Now there is a clean safe reliable source of power and that is nuclear power. Although it seems that this admin wants to attack that also given the track record of the SF Calif SEC and in my opinion the cinstant attack on a new start up nuclear power company.Or mabey the 4 to 5 thousand high paying const jobs for 4 to 5 years and the aprox 1000 permanent plant jobs at around 60 to 80k is a concept foreign to obama’s admin. Then there is the 30 thou tons of steel and around 35 thou yards of concrete along with all the compobents to build and maintain a nuclear power co. In Payette Idaho Alternate Energy Holding Inc succeded where WarrenBuffett through Mid American Energy Holdings with aprox 12 million failed to get the zoning permit but for less than half of that AEHI was succesful. Mabey the current admin has an opposition to millions in a tax base.

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