The US, along with Europe and Japan, have filed a complaint with the WTO regarding China’s hoarding of rare earth minerals, which are needed to make everything from an iPad to a jet engine. If this is allowed to stand the cellphone in the featured picture here could be toast.
Here’s what President Obama had to say:
“We’ve got to take control of our energy future and we cannot let that energy industry take root in some other country because they were allowed to break the rules. If China would simply let the market work on its own we would have no objections, but their policies currently are preventing that from happening and they go against the very rules that China agreed to follow.”
What the President leaves out is that the only reason American manufacturers are so reliant on Chinese materials, and thus prisoners to the whims of a notoriously unpredictable regime, is that he refuses to open up the United States’ vast reserves of rare earth minerals to mining which can be done in an environmentally responsible manner while providing U.S. jobs and revenue at the same time. The Washington Times writes:
Fortunately, we don’t have to go far. We don’t have to go anywhere – not with $6.2 trillion worth of key mineral resources here in the United States. Our nation leads the world in the breadth of its commodity mineral reserves – a position that enables us to control our own destiny and boost U.S. manufacturing prospects simply by fixing a badly broken regulatory process.
This is regulatory madness. And you thought the EPA was fighting the fossil fuel energy at every level.
The Chinese government has set strict maximum quotas on its exports of rare earth minerals, violating clear World Trade Organization rules against holding goods hostage. Sen. Bob Casey writes:
Members of the World Trade Organization, including the United States, are prohibited from using quotas on exports. When China joined the World Trade Organization it committed to follow these rules. At that time, China also agreed to avoid export taxes or duties. In flagrant disregard for the international trade rules it has agreed to, China is holding hostage rare earth elements and other essential raw materials needed for manufacturing.”
The Chinese have an effective monopoly on the rare earth industry, controlling the only mine in operation and limiting exports
“How does China maintain its control over rare earth elements? For one thing, it controls production. The only mine currently producing rare earths is based in China. They also ensure that most of the supplies remain in China by deliberately limiting exports through strict quotas and stiff duties. These illegal measures operate to chill exports and drive global prices through the roof.”
The Chinese control 95% of rare earths that are used for vital energy and defense materials
“These minerals are vital raw materials used in the manufacturing of metals and metal products for a range of high-tech goods such as cell phones, aircraft bodies, wind turbines, solar panels, and batteries.China supplies about 95% of the world’s annual output of rare earths.” —Peter Lloyd, Professor of economics, Melbourne.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has set unusually high bureaucratic hurdles to launch U.S. mineral mining projects – a policy that drives away business and prevents domestic supply of rare earth minerals. From Hal Quinn of the Washington Times:
“It currently takes up to five times longer to get approval to mine for minerals here than it does in other countries, driving investment, production and jobs away from America. From the time a project request is submitted to the time a final ruling is made, a decade can slip by and paperwork as much as 6 feet high filed and reviewed – repeatedly. Not surprisingly, when investors are ready to move on a project, they turn to countries that are ready to do business, rather than tackle the Byzantine regulatory review process here in the United States.”
The President is letting petty politics get in the way of a solid U.S. minerals resource policy.
Secretary Chu quickly approved initial permits for a single $5 billion plant for Cheniere Energy last year, but at least six other permits are in bureaucratic purgatory while the administration addresses inner-party squabbling with Democrats advocating a moratorium on exports. Opponents to free trade are concerned that exports will increase historically low U.S. natural gas prices.”
We can’t let the President get away with locking up the rare earths we have in the United States. He has already tried and has been successful in locking up a major part of our coal, oil, and natural gas. And uranium as well.
Crossposted at Conservative Outlooks