Of all the power that China wields in the world today, its monopoly over rare earth minerals could have the most frightening impact.
You see, rare earth resources are essential for producing high-tech products, renewable energy technologies and advanced weapons systems. In fact, without rare earth minerals, the United States would face a full-blown national security crisis.
It was only a few decades ago, during the Cold War, that the United States was an undisputed leader in the field. Yet as vital as these minerals are to our future, Barack Obama’s administration has no plan for re-building America’s capacity to produce and refine them. How quickly the mighty have fallen…
Our supreme leader has no idea, or even any desire, to get us back in the game. In fact, Team Obama doesn’t have a clue how to develop a domestic rare earth supply.
And That’s Not All
Even beyond our ability to build arms, the rare earth shortages prevent us from building a sustainable, green energy future. Rare earth minerals are indispensable for building wind turbines and hybrid/electric vehicles.
The Obama administration’s only solution to our vulnerabilities is bringing a case against the Chinese at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The U.S. Trade Representative lodged a formal complaint with the WTO about Chinese trade restrictions on the rare earths, including export duties and quotas. These measures brought down prices for the minerals in China, although they increased prices for foreign firms. As a result, Team Obama is alleging unfair competition.
Unfair competition is putting it mildly, in my opinion. The Communist party has understood for years now that rare earths are an area of strategic advantage.
Deng Xiaoping made a cryptic statement all the way back in 1992 about his designs for the future: “There is oil in the Middle East; there is rare earth in China.” With huge rare earth deposits and world power – rather than profit – in mind, China began supplying our need for rare earths at dirt-cheap prices, which our own companies couldn’t match.
Part of the Chinese strategy is to force American and Japanese manufacturers to relocate to China. Industries that depend on rare earth minerals also have the added benefit of having access to China’s supply at a lower cost. So medical device makers, automotive parts firms and green energy firms have pulled up stakes around the world and relocated to China.
America needs a plan to restore our leadership. We need the capability to mine and process the minerals here. Sadly, even the ores mined here by our domestic producer, MolyCorp Inc., are sent to China for processing. Once our American ore is processed in China, it becomes subject to the Chinese export restrictions.
Obama has resisted developing a strategic plan, and the reason is likely his slavish devotion to radical environmentalist interests that dislike any company with the name of mining or refining in it. Ironically, the lack of a domestic supply of rare earth minerals is stunting the growth of the green energy firms these same environmental interests are always touting.
Members of the Armed Forces House and Senate Committees are deeply concerned, and they have some ideas. U.S. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri recently said, “By encouraging the domestic production and refinement of rare earth minerals, we can reduce our dependency on other countries and encourage economic development here in the U.S.”
The bottom line is, we need a strategy, and the Obama Administration is failing to provide it. Congressional members must step in and take the lead.
Until we have a strategy, we are hostage to the Chinese, and can only hope they don’t cut our supplies the same way they cut Japan’s after a territorial dispute in 2010. Right now, the Chinese have us over a dangerous barrel.
Your Eyes on the Hill. Floyd G. Brown
This commentary originally appeared at CapitalHillDaily.com, and is republished here with permission.
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