Print 75 comment(s) - last by hathost.. on May 4 at 1:47 PM

EVs and hybrids are threatening to make the U.S. dependent on another dangerous foreign resource source -- China. Hybrids use twice the lanthanides as standard vehicles, and China controls 95 percent of lanthanide deposits.  (Source: Toyota)

China outguessed the U.S. and now stands to reap the rewards. Expert Robert Bryce estimates it will take 10 to 15 years for the U.S. to begin to tap its own lanthanide deposits.  (Source: ESPI Metals)
China outguessed the U.S. when it came to rare earth metals -- it may take 15 years to bring U.S. mines online

The auto industry seems to be moving towards embracing hybrids and electric vehicles.  One needs only look at examples like the 2011 Nissan LEAF and 2011 Chevy Volt, or the the new Chevy Volt MPV5 EV-crossover concept.

However, there's growing concern that the industry is casting a rather blind eye to what exactly the impact of its leap might be.  While about a third of U.S. oil comes from unstable regions like Nigeria and the Middle East, EVs present perhaps an equally challenging geopolitical resource problem.

According to Robert Bryce, author of the book "Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future", the current third-generation Toyota Prius uses 25 lbs. (11 kg) of expensive rare-earth metals -- approximately twice the amount found in a standard vehicle.

That's a big problem as rare earth metals, known scientifically as lanthanides are almost exclusively controlled by China.  Could this stranglehold slow progress of these new vehicles and hasten China's ascent to the world's most dominant economy?  These are concerns that Bryce has been voicing.

Bryce describes,"95% and 100% of the world’s supply of this entire row of the periodic table [is controlled by China]."

The biggest uses of lanthanides are in the battery pack and electric motor of hybrids and EVs.  Bryce believes that lanthanide demand will outpace supply as early as 2013, slowing the industry's growth and allowing China to raise its resource prices.  He states, "There are no significant supplies (of lanthanides) that can come on stream in anything close to the time span the market need."

Currently, 100,000 tons (90,718 t) per year of lanthanides are manufactured and utilized.  That figure is expected to soon rise.  Bryce says, "Estimates are that within two-three years the market demand will be 120,000-130,000 tons (108,862-117,932 t) per year."

Worldwide there's 99 million tons (89.8 million t) of rare earth metals, but it's expensive and tricky to tap these reserves.  It also takes time -- up to 15 years.  The U.S. currently has no working lanthanide mines, though it does have lanthanide resources.  

The bottom line is that China outguessed the U.S. and the rest of the world, wisely recognizing the value of the resource in 1980s and early 90s and committing to the expensive up front investment to harvest them.  Now 10 to 15 years later, it is reaping the rewards, while the U.S. is left wondering what to do.

China is well aware of its position and plans to fully exploit it now.  Former Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping remarked some time ago, "There is oil in the Middle East, there are rare-earths in China; we must take full advantage of this resource."

Bryce warns that the rush to EVs and hybrids may put the U.S. in a bind.  He states, "In this headlong rush to go ‘green,’ we are essentially trading one type of import reliance for another.  We are going to be more dependent on a single market, where there’s no transparency and one dominant market player who happens to own most of our debt already."

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RE: No surprise
By thurston on 4/30/2010 9:18:59 PM , Rating: 4
Environmentalists rarely see beyond the tip of their nose, let alone the big picture.

Neither do the far Right.

RE: No surprise
By TSS on 5/1/2010 6:00:06 AM , Rating: 2
Can we please come to the conclusion that the partisan issue serves only to divide the people, not unite the people?

You have both parties running your country into the ground. Next term, republicans get voted in which then mess up as hard as the democrats did which will get voted in next which mess up just as hard as the republicans did which will get the republicans voted back in.... All the while the people bicker to eachother instead of getting the country back on track.

Yknow normally i'd have not much problems with countries/world powers decending into decadence and reforming, that's just the natural evolution of society it seems. But the USA is a big country, which'll affect the whole world when it happens, and having china as the dominant world power could prove to be quite dangerous.

So stop selling out to the chinese. I'm pretty sure they are crazy enough to actually come to evict you when you can no longer pay the rent. There will be no winner from that conflict.

RE: No surprise
By misuspita on 5/2/2010 5:09:35 AM , Rating: 1
I'm pretty sure that every time a big empire died in history, the ripple affected all the civilized world. For example, when the great Roman Empire (which lasted 1000 years) died, the effect was what's now known as The Dark Ages... which lasted roughly 1000 years also.

So, when the USA dies, no biggie... we'll have 50 years of "darkness" until the next great superpower comes and takes it from there...

I for one, welcome our new overlords... :)

RE: No surprise
By hathost on 5/4/2010 1:37:36 PM , Rating: 2
Would you be as welcoming when they are starving you from your land or imprisoning all dissentors. Or even possibly killing them. Even if is is only "a few" people that you disagree with eventually the system feeds on its own. Look no further than France, Germany, Russia, Vietnam, Korea, China, Japan, Rawanda, Midle Africa, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and I could go on ad nauseum for examples of how other countries mistreated their citizens or their neighbors or the world. I believe the US is much better and more responsible now than nearly any coutry on the planet. We aren't perfect and we make mistakes but we didn't start 2 world wars either.

"When World War II ended, the United States had the only undamaged industrial power in the world. Our military might was at its peak, and we alone had the ultimate weapon, the nuclear weapon, with the unquestioned ability to deliver it anywhere in the world. If we had sought world domination then, who could have opposed us? But the United States followed a different course, one unique in all the history of mankind. We used our power and wealth to rebuild the war-ravished economies of the world, including those of the nations who had been our enemies." R.Reagan

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