On January 1, 2010, I wrote of The Coming “Green” Collapse.  The issue was “rare earth elements” which are vital to so-called “green technology” and are mined almost exclusively in China.  I warned at the time:

The green economy envisioned by the Obama administration as the means by which we will grow “green jobs” and lessen our dependence on foreign oil in fact simply puts us at the mercy of the Chinese

Last January, the threat was that China would restrict exports for its own domestic consumption.  Now, the Chinese are using their domination of the rare earth elements market to exert policital pressure on Japan, as reported by The New York Times:

Sharply raising the stakes in a dispute over Japan’s detention of a Chinese fishing trawler captain, the Chinese government has blocked exports to Japan of a crucial category of minerals used in products like hybrid cars, wind turbines and guided missiles.

Chinese customs officials are halting shipments to Japan of so-called rare earth elements, preventing them from being loading aboard ships at Chinese ports, industry officials said on Thursday….

Deng Xiaoping, the late leader of China, is widely reported to have said that while the Middle East has oil, China dominates rare earths. But while Arab states used restrictions on oil exports as a political weapon in 1956, 1967 and 1973, China has refrained until now from using its near monopoly on rare earth elements as a form of leverage on other governments.

With regard to the Obama administration policy of restricting domestic oil production in favor of unproven “green technology” for which we are dependent upon China, I asked the following question:

This is a monumental policy failure in its infancy. Is anyone in Washington listening?

This may be the siren that gets the administration’s attention.  As reported in The Times’ article, the problem has so worried Defense Department officials (because many of these minerals are vital to military technology as well) that Congress and the administration are looking at ways of diversifying supply.

The problem is that extraction of the minerals is environmentally messy, so don’t expect a solution any time soon.
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