Green Technology is a Scarce Resource Hog; And Moves Dependence from Saudi Arabia to China
William Jacobsen at the Legal Insurrection blog writes:
The whole "green" revolution is based on the false assumption that the technology does not use scarce resources. In fact, "green" technology is a "scarce resource hog," and he points to an article in UK's The Independent:
Britain and other Western countries risk running out of supplies of certain highly sought-after rare metals that are vital to a host of green technologies, amid growing evidence that China, which has a monopoly on global production, is set to choke off exports of valuable compounds. Failure to secure alternative long-term sources of rare earth elements (REEs) would affect the manufacturing and development of low-carbon technology, which relies on the unique properties of the 17 metals to mass-produce eco-friendly innovations such as wind turbines and low-energy light bulbs.
After decades in which they were considered little more than geological oddities, rare earths have recently become a boom industry after the invention of a succession of devices, including iPhones and X-ray machines, which rely on their specific properties. Global demand has tripled from 40,000 tons to 120,000 tons over the past 10 years, during which time China has steadily cut annual exports from 48,500 tons to 31,310 tons.
Once extracted and refined, the rare earth metals can be put to a dizzying range of hi-tech uses. Neodymium (pictured above), one of the most common rare earths, is a key part of neodymium-iron-boron magnets used in hyper-efficient motors and generators. Around two tons of neodymium are needed for each wind turbine. Lanthanum, another REE, is a major ingredient for hybrid car batteries (each Prius uses up to 33 lbs.), while terbium is vital for low-energy light bulbs and cerium is used in catalytic converters.
As William pointed out on another post:
The green revolution which is the centerpiece of Obama's economic plan essentially relies on substituting our dependence on Saudi oil with a dependence on Chinese metals.