Friday, March 16, 2012

Oil Is Not the Only Thing We Need

Have you ever heard of "Rare Earth Minerals"? They are minerals in the Periodic Table which are difficult to find and to mine but are absolutely essential to many of our high tech industries such as Smartphones, Televisions, disk drives and wind turbines. China currently controls nearly all of the worlds supply. The Chinese have been manipulating the production and restricting export of these minerals to encourage manufactures to move factories to China to save costs. Beijing set an export quota of 33,353.7 tons in 2011, but it shipped only 18,586 tons last year. The squeeze has led to a fourfold increase in export prices over the past two years, encouraging buyers to shift operations to China and also develop non-rare earth technologies.

The US, EU and Japan have filed a complaint with the WTO to pressure China to lift restrictions and lower prices (good luck with that). The problem I have with all this is simple. You see, we have an ample supply of these minerals here in the US but the EPA and the Federal Government, at the same time they are complaining that China is not exporting enough, have made the mining of them almost impossible by over regulating the industry, placing large restrictions on it and making it almost impossible to mine for it here. We used to have 5 mining operations right here in the good 'ol US of A for these important minerals. We now have just one. We used to be responsible for nearly half the worlds production and nearly all of our own needs. China now controls 97% of the world supply.

While we are dependent on the Middle East and Venezuela for our oil, we are also now dependent on China for minerals we need in our high tech industries (and things essential for defense, like GPS and communications equipment). This dependence is just not necessary. Have have plenty of both for our own needs -and enough left over to sell overseas and make some sorely needed cash.

The problem is simple. The Federal Government has so many restrictions on mining and the disposal of waste that it is just too costly and just too hard to expand production here. And, just as with drilling for oil, it is almost impossible to get a permit to even try. So why haven't we heard more about all this? I don't know. Apparently the Federal Government is not concerned enough about being dependent on China for the manufacture of items essential for our National Defense and for the moving of factories and jobs out of the US to China.

I think it's time for this to be added to the list of Republican Campaign issues. Don't you?

By-the-way, tomorrow is Saint Patrick's Day. Time to break out those green shirts and blouses (preferably Kelly Green, of course), stock up on your party supplies and get ready to have a little fun. Here in Southern California with our large Hispanic population, they call it the "Irish Cinco de Mayo". Well, everyone is Irish on Saint Pat's Day so get in the spirit and have a grand time.

Live Long and Prosper....

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