Marita Noon

What is essential to modern energy production and management including oil-and-gas development, wind and solar, and LED lights—just to name a few—and has rare bipartisan support in both houses of Congress?

The answer is something “rare.” Something that is currently used in almost everything modern, but that is abundant and recoverable in very few places on the planet—hence the “rare” moniker. Something that China has in abundance and that they are using as an economic weapon against the rest of the world—much like OPEC uses oil. And, this something is also found in the U.S., which could give us a competitive advantage in the global economy.

Have you guessed it? “Rare” was a big clue.

I am talking about Rare Earth Elements (REEs), many of which are recognized as Critical Minerals.

REEs are found in almost all massive rock formations—though their concentrations range from 10 to a few hundred parts per million by weight, which makes them difficult to extract. There are 17 different REEs with names ending in “ium” such as: dysprosium, yttrium, neodymium, terbium, cerium, and europium—just to name a few.

While most people don’t give REEs a thought, we all use them in our modern lives as they are a part of what makes cell phones, flat screens, and computer chips work. But REEs are not just about convenience and luxury. They are in every modern vehicle from a Prius to a Ford F-150. They enable miniaturization—making things fast and light.

According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), “A Department of Energy report in 2010 noted that several minerals vital to clean-energy applications, including neodymium and dysprosium, face ‘critical’ supply questions over the next 15 years.” A 2011 PricewaterhouseCoopers report revealed that 73 percent of CEOs in the automotive industry have businesses that face minerals and metals scarcity. The same problem applies to 78 percent of high-tech industry CEOs and 50 percent of aviation CEOs.

Marita Noon

Marita Noon is Executive Director of Energy Makes America Great.