Friday, November 20, 2015

China's cache of rare-earth metals could be its bargaining chip as the West goes green and gets away from fossil fuels

The green revolution in energy generation and especially electric power could be bounded by the availability of rare earth minerals, according to an op-ed by David S. Abraham in the New York Times Friday Nov. 20, p. A21, link here.

Wind turbines, air conditioners, computers, and many devices do depend on these elements, which are somewhat off by themselves on the Periodic Chart.

One problem is that right now China seems to control a disproportionate share of the natural resources and could exploit this fact for political advantage.  Another is that the minerals have to be mined (often with copper), whether underground or in open-pit mines, with labor issues as well as environmental. The recent film “The 33” comes to mind.

It would be interesting to see how this story fits with the work of Taylor Wilson on both fusion and fission (Nov. 7).  The story also adds some credibility that natural gas should be used as a "bridge fuel" in the green revolution.

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