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China Cuts Rare Earth Export Quota 72%

Bloomberg News
China, the world’s largest rare- earths producer, cut export quotas for the minerals needed to make hybrid cars and televisions by 72 percent for the second half, raising the possibility of a trade dispute with the U.S.

Shipments will be capped at 7,976 metric tons, down from 28,417 tons for the same period a year ago, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce yesterday.
(9 July 2010)

Rare earth minerals from China are rarer
(audio and text)
Marketplace, American Public Media
Kai Ryssdal: Gold hit a two-month high today: $1,248 an ounce. As attractive as gold is when the economy is questionable, though, neodymium may be a more important metal today. What’s that? You never heard of it? What about lananthanum? They’re what’re called “rare earth metals.” There are about 17 of them. They’re used pretty extensively in things like hybrid cars, and smartphones and a lot of other gadgets we are coming to depend on.

Thing is, China produces almost all of the world’s rare earth metals. And last month Beijing cut way back on exports of them.

… Dudley Kingsnorth: My plea today was “China, you are the leader, yes, but as the leader, you’ve got responsibilities.”

Dudley Kingsnorth is an industry consultant. What’s scary to him is not that China controls the world’s rare earths. It’s that China doesn’t want to share. It’s put quotas on the amount it exports. Last year, China allowed less than half of what it mined to be sold to the rest of the world.

Kingsnorth: Now, if these quotas stay in place, then what’s going to happen is that less and less of the manufacturing is going to take place in the U.S., and more and more of the manufacturing is going to take place in China. And we all know once those manufacturing jobs have gone, they’re gone. It’s not a temporary situation.
(31 August 2010)
Recommended by a friend who writes:

“Even if the US steps up manufacturing, expect the price of techie gadgets, computer, cars (anything with a chip) to go up as China keeps a tight grip on the materials. Solution for US: consume less, make do, simplify, slow down, garden, learn to cook – you know the routine.”


Why the world is running out of helium

Steve Connor, The Independent
A US law means supplies of the gas – a vital component of MRI scanners – are vanishing fast

It is the second-lightest element in the Universe, has the lowest boiling-point of any gas and is commonly used through the world to inflate party balloons. But helium is also a non-renewable resource and the world’s reserves of the precious gas are about to run out, a shortage that is likely to have far-reaching repercussions.

Scientists have warned that the world’s most commonly used inert gas is being depleted at an astonishing rate because of a law passed in the United States in 1996 which has effectively made helium too cheap to recycle.
(23 August 2010)
Noted by the Time Magazine blogger, Don Fletcher.

Time to close the global energy gap

Carlos Slim and Kandeh K Yumkella, BBC Viewpoint
It is time to close the global energy gap, say Carlos Slim and Kandeh K Yumkella. In this week’s Green Room, they explain how universal access to modern energy sources can help make progress towards a number of Millennium Development Goals.

If you are reading this article, you most likely have electricity and heat at home and never think of that fact as at all remarkable.

Yet more than two billion people – one in three people on our planet – have no access to modern energy to light and heat the dwellings in which they live.

The obstacles to energy access are not technical. We know how to build power systems, design modern cooking stoves, and meet energy demand efficiently.

What is missing is a global commitment to move energy access up the political and development agendas.

Half of the world’s population uses solid fuel – such as wood, charcoal, or dung – for cooking. According to the World Health Organization, 1.6 million women and children die each year as a result of indoor smoke inhalation, more than those who lose their lives to malaria.

Add the pollutant emissions from such stoves, together with the deforestation that results from using firewood, and you have several pressing global challenges that can be tackled at once by closing the energy gap.
(17 August 2010)

Putin opens Russian section of Siberian-Pacific oil pipeline

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Sunday opened the Russian section of a long-awaited oil pipeline that will carry Russian crude to China in a bid to diversify its oil exports away from Europe.
(29 August 2010)