No Blood for Hybrids Part II

I wrote last year about the cultural hypocrisy which surrounds us in the move towards cleaner technologies and the demonization of using fossil fuels.

People are familiar with peak oil, global warming, ocean acidification, and the national debt. But they aren’t so familiar with blood metals or Rare Earth Metals. REE’s are what Jared Diamond calls strategic resources, upon which entire nations are built. Rubber is an example. Without it, you couldn’t drive your car or water your lawn, to name just two. Low carbon technology relies on the 17 minerals to mass produce everything from catalytic converters to XRay machines.

China provides 97 percent of the worlds supply of these minerals. From one mine in Inner Mongolia. And they are clamping down. In the wake of coming shortages, alternatives are being sought worldwide. Throughout Africa, mines are being dug for these rare minerals. These thug fly-by-nights are known for savagely tearing apart large swaths of land and leaving behind destructive acid solvents that ruin farmland and pollute rivers, streams and lakes. And it all gets imported together for your fuel cells, wind turbines, high speed motors, and virtually all “green” technology”.

Industry sources have told The Independent that China could halt shipments of at least two metals as early as next year, and that by 2012 it is likely to be producing only enough REE ore to satisfy its own booming domestic demand – The Independent

So now it is coming down to reality. I am all for the “Green Technology” movement. If I could get a job with Tesla motors, I’d move to San Jose tomorrow. But these new ideas come with costs. And they are high. Using your IPod? Some gang extracted the REE to make it work out of a hole in Central Africa, after shooting the farmer, used children to dig, and left a large swath of land destroyed, full of acid solvents to pollute rivers, streams and lakes.

The next time you use your laptop or get in your hybrid vehicle, think about it. The way it typically works is miners will gather the topsoil from a piece of land, move it into large dirt pits, and filter out the metals using acid washes that separate the metals from the soil. Once exhausted, large areas of barren, acid-tainted land remain where rice fields once lived. The heavy rains come and wash the acid residue downstream to other fields, contaminating them as well.

Don’t you just love what “Green Energy” does to the environment?

Supplies of Chinese-produced terbium and dysprosium – irreplaceable elements of magnets used in the batteries of hybrid cars and wind turbines – are likely to be cut sharply in the coming months. Still want that wind turbine? Then you better realize where your “green” energy comes from.

Dr Ian Higgins, general manager of Birkenhead-based Less Common Metals, which specialises in rare earth products, said: “There is a threat that in the next 12 to 18 months, there might be some quite severe shortages of these rare earths. That is certainly going to impact those hi-tech green industries outside China.”

No fiber optic cables. And the real kicker: no electric motors. Just some of the foundations of western civilization.  The Gore Luddite fanatics may get their way in a couple of years after all. And they have no response. Their “green” technology will go the way of the DoDo.

About Terry Crowley