THE RARE EARTHS PROBLEM: A U.S. SOLUTION
Rare earth elements – there are 17 of them – have the world’s manufacturing by the throat. They are, as John Kutsch, director of the Thorium Energy Alliance, says, “the great multipliers.” They make metals stronger, generators more efficient, cell phones smaller, television sets sharper, and laptops lighter. They are, in their way, as important to modern manufacturing as energy.
At one time, the United States was a major supplier of rare earths — with supplemental supplies coming from countries around the world, including Australia and Brazil. Today, 90 percent of the rare earths the world uses come from China.
The use of rare earths is as important in lasers and jet engines as it is in aiming cruise missiles, which means the United States, and the rest of the world, has a huge vulnerability: China controls the supply of new war-fighting material. All U.S. defense manufacturers – including giants Boeing, General Electric and Lockheed Martin — are dependent on China. Now China is demanding that U.S. companies do more of their manufacturing there: China wants to control the whole chain.