In his much-anticipated proposed FY 2013 Federal budget blueprint released last week, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to “renewable” energy. An attractive proposition, but it raises the question of whether we are simply trading one set of foreign dependencies for another. Technologies such as electric cars and wind and solar energy generators are heavily reliant on rare earths elements (REEs) and other critical non-fuel minerals, and the President’s vow to “double down” on “green” projects will likely continue to fuel demand for these materials.
Against the assertions of those predicting an easing of the rare earths elements (REE) supply picture due to slowing demand and projects outside of China coming online in the next few years, this development would be consistent with a trend noted by a new Market Research report, which forecasts an overall double-digit REE market growth, with the energy component being the fastest growing sector.
Whether or not the President’s renewed push for “green” projects has actual implications for the domestic mining sector – or even just the underlying mineral policy debate – remains to be seen. Administration officials have paid lip service to the need to “diversify REE supply sources” but, after all, to fuel his renewable energy agenda, the President finds himself in the precarious and ironic situation of having to rely on the very technologies demonized by a large segment of his base.
Unfortunately, if the fact that we’re still waiting for a 16-month late Department of Defense rare earth assessment report is any indication, we’re still a long way away from developing a consistent mineral strategy.