The big scare about oil is that it’s a dirty and diminishing resource. We are running low on supplies while polluting our environment. While we do consume oil at a ghastly rate, there are plenty of other materials that go into the cars, computers, and cell phones that we have all grown very accustomed to. Rare metals not easily accessible. China currently controls 95% of the rare-metal market, having flooded the market last decade with cheaper metals and wiping out most of the competition.
Whether sensing a precarious position or a powerful one, China is now considering a partial or total ban on certain rare earth elements. Some of these elements are directly related to the future of fuel. What will hybrids do without their Lanthanum?
95% of output production of rare earth elements (REEs) comes from China. Looking to the future, China may be considering its own need for these metals, many of which can be found outside of The Peoples Republic. Right now they are considering a total ban on the exportation of terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium. Terbium in particular is used as a crystal stabilizer in fuel cells, which many auto companies are considering for the future.
But that’s not all. They are considering strangling the export of other elements like neodymium, europium, cerium, and lanthanum, allowing just 35,000 tons a year total . Lanthanum is an inter-metallic element in Nickel-hydride batteries like the Prius uses.
To reiterate, these elements are not solely found in China. Mines in Inner Mongolia are able to produce more metal at a cheaper price, making competition difficult. But if China starts hoardings its rare earth wealth, that should open the market back up. It could still take time to ramp up production to what it is today. We will see how China proceeds with this one, but it could be interesting to see how future metal markets play out.
Source: The Telegraph