Our next energy and security crisis?

March 5, 2018

Oil and natural gas aren’t just fuels. They supply building blocks for pharmaceuticals; plastics in vehicle bodies, athletic helmets, and numerous other products; and complex composites in solar panels and wind turbine blades and nacelles. The USA was importing 65% of its petroleum in 2005, creating serious national security concerns. But fracking helped cut imports to 40% and the US now exports oil and gas.

Today’s vital raw materials foundation also includes exotic minerals like gallium, germanium, rare earth elements and platinum group metals. For the USA, they are “critical” because they are required in thousands of applications; they become “strategic” when we don’t produce them in the United States.

They are essential for computers, medical imaging and diagnostic devices, night vision goggles, GPS and communication systems, television display panels, smart phones, jet engines, light-emitting diodes, refinery catalysts and catalytic converters, wind turbines, solar panels, long-life batteries and countless other applications. In 1954, the USA imported 100% of just eight vital minerals; in 1984, only eleven.

Today, in this technology-dominated world, the United States imports up to 100% of 35 far more critical materials. Twenty of them come 100% from China, others from Russia, and others indirectly from places where child labor, worker safety, human rights and environmental standards are nonexistent.

The situation is untenable and unsustainable. Literally every sector of the US economy, the nation’s defense, its energy and employment base, its living standards – all are dependent on sources, supply chains and transportation routes that are vulnerable to disruption under multiple scenarios.

Recognizing this, President Trump recently issued an executive order stating that federal policies would henceforth focus on reducing these vulnerabilities, in part by requiring that government agencies coordinate in publishing an updated analysis of critical nonfuel minerals; ensuring that the private sector have electronic access to up-to-date information on potential US and other alternative sources; and finding safe and environmentally sound ways to find, mine, reprocess and recycle critical minerals – emphasizing sources that are less likely to come from unfriendly nations, less likely to face disruption.

The order also requires that agencies prepare a detailed report on long-term strategies for reducing US reliance on critical minerals, assessing recycling and reprocessing progress, creating accessible maps of potentially mineralized areas, supporting private sector mineral exploration, and streamlining regulatory and permitting processes for finding, producing and processing domestic sources of these minerals.

Incredibly, the last report on critical minerals and availability issues was written in 1973, the year the first mobile telephone call was made. That inexcusable 45 years of neglect by multiple administrations and congresses dates back to the era of...

Read entire article at EnterStageRight.com.

 

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