Washington, DC— U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today introduced an amendment to a critical defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), asking the Department of Defense to conduct an analysis of a breakthrough technology that would help Pennsylvania businesses compete with China for rare earth elements (REEs) production. Senator Casey has been a strong advocate of blocking Chinese mining projects until China agrees to participate fairly in the global trade of REEs.
“China’s anticompetitive practices are exacerbating global supply problems at a time when world demand continues to climb, and hurting Pennsylvania businesses,” said Senator Casey. “With assistance from the Department of Defense, local businesses can continue to compete in the global market.”
In Pennsylvania and throughout the nation, innovative businesses are discovering new methods to recycle heavy rare earths from fluorescent lighting. This new technology can help reduce America’s dependence on China’s stockpiling and hoarding of rare earths. A cost-benefit analysis from the Department of Defense would demonstrate the potential opportunities for the nation’s leading consumer of energy to recapture, reprocess, and reuse rare earth elements already within our borders.
China controls production of more than 95% percent of the world’s supply of REEs critical in a wide range of industries – from electric cars to smart phone batteries to wind turbines – but has increasingly been reducing the amount available on the world market, sending costs for industries that rely on REEs skyrocketing.
China’s trade practices pose a threat to national security. According to the Department of Defense, difficulty in obtaining cerium, a rare earth metal, has already caused production delays with weapons systems. Several branches of the military, a defense contractor, and departments across the federal government have recognized the possible perils of depending on a Chinese-dominated market full of unfair policies. Rare earth elements from China are essential to a wide range of commercial and military products including batteries, magnets, laser-guided bombs and munitions, and night-vision goggles.
Senator Casey has previously written a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar regarding China’s REE hoarding, which can be found here.