Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scarcity of new energy minerals may trigger trade wars, expert suggests

Date:
November 1, 2010
Source:
The Geological Society of America
Summary:
It's not hard to argue in favor of alternatives to fossil fuels these days, but one popular argument -- domestic energy security -- may be standing on very shaky legs. A lot of rare metals are needed to make photovoltaic panels, rare earth magnets for wind generators, fuel cells and high-capacity batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles. But most industrialized nations, including the United States, are almost entirely dependent on foreign sources for those metals. The only way this is going to change is if there is more domestic exploration and mining, a leading expert says.

It's not hard to argue in favor of alternatives to fossil fuels these days, but one popular argument -- domestic energy security -- may be standing on very shaky legs. A lot of rare metals are needed to make photovoltaic panels, rare earth magnets for wind generators, fuel cells and high-capacity batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles. But most industrialized nations, including the United States, are almost entirely dependent on foreign sources for those metals. The only way this is going to change is if there is more domestic exploration and mining, a leading expert says.

Related Articles


"There's a misunderstanding in the public about moving to alternative energy and moving from mining, which can't be done," said James Burnell of the Colorado Geological Survey. Burnell will be speaking about the resource demands of alternative energy technologies on Nov. 2 at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver.

There is a long list of scarce metals needed for alternative energy and transportation. Metals like gallium, indium, selenium, tellurium, and high purity silicon are needed to make photovoltaic panels. To make batteries there's zinc, vanadium, lithium and rare earth elements as well as platinum group minerals for fuel cell-powered vehicles. One of the biggest players in the scarce metals game is China, and they are starting to play hard ball, says Burnell.

China is preparing to build 330 giga-watts worth of wind generators. That will require about 59,000 tons of neodymium to make high-strength magnets -- more than that country's annual output of neodymium. China supplies the world with a lot of those rare earth elements, like neodymium, and will have little or none to export if it moves ahead with its wind power plans.

"So the source for the West is problematical," said Burnell. Trade wars are on the horizon, he predicted. Yet policy makers and the public seem only superficially aware of the problem.

"It is obvious that Japan was upset by the practical pause of rare earth export by China in late September," said Yasushi Watanabe of the Institute for Geo-Resources and Environment in Tsukuba, Japan. On Nov. 1 at the same Geological Society of America meeting Watanabe will be presenting his work on the geology of these critical elements and where they can be found.

New sources of these critical metals are needed, said Watanabe, as well as new methods for extracting the rare elements from different kinds of rocks.

"Extraction methods of metals from new minerals and materials are not well established," said Watanabe. "We need to develop new (refining) and smelting methods for new type ores."

We also need to find those ores and start exploiting them, said Burnell. That means more mining. It's the only way we can stay competitive in the new energy future, he believes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Geological Society of America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

The Geological Society of America. "Scarcity of new energy minerals may trigger trade wars, expert suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101101083154.htm>.
The Geological Society of America. (2010, November 1). Scarcity of new energy minerals may trigger trade wars, expert suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101101083154.htm
The Geological Society of America. "Scarcity of new energy minerals may trigger trade wars, expert suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101101083154.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) A Swedish amputee who became the first person to ever receive a brain controlled prosthetic arm is able to manipulate and handle delicate objects with an unprecedented level of dexterity. The device is connected directly to his bone, nerves and muscles, giving him the ability to control it with his thoughts. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robots Get Funky on the Dance Floor

Robots Get Funky on the Dance Floor

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Dancing, spinning and fighting robots are showing off their agility at "Robocomp" in Krakow. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Saharan Solar Project to Power Europe

Saharan Solar Project to Power Europe

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) A solar energy project in the Tunisian Sahara aims to generate enough clean energy by 2018 to power two million European homes. Matt Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lowe's Testing Robot Sales Assistants in California Store

Lowe's Testing Robot Sales Assistants in California Store

Buzz60 (Oct. 29, 2014) Lowe’s is testing out what it’s describing as a robotic shopping assistant in one of its Orchard Supply Hardware Stores in California. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins