Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rare Earth Metals Are Neither Rare Nor Earthy?

I really don't know much about chemistry anymore.  Sad because I was once a chemistry major before International Relations captured my heart and mind.  Here is a great piece* explaining what they are and are not and why the Chinese shot themselves in the foot, apparently.
Now that the specter of a monopoly being exercised for political ends has been raised, there will be sufficient political will to break that monopoly. ....  China has reached its dominant supplier position through good old-fashioned industrial aggression, not innate geographical superiority. Cheap labor, little environmental scrutiny, and a willingness to sell at low cost have made other producers give up.
Cheap output meant other sources elsewhere dried up essentially.  But if this stuff gets more expensive, then others will enter the market.  One could infer from the article that governments and industry now have a clearer incentive to sponsor research that would make the sorting/filtering of this stuff easier and cheaper. 

The security dilemma lives on--you act in a threatening way and the world will react.  You make someone less secure and they will develop means to cope, which then erodes whatever advantage you had.  Reminds me of classic problems in the intel game--you use your cards once.  Using them means that the other side figures out how it is vulnerable and responds.  IR is dynamic, which is why it captured me so thoroughly.

* Foreign Policy has become the best source for all IR stuff, not just Zombie-related blogs ( or excellent coverage of US military stuff ( or Middle East stuff (

1 comment:

Chris C. said...

Now the thousands of drivers who make the LA to Vegas run on I-15 will have to live with the dire threat of thorium in their veins when they drive next to the mine at Mountain Pass.

Someone should really put a sign up that indicates the geopolitical importance of that mine.