DOE Releases Strategy for Rare Earth Minerals

Rare earth elements are essential for the manufacture of a variety of today's new technologies, ranging from computer hard drives and precision-guided munitions to critical components of the clean energy economy.

These days, clean energy technologies such as hybrid-electric batteries, wind turbines, solar cells and energy-efficient lighting --constitute about 20 percent of global consumption of rare earths. However, as these technologies become increasingly popular, their share of global consumption will continue to grow.
As a result, it's no surprise that the US Department of Energy is keeping a careful eye on the global supply of rare earths.

Last week, the DOE released its Critical Materials Strategy, a report that analyzes fourteen elements and identifies five rare earth metals (dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium and yttrium), as well as indium, as the most critical based on importance to clean energy technologies and supply risk.
The report also explores eight policy and program areas that could help reduce vulnerabilities and address critical material needs. According to DOE, these areas include:

research and development,


information-gathering,


permitting for domestic production,


financial assistance for domestic production and processing,


stockpiling,


recycling,


education and


diplomacy.


Building on this strategy, DOE says it will work closely with its national labs, other federal agencies, Congress and international partners to develop its first integrated research agenda on critical materials and strengthen its information-gathering capacity to proactively address supply and demand for products that contain these critical metals. An updated report will be issued by the end of 2011.

"Each day, researchers and entrepreneurs across the United States are working to develop and deploy clean energy technologies that will enhance our security, reduce carbon pollution and promote economic prosperity. This strategy is an important step in planning for growing global demand for clean energy products that will help strengthen the U.S. economy and create jobs," said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. "Ensuring reliable access to critical materials will help the United States lead in the new clean energy economy."

You can read the read the full 171-page strategy here.

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