Monday, August 31, 2009

Out of the Frying Pan

One reason for seeking alternative supplies of energy is that our oil comes disproportionately from thugs or jihadi-friendly countries (Canada excepted, of course).

So electric cars and wind energy can in theory reduce our need to send money to people we really don't want rich.

There's a catch, of course. There's always a catch:

The Prius hybrid automobile is popular for its fuel efficiency, but its electric motor and battery guzzle rare earth metals, a little-known class of elements found in a wide range of gadgets and consumer goods.

That makes Toyota's market-leading gasoline-electric hybrid car and other similar vehicles vulnerable to a supply crunch predicted by experts as China, the world's dominant rare earths producer, limits exports while global demand swells.

Worldwide demand for rare earths, covering 15 entries on the periodic table of elements, is expected to exceed supply by some 40,000 tonnes annually in several years unless major new production sources are developed. One promising U.S. source is a rare earths mine slated to reopen in California by 2012.

Wonderful. One day we might look with fondness to the day when China only sold us cheap electronics, toys, and clothing.

And don't you just know deep down that major rare earth deposits will be discovered in Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Burma, Iran, and North Korea?