Rare Earths Legislation Will Aid U.S.-Based Manufacturers

By September 29, 2010Economy, Energy

The House is scheduled to vote today on H.R.6160, the Rare Earths and Critical Materials Revitalization Act.

The National Association of Manufacturers sent a “Key Vote” letter to Representatives on Tuesday urging support for the bill. From the letter:

U.S. manufacturers require access to basic inputs to the production process in order to become and remain competitive in the global economy. Failure to secure access to rare earth minerals at a reasonable cost could place more U.S. manufacturing jobs in jeopardy.

Rare earth minerals are commonly used in many manufacturing applications, including renewable energy products, chemicals, catalysts for petroleum refining, defense applications, consumer electronics, magnets, refrigeration systems and hybrid automobile batteries. The only existing supplier of rare earth materials has announced that it will cut its exports by as much as 40 percent by 2012, jeopardizing U.S. manufacturers’ access to these critical minerals and driving up costs for these companies.

H.R. 6160 would authorize the Department of Energy to issue loan guarantees to companies wishing to enter into rare earth mineral markets, providing the financial support they need to develop technologies that ensure an adequate supply of minerals. Moreover, the bill would support research, development, demonstration and commercial application across the rare earth supply chain.

The necessity of ensuring domestic access to rare earths has been reinforced in recent days by China’s use of the minerals to pressure Japan over a foreign policy disagreement. There’s news on that front today:

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