[Marxism] A Different Environmental Threat: Peak Rare Minerals, China, and Green Technology
michael at ecst.csuchico.edu
Sat Sep 5 20:54:23 MDT 2009
One of the keys to Green Technology may be buried in China. It has only
recently begun to appear in the media, but for very different reasons.
A couple of years ago, the New Scientist published a piece about the
risks of the scarcity of rare minerals.
Cohen, David. 2007. "Earth's Natural Wealth: An Audit." New Scientist
Issue 2605 (23 May): pp. 35-41.
Three facts are bringing this looming shortage to the attention of
mainstream media. First, the US is dependent on exports of these
minerals, while China is the main exporter. Second, these minerals are
crucial for high technology, including both military and so-called Green
My next encounter with the rare earth problem came in David Cay
Johnston's wonderful book. Here are my notes:
Johnston, David Cay. 2007. Free Lunch: How The Wealthiest Americans
Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You With The Bill)
(New York: Portfolio).
37: "In 1982, competing groups of scientists around the world found a
way to combine iron and boron with a somewhat rare earth called
neodymium to make extremely powerful and lightweight magnets. These
magnets quickly found a market in computer hard drives, high-quality
microphones and speakers, automobile starter motors, and the guidance
systems of smart bombs."
38: "General Motors created a division to manufacture these magnets,
calling it Magnequench .... Then in 1995 the automaker decided to sell
the division. Because the deal was for only $70 million it attracted
little attention. The buyer was a consortium of three firms .... but the
real parties behind the purchase were a pair of Chinese companies -- San
Huan New Material High-Tech Inc. and China National Nonferrous Metals.
Both firms were partly owned by the Chinese government. The heads of
these two Chinese companies are the husbands of the first and second
daughters of Deng Xiaoping, then the paramount leader."
38: At the time, GM was trying to get a toehold in China. One of the
Goddard's was at the time vice minister of the Chinese State Science and
Technology Commission, which had the responsibility for acquiring
military technology by any means.
39: The Clinton administration agreed the sale under the condition that
the new owners keep the production and technology in the United States.
The new owners began to buy factories in the United States including
GA Powders, an Idaho firm that used government money to develop a
monopoly on the production powerful methods. Then the Chinese company
shut down American production and moved everything to China.
The reference to Deng is interesting, as you will see in a moment.
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