Event Title

The Enigmatic Abundance of Rare Earth Elements: The Political Economy of Green Technology

Presenter Information

Rex Simmons, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 239

Document Type

Presentation

Start Date

4-27-2019 2:00 PM

End Date

4-27-2019 3:20 PM

Abstract

The emergence of new technologies that rely on rare earth elements (REEs) have stimulated a wide variety of industries in the energy, defense, and healthcare sectors of the economy. Although labeled as ‘rare,’ REEs are quite abundant in the Earth’s crust. New deposits are being prospected, most of which are found in developing countries. REEs such as neodymium are used in high-end batteries and magnets, and have become fundamental parts of the infrastructure necessary for decreasing reliance on fossil fuels. Therefore, as the international community attempts to shift away from fossil fuels, demand for REEs is expected to grow significantly. This paper investigates the emerging political economy of REEs as the green-energy technology expands in the future. Our research finds that in spite of their spread, China currently supplies approximately 90 percent of REEs in the global markets, utilizing a coordinated effort between multiple industries that is facilitated by the state government. We argue that certain inherent qualities of REEs as a natural resource commodity can determine the methods of extraction and management necessary to compete on the global market, which could have serious implications for their extraction in developing countries.

Keywords:

Rare Earth Elements, Green Technology, China, Electric Vehicles

Notes

Session IV, Panel 9 - Political | Economy
Moderator: Charmaine Chua, Assistant Professor of Politics

Major

Environmental Studies; East Asian Studies

Advisor(s)

Karl Offen, Environmental Studies

Project Mentor(s)

Swapna Pathak, Environmental Studies

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Apr 27th, 2:00 PM Apr 27th, 3:20 PM

The Enigmatic Abundance of Rare Earth Elements: The Political Economy of Green Technology

King Building 239

The emergence of new technologies that rely on rare earth elements (REEs) have stimulated a wide variety of industries in the energy, defense, and healthcare sectors of the economy. Although labeled as ‘rare,’ REEs are quite abundant in the Earth’s crust. New deposits are being prospected, most of which are found in developing countries. REEs such as neodymium are used in high-end batteries and magnets, and have become fundamental parts of the infrastructure necessary for decreasing reliance on fossil fuels. Therefore, as the international community attempts to shift away from fossil fuels, demand for REEs is expected to grow significantly. This paper investigates the emerging political economy of REEs as the green-energy technology expands in the future. Our research finds that in spite of their spread, China currently supplies approximately 90 percent of REEs in the global markets, utilizing a coordinated effort between multiple industries that is facilitated by the state government. We argue that certain inherent qualities of REEs as a natural resource commodity can determine the methods of extraction and management necessary to compete on the global market, which could have serious implications for their extraction in developing countries.