Lipinski Helps Lead Effort to Reduce America's Dependence on China for Rare Earth Materials, Critical for U.S. Economy and National Security (September 29, 2010)


Today, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03) voted for The Rare Earths and Critical Materials Revitalization Act, H.R. 6160, which directs the Department of Energy to research ways to increase domestic mining and production of rare earth materials. These elements are critical for making everything from weapons guidance systems to hybrid vehicles, but China currently controls production of more than 90 percent of all rare earths, putting America’s economy and national security at risk. The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 325 to 98.

"We can’t let China turn its rare earths monopoly into a manufacturing monopoly," said Congressman Lipinski, who helped get the bill through the House Science & Technology Committee. "Nor can we overlook the fact that these materials are critical components in a host of important defense and weapons systems. In recent months, China has sharply restricted exports of rare earths in a bid to force companies to locate within its borders. Just last week, it apparently halted rare earth exports to Japan in connection with a diplomatic dispute, suggesting that it is willing to use its monopoly for political and strategic purposes. This bill is a much-needed first step to promote domestic production of rare earths and free America from dependence on China."

Rare earths are necessary components of wind turbines, radar systems, computer hard drives, cell phones, televisions and monitors, LED light bulbs, fiber-optic cables, and many other products. According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, "Government and industry officials have identified a wide variety of defense systems and components that are dependent on rare earth materials [including precision-guided munitions, lasers, avionics, night-vision equipment, and satellites]." America was the world’s leading supplier of rare earths at one time, but it has produced little since the closure of the nation’s only mine at Mountain Pass, California.

Congressman Lipinski cosponsored H.R. 6160, which authorizes the Department of Energy to conduct research into restoring a secure supply of rare earth materials for the United States. This research may involve efforts aimed at developing better technologies for locating, recovering, and refining rare earths; discovering substitutes for rare earths; reducing the need for rare earths; and recycling rare earths from existing products. The bill authorizes $70 million for this program. It also authorizes the DOE to issue loan guarantees to support the commercial development of new technologies that will increase the domestic supply of rare earths.

"Permitting China to maintain its stranglehold on the world supply of rare earths would be extremely unwise and short-sighted," Congressman Lipinski said. "We need to adopt a multifaceted approach to this problem, acting quickly to restore America’s ability to mine and process rare earths while simultaneously supporting research that could reduce our dependence on them. This bill is a good start, and I will continue working to ensure America’s access to rare earths and other critical metals is not compromised."

(September 29, 2010)