September 20, 2011

On the Hill: Christine to Testify Before House Foreign Affairs Committee About Rare Earths

Tomorrow, Christine
will testify before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on
Asia and the Pacific about China’s monopoly on rare earths
where she’ll
speak to the implications for U.S. foreign and security policy.

The timing for the hearing is appropriate given the recent
reports that China is consolidating its grip on rare earth materials. According
to The New York Times on Friday, “By
closing or nationalizing dozens of the producers of rare earth metals — which
are used in energy-efficient bulbs and many other green-energy products — China
is temporarily shutting down most of the industry and crimping the global
supply of the vital resources
.” The economic implications are becoming
increasingly clear, according to statements by major consumers: “General
Electric, facing complaints in the United States about rising prices for its
compact fluorescent bulbs, recently noted in a statement that if
the rate of inflation over the last 12 months on the rare earth element
europium oxide had been applied to a $2 cup of coffee, that coffee would now
cost $24.55

Christine’s testimony will build off her extensive work on
critical minerals. In June, she published her most recent report, Elements
of Security: Mitigating the Risks of U.S. Dependence on Critical Minerals
where she examined a range of potential vulnerabilities that stem from
dependence on several minerals that the United States will need for defense
supply chains and clean energy goals in the decades ahead. (The Times report noted the particular impact
of China’s rare earth consolidation on the prices of energy efficient bulbs: “A
pack of three 11-watt G.E. compact fluorescent bulbs — each the lighting
equivalent of a 40-watt incandescent bulb — was priced on Thursday at $15.88 on
Wal-Mart’s Web site for pickup in a Nashville, Ark., store. The
average price for fluorescent bulbs has risen 37 percent this year, according
to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association

Christine will give her thoughts here on the blog later in
the week, but if you’re on Capitol Hill tomorrow you should stop by the Rayburn House Office Building (Room 2172) at
1 PM.