U.S. Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu urging him to expeditiously consider loan guarantee applications to rebuild America's rare earth supply chain and manufacturing sector.
The bipartisan letter, signed by 20 senators, applauded the Department of Energy for their commitment to developing a long-term strategy to ensure a stable and adequate supply of rare earths. It also asked the Department to consider utilizing their Loan Guarantee Program to accelerate the redevelopment of these critical manufacturing capabilities and to make certain that our nation's economic, energy, and national security are not jeopardized by a rare earth supply shortage.
"Rare earth metals are used in high-tech American weapons programs, throughout the Pentagon's supply chain and for essential renewable energy technologies," said Bayh, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. "Without a secure, domestic supply of rare earth metals, our country is forced to rely on China for these materials, an unacceptable situation that jeopardizes our economy, our energy supply and our national security interests."
The United States is estimated to contain 15 percent of the world's rare earth reserves, but the country remains dependent upon China for imports of nearly all of these critical materials.
"China accounts for 97 percent of global rare earth production and has held clean energy manufacturing hostage by limiting exports," Murkowski said. "As a direct result, we risk a future in which wind turbines, solar panels, advanced batteries and geothermal steam turbines are not made in the USA, but somewhere else."
Rare earths are a group of 17 elements that are increasingly vital to a host of modern defense and clean energy technologies, including radar systems, modern weaponry, advanced batteries, next-generation vehicles, high-efficiency lighting, and wind turbines.