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Rare Earths and Critical Materials Revitalization Act of 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The legislation before us today, H.R. 6160, the Rare Earths and Critical Materials Revitalization Act of 2010, deals with a very important matter of potential concern to national security and to the economy. Rare earths are used in many different high-tech applications, including certain military and weapons systems, and China controls the bulk of world supply and recently announced its intention to reduce exports, triggering concerns that the U.S. could face a supply gap. This is clearly an important issue that warrants our attention.

The obvious question we face now is how best to address this concern. H.R. 6160 intends to do so through establishment of a rare earths materials research and development program and authorization of loan guarantees to support rare earth minerals mining, processing, and production activities. Notwithstanding the clear and significant potential for a rare earth supply shortage, during the committee markup of this bill Republicans questioned whether the activities called for in H.R. 6160 provide the appropriate policy response to this issue. I will summarize these concerns as they were noted in the additional GOP views included in the report on the bill.

To the extent that a rare earth supply gap may present national security concerns, such concerns should probably be addressed through the Department of Defense and the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

With respect to commercial supply needs, taxpayer subsidies in the form of loan guarantees should be restricted to those areas not undertaken by the private sector. This principle is particularly important in the case of rare earths due to the aggressive private pursuit of rare earth mining opportunities in response to recent price increases. Unfortunately, an amendment to address this concern was defeated in committee.

I am pleased, however, that several other Republican amendments to improve H.R. 6160 were approved with bipartisan support, specifically amendments to, one, eliminate funding authorizations for R&D activities; two, elimination of a rare earth ``R&D Information Center''; three, limit loan guarantee support for the exportation of unprocessed rare earth materials necessary to meet domestic demand; and, four, reduce the length of authorization for rare earth loan guarantees from 8 years to 5 years.

Further, modified language addressing additional Republican concerns related to the international collaboration was worked out following the markup, and I thank Chairman Gordon for working with our side of the aisle to improve this provision.

Overall, despite the many remaining questions and concerns regarding rare earths in this legislation, I recognize the importance of ensuring a stable supply of rare earth materials and the potential for a near-term supply shortage, and I remain committed to working on this issue and on this bill as it moves through the legislative process.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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