U.S. Rare Earth Policy Needs Short-Term Focus
By Kia Ghorashi, Lucinda Gibbs, Polly Hand, and Amber Luong
Faculty Advisor: Joe Nation
China produces 97 percent of all rare earth elements (REEs) consumed in the world today, and it continues to restrict the export of these materials. Given that these materials are critical inputs to many important technologies, should U.S. policymakers be concerned? Yes and no. On the positive side, Congress is now paying attention, recently introducing the Rare Earth Supply-Chain Technology and Resource Transformation (RESTART) Act of 2011. RESTART is still under committee consideration in the House, and the United States has not yet adopted a specific and actionable REE policy. That may be changing with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) December 2010 release of a Critical Materials Strategy, which quantifies potential REE supply disruptions and lays out a broad slate of general program and policy recommendations for the consideration of policymakers.