Press Release

Mar 31, 2011

Reps. Markey, Johnson dig in on RARE Earth elements crucial to clean-energy, defense manufacturing

Issues: Renewable Energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 31, 2011) - Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) introduced the Resource Assessment of Rare Earths (RARE) Act of 2011, which directs the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to conduct a three-year, comprehensive global mineral assessment of rare earth elements (REEs). Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee, is the lead original cosponsor of the bill.

Critical to high-tech clean-energy and defense manufacturing, rare earth elements (REEs) are strategic minerals used in the production of cutting-edge technologies such as wind turbines, advanced batteries, powerful magnets, and military radar systems. Rep. Markey said that if America is to keep pace with China and Germany in clean-energy technology, access to rare earth elements will be crucial.    

"From wind turbines to solar panels to energy efficient light bulbs, America needs a reliable supply of rare earth materials to manufacture our clean-energy future," said Rep. Markey. "Unfortunately, we have gone from self reliance in the production of our rare earth materials to 100 percent reliance on imports, mostly from China. This bill will help reverse that troubling trend and give industry the tools and information to get America back in the rare earths business."

China accounts for 97% of global rare earth element production and has demonstrated a willingness to restrict REE exports. The Chinese monopoly is a strategic vulnerability for the United States that could undermine national security and competitiveness in the defense and clean-energy sectors.

"Like President Obama, I am committed to a future powered by clean energy," said Rep. Johnson. "Without secure access to rare earth elements, we will be unable to lead the world in cleantech. The RARE Act will dramatically advance our ability to access rare earths worldwide."

The USGS global assessment, conducted with geological surveys of partner nations around the world, will identify and quantify individual rare earth elements in known deposits, improve understanding of the distribution and formation of rare earth element deposits, assess likely undiscovered deposits worldwide, analyze the state of the complete rare earths supply chain from mining to manufacturing, and recommend further research and steps to improve our understanding and ensure access.

In a letter to Rep. Johnson, U.S. Magnetic Materials Association President Ed Richardson wrote: "This bill represents an important piece of a much-needed, comprehensive approach to understanding current and future domestic and international supply of and demand for rare earth elements."

Original cosponsors include Reps. Edward J. Markey, Chris Van Hollen, Ben Ray Luján, André Carson, John Garamendi, Rush Holt, Daniel Lipinski, and Michael Michaud.