China stops our Green Revolution in its tracks

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  The news media and the political blogs are enraptured with handicapping the political races. No one has time to worry about real issues anymore. This is the silly season, when immigrant nannies and comments from comedians become “important”. When shady television hucksters are inexplicably taken seriously and hold huge political rallies.

 Yet the real world, the one that operates on tangible things that make an actual difference in our lives, keeps chugging along.

  While all of you were busy obsessing about political trivialities, the governments of the world were entering a global trade war. This development entered a scary stage yesterday when Brazil decided not to attend the coming G20 summit.

 However, that was nothing compared to China’s latest move.

 China, which has been blocking shipments of crucial minerals to Japan for the last month, has now quietly halted shipments of some of those same materials to the United States and Europe, three industry officials said on Tuesday.

  “The embargo is expanding” beyond Japan, said one of the three rare earth industry officials, all of whom insisted on anonymity for fear of business retaliation by Chinese authorities. They said Chinese customs officials imposed the broader shipment restrictions Monday morning, hours after a top Chinese official had summoned international news media Sunday night to denounce United States trade actions.

  China mines 95 percent of the world’s rare earth elements, which have broad commercial and military applications, and are vital to the manufacture of diverse products including large wind turbines and guided missiles. Any curtailment of Chinese supplies of rare earths is likely to be greeted with alarm in Western capitals, particularly because Western companies are believed to keep much smaller stockpiles of rare earths than Japanese companies do.

 American officials had announced on Friday to investigate if China was violating trade laws by subsidizing their clean energy industry. China responded on Sunday with the statement that Washington “cannot win this trade fight.”

 The war of words ended today. The trade war is on.

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 There is no Green Revolution without rare earth metals.

 Rare earth metals, located on the bottom of the periodic table of contents, are essential for the creation of batteries.  As a result they are critical to hybrid and electric cars, wind turbines, and much of the world’s alternative energy plans.

It was only a few days ago that Obama proposed a huge clean energy subsidy. It takes about three to five years to get a mine up to production levels after a deposit has been discovered.

 Once again the brutal realities of economics has intruded upon the fantasy land of politics. That disconnect from the realities of economics is especially prevalent when it comes to the environment.

A state of war

 America has been at war for many decades now.

I’m not talking about the War on (some)Terror, or the War on (some)Drugs. I’m talking about the ongoing War on Reality.

 For the right-wing it comes down to a War on Science. This is especially true for their hatred of all science that supports protecting the environment or the theory of evolution.

 For the left-wing, well, they’ve forgotten their roots. They pretend that economics don’t matter in their vision of the future, when in fact all left-wing thought originated from economic theory.

  China’s recent action should give the liberals with environmental-leanings a hard slap in the face. Yes, you do have to know how economics work in the real world. The two are directly related.

 Dudley Kingsnorth, a rare earth market analyst at the Industrial Minerals  Company of Australia in Perth, said that if China adopted a further reduction in export quotas of 30 percent for next year, manufacturers elsewhere could face difficulties.

  “That will create some problems,” he said. “It’ll force some people to look very carefully at the use of rare earths, and we might be reverting to some older technologies until alternative sources of rare earths are developed.”

 The solution to our employment problems was never simply adopting green technologies. It may make a good sound bite, but it has nothing to do with reality. If you want to fix the employment situation then you start with age old topics of monetary and trade policies.

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Put simply, we have an extremely serious situation developing here, and it won’t make a difference if control of Congress is divided between the two parties or not. These are structural problems that transcend petty partisanship.

  The global trade war is happening for reasons other than which party controls the White House and Congress. We need to stop focusing on the useless handicapping of races and start focusing on actual policies. We need to make a conscience effort to be aware of who wins and loses amongst the various monetary, fiscal, and trade rules.

  If we don’t care about things of substance, if we don’t demand the media and politicians address these issues, why would powers that be ever discuss them with us?

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    • gjohnsit on October 20, 2010 at 3:22 am
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    • Edger on October 20, 2010 at 3:45 am

    essays I’ve ever seen from you, gjohnsit, if not the best. A war on reality is exactly what it’s been for long long time. Such a war cannot be “won”. Any recovered or dead ex drug addict is evidence of that. Reality has a nasty habit of refusing to be ignored forever. And asserting itself mercilessly in the end.

    There are, no doubt, lessons here for the contemporary reader. The changing character of the native population, brought about through unremarked pressures on porous borders; the creation of an increasingly unwieldy and rigid bureaucracy, whose own survival becomes its overriding goal; the despising of the military and the avoidance of its service by established families, while its offices present unprecedented opportunity for marginal men to whom its ranks had once been closed; the lip service paid to values long dead; the pretense that we still are what we once were; the increasing concentrations of the populace into richer and poorer by way of a corrupt tax system, and the desperation that inevitably follows; the aggrandizement of executive power at the expense of the legislature; ineffectual legislation promulgated with great show; the moral vocation of the man at the top to maintain order at all costs, while growing blind to the cruel dilemmas of ordinary life– these are all themes with which our world is familiar, nor are they the God-given property of any party or political point of view, even though we often act as if they were. At least, the emperor could not heap his economic burdens on posterity by creating long-term public debt, for floating capital had not yet been conceptualized. The only kinds of wealth worth speaking of were the fruits of the earth.

    Though it is easy for us to perceive the wild instability of the Roman Imperium in its final days, it was not easy for the Romans. Rome, the Eternal City, had been untouchable since the Celts of Gaul had sacked it by surprise in 390 B.C. In the ensuing eight centuries Rome built itself into the world’s only superpower, unassailable save for the occasional war on a distant border.



    The citizens of the City of Rome, therefore, could not believe it when toward the end of the first decade of the fifth century, they woke to find Alaric, king of the Visigoths, and all his forces parked at their gates. He might as well have been the king of the Fuzzy-Wuzzies, or any other of the inconsequential outlanders that civilized people have looked down their noses at throughout history. It was preposterous. They dispatched a pair of envoys to conduct the tiresome negotiation and send him away. The envoys began with empty threats: any attack on Rome was doomed, for it would be met by invincible strength and innumerable ranks of warriors. Alaric was a sharp man, and in his rough fashion a just one. He also had a sense of humor.

    “The thicker the grass, the more easily scythed,” he replied evenly.

    The envoys quickly recognized that their man was no fool. All right, then, what was the price of his departure? Alaric told them: his men would sweep through the city, taking all gold, all silver, and everything of value that could be moved. They would also round up and cart off every barbarian slave.

    But, protested the hysterical envoys, what will that leave us?

    Alaric paused. “Your lives.”

    In that pause, Roman security died and a new world was conceived.

  1. It looks like we had our own sources in the US but for various reasons, including relatively high production costs and environmental problems we dropped the ball.

    Expect prices of rare earth materials to rise. Perhaps if the price is high enough China will be more willing to sell more of theirs.

    We should expect a boom in geological exploration, in mining and processing world wide. I don’t see this as the end of the greening process, a delay perhaps. The gentleman in the video is not happy with the pace of our own progress. We can hardly blame China for that.

    China seems to have become the favorite target and scapegoat for many of the ills which we have brought on ourselves through our own policies and actions. China is merely looking out for her own interests and is definitely in need of some serious “greening” of her own.

  2. perpetual state of contrary these days. Why is mining metals shipping them around the world and running stuff on batteries considered green? We seem unable to conceive or produce technology that moves beyond say the combustible engine. all progress is left in the hands of the entities that look upon earth’s resources in only one way extract, be it mining drilling or fracting. I’m not a scientist but it seems to me that humans are capable of inventing conceiving and producing energy that is actually green and not carbon based.

    It seems ass backward to put ‘inevitable’ economic theories and wealth/capitalism before our and the earth’s survival and well being. Western science has become so fixated on it’s myopic capitalistic view of progress that it’s fruits, techno;logy are all chained to the rotten machine that’s only goal is creating wealth and power. I have no answers but I truly believe that as long as profit staying in the hands of the investor’s and pol’s global game of competition and domination there will no green. The hubris of thinking that this is inevitable and all solutions must feed the status quo of the too bigs is truly insane.  

               

  3. …co-author with Michel Chossudovsky of “THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS:  The Great Depression of the XXI Century”, has given an informative discussion of the history of financial globalization since Woodrow Wilson from his creation of the Federal Reserve up to today when we find ourselves living in what Naomi Klein described in “The Shock Doctrine.”

    The imposition of austerity programs is coming home to  first world as the last source left for exploiting excess capital through what he calls “social genocide,”

    the dest4ruction and enslavement of the middle class.

    It is the reaction to this which we see happening in France, Greece, Spain, and perhaps coming soon in the UK.

    Marshall concludes with:

    No wonder then, that this month, the Managing Director of the IMF warned that America and Europe, in the midst of the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression, face an “explosion of social unrest.” Just yesterday, Europe experienced a wave of mass protests and social unrest in opposition to ‘austerity measures’, with a general strike in Spain involving millions of people, and a march on the EU headquarters in Brussels of nearly 100,000 people. As social unrest spreads, governments will likely react – as we saw in the case of the G20 in Toronto – with oppressive police state measures. Here, we see the true relevance of the emergence of ‘Homeland Security States’, designed not to protect people from terrorists, but to protect the powerful from the people.

    So while things have never seemed quite so bleak, there is a dim and growing beacon of hope, in what Zbigniew Brzezinski has termed as the greatest threat to elite interests everywhere – the ‘global political awakening’,… representative of the fact that for the first time in all of human history, mankind is politically awakened and stirring, activated and aware,…aware of global inequalities, exploitation, and disrespect. This awakening is largely the result of the information revolution – thus revealing the contradictory nature of the globalization project – as while it globalizes power and oppression, so too does it globalize awareness and opposition. This awakening is the greatest threat to entrenched elite interests everywhere. The awakening, while having taken root in the global south – already long subjected to exploitation and devastation – is now stirring in the west, and will grow as the economy crumbles. As the middle classes realize their consumption was an illusion of wealth, they will seek answers and demand true change, not the Wall Street packaged ‘brand-name’ change of Obama Inc., but true, inspired, and empowering change.

        …   bolding mine

    Let’s hope this is a true counterweight to not just global trade wars, but global exploitation in general.

    You will find Marshall’s article here.

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