Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jack Lifton — China’s plan to secure critical rare earths and technology globally

An unintended though ultimately predictable consequence of globalization has been natural resource production monopolization. The massive transfer of wealth that resulted from lowering the costs of labor for and in “developed” countries has been accompanied by a political awakening in resource rich countries to the economic power of controlling natural resource production locally. What has been completely overlooked by economic theorists and neoliberalism (free and open markets) advocates is that unless everyone adheres to a theory and acts within its strictures then not free markets but oligarchic (nationally or individually) stratified markets result.…
Investor Intel
China’s plan to secure critical rare earths and technology globally
Jack Lifton
ht MRW in the comments

5 comments:

Bob said...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Pass_rare_earth_mine

The mine, once the world's dominant producer of rare earth elements, was closed in large part due to competition from REEs imported from China, which in 2009 supplied more than 96% of the world's REEs.

What ya gonna do? The free market has spoken. Subsidizing the mine and the supply chain would be socialism!

Ryan Harris said...

The GIG is up everywhere. This Irish man nails it. I love how people everywhere are waking up to the odious and horrible society created by the parasitic financiers and their academic economists. Meanwhile, the academic economists continue to argue about whether and why their methods don't work.

MRW said...

Actually, Bob:

The mine, once the world's dominant producer of rare earth elements, was closed in large part due to competition from REEs imported from China, which in 2009 supplied more than 96% of the world's REEs.

This is Wikipedia BS.

In 1984 we were the world leaders in rare earth production. We had the scientists who knew the tech, and we were leaders in the vertical market, and Molycorp, the Mountain Pass facility on the CA-NV border, was the leader (called something else then). There are four phases to the vertical market, and each requires a highly specialized knowledge and technology. It is extraordinarily rare that any one company can do all four. Phase Four, when the rare earths are finally created--when the 40 tons of ore required initially gets to the final 2.5 kg it becomes--is as much an art as a science. When you lose that tech, you can't get it back overnight.

Molycorp needed federal help in 1994, after there were wastewater leaks, and Clinton said fuckit, go under. They lost their vertical market. they lost their scientists, the specialists, the rarified knowledge.

Clinton in his country-boy stupidity with his team of bright onions like Rahm Emanuel and Paul Begala and Mr Environment Himself the VP, never stopped to think through the consequences. They didn't realize or know the mission-critical nature of rare earths in meeting our military, medical, and advanced consumer needs.

The company initially closed down just after 9/11, and sold to someone else.

You should read Lifton's article. He makes mincemeat of the free market argument. And Molycorp didn't need a supply chain. It had the ore. It used a knowledge train. It's the highly trained humans who make it work that are the value in that industry.

Subsidizing an industry that affects national security and the general welfare and advancement of the people isn't socialism, it's the government's job to supply that protection of critical industries. You cannot have renewables without rare earths. Period. Ditto medical lasers, screens, and military equipment. Your smartphone and car.

Bob said...

MRW,

Production of rare earths wasn't deemed important, so the mine was closed. That is an example of the free market in action - or of poor lobbying by the industry.

Renewables aren't scalable according to your sources, so the lack or availability of rare earths won't affect that outcome. Adjusting to lower per capita energy consumption will be a lot more 'traumatic' for the average person than the lack of rare earths.

Ditto medical lasers, screens, and military equipment. Your smartphone and car.

My goodness, how will we ever manage without them?

The presentations by Jack Lifton and Joe Romm are investor oriented. The assumption behind both narratives is that the free market will solve our problems. Well, here we are. Do we keep on down the same path of allowing profit to decide what we do?

I view Romm as a bushy-tailed techno optimist. Lifton is more of a curmudgeon, but only so far as there is a lack (in his mind) of entrepreneurs with a viable business model (i.e. recycling).

MRW said...

Bob,

I replied to you and subsequently saw the comment on here. Now it's gone.

It was longish. But basically I wanted to say that I view Romm as a bushy-tailed techno asshole who screams and sneers at, and hounds, anyone who disagrees with him.

Sure, Lifton may be a curmudgeon, but he is a world expert on LREE/HREE rare earths phase processes (extraction, separation, fabrication), resources, and technology. And he is widely regarded as an expert. Highly-specialized technology scientists will put him on their team as a valuable and insightful resource even though Lifton readily admits he's the least educated of the bunch.