Facing reality on our rare-earth policies

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So the United States has threatened to go to the World Trade Organization (WTO) with its concerns over China’s rare-earth policies (“Beijing to cut rare-earth exports again,” Geopolitics, Dec. 29). We would get much further if we went after the White House, Interior Department, Congress and environmental activist groups.

In addition to Molycorp’s Mountain Pass deposit, the United States likely has many world-class deposits of the rare-earth metals that are essential for electric and hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels and other foundations of President Obama’s “green” economy. Unfortunately, Americans aren’t allowed to look for or mine them.

Well over 400 million acres are effectively sealed off to mineral exploration and development, according to consulting geologist L. Courtland Lee. That’s 62 percent of the nation’s public lands - an area nearly equal to Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming combined. They are primarily in Alaska and our 11 western-most lower 48 states, and primarily in areas that hold the greatest potential in the entire country for such deposits.

Worse, Mr. Lee’s analysis was done in 1994. Tens of millions more acres have been locked up since then in wilderness, park, preserve, wildlife refuge, wilderness study and other restrictive land-use categories, or simply made unavailable by bureaucratic fiat or foot-dragging. And the White House, Interior Department, Congress and eco-activists are hell-bent on making even more prospects unavailable.

How ironic. First these eco-ideologues lock up the raw materials. Then they impose “renewable energy standards” that require the very materials they’ve locked up and which were rarely needed until now. Then they go bellyaching to the WTO when China decides to slash its raw material exports, create manufacturing jobs in the Middle Kingdom and sell us its shiny, new wind turbines, solar panels, magnets, batteries and compact fluorescent lamp light bulbs.

If that’s how Mr. Obama is going to make jobs and the economy his “No. 1 priority,” a lot of Americans are going to spend a long time freezing, jobless and in the dark.

PAUL DRIESSEN

Fairfax, Va.

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