Trend: China is banning the export of rare earth elements – and they currently produce about 90% of the world’s supply.
John Michael Greer describes what he calls "scarcity industrialism." Companies in countries where scarce resources are available will have a competitive advantage as this trend grows more prevalent (look at Saudi Arabia). Excerpts below.
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...the Chinese government is planning to ban the export of rare earth elements ...these have become crucial to many cutting edge technologies. Lanthanum, for example, is used in high-tech batteries, and neodymium goes into the permanent magnets used in electric motors and wind turbines. The innards of the Prius and other hybrids, to say nothing of the as-yet-imaginary electric cars being hyped by what’s left of the American auto industry, depend on rare earth elements, and China currently produces well over 90% of the world’s supply of most of them. The report thus sparked claims of an imminent shortage in these minerals and, predictably, a flurry of speculative interest in (and hype-ridden articles about) mines outside of China that can produce the same minerals.
...in each of the last three years, the Chinese government has cut the export quotas for rare earth elements from China’s mines. More important is the fact that the Chinese are not preventing the export of products containing rare earth elements; they are simply moving to ban the export of the raw materials. In effect, what the Chinese are saying is that they are no longer willing to accept the Third World’s designated role as a source of raw materials and cheap labor to be exploited for the benefit of somebody else; if the future is going to run on technologies based on rare earth elements, those technologies are going to come out of Chinese factories, and the wealth produced by them is going to be concentrated in Chinese hands.
...the world is in the midst of a transformation between the kind of society and economy familiar to us over the last century or so, which I’ve called “abundance industrialism,” and a new kind that may as well be called “scarcity industrialism.” Where abundance industrialism was defined by the ready availability of cheap abundant natural resources, especially but not only fossil fuels, scarcity industrialism will be defined by the scarcity of such resources. One of the implications of this shift is that those nations and regions that control significant amounts of important resources will find those resources becoming a potent source of political leverage. The same sort of clout OPEC gained from its oil reserves in the Seventies, and may reclaim in the not too distant future, will become accessible to countries or cartels of countries with large amounts of any economically vital resource.
...in a world that will increasingly be shaped by resource scarcities, those who act to secure their own resource bases can thrive while others falter. It’s a lesson that Russia has already learned – witness the successful efforts of the Russian government to seize Russia’s fossil fuel assets from the handful of American- and British-backed billionaires who walked off with them during the chaos and corruption of the Yeltsin years – and other nations are beginning to learn it as well.