Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Clinton, Bush Screwed DoD on Rare Earths; Turtles, Too!!

When PRChina interests helped Bill Clinton secure the nomination for President, there was an expectation of payback.

Bet you never thought that GWBush would co-operate, did you?

Now PRChina has reduced rare-earth exports by seventy-two percent, and DoD is screwed for supplies of minerals required for tanks, choppers, and smart bombs.

Citing national-security concerns, two Democratic lawmakers are engaged in a last-ditch effort to halt plans for the transfer of an Indiana factory that produces critical technology used in the guidance systems of U.S. "smart bombs" to the People's Republic of China.

...The two lawmakers reportedly received no response from letters sent to President Bush on March 6 and May1.

Two letters sent to Treasury Secretary John Snow (on May 20 and June 5) received a response turning down a request from the congressman for a meeting. Several phone calls also have received no response.

That was the Bush foulup.

Going back a bit further, we find Clinton.

In 1995, Beijing San Huan New Material High-Tech Inc. and China National Non-Ferrous Metals Import & Export Corporation partnered with investment firm the Sextant Group Inc. to acquire Magnequench and established the new entity as Magnequench International Inc.

Magnequench, a high-tech company created in 1986 by General Motors, pioneered the development and production of sintered neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) – magnets used in the guidance system of "smart bombs."

The 1995 sale required approval from the Committee on Foreign Investments in the U.S., or CFIUS. The CFIUS is an inter-agency committee chaired by the secretary of treasury, tasked with conducting reviews of foreign acquisitions that might threaten national security.

"Concerns raised by American officials about what they considered a clear case of the PRC attempting to obtain control of vital U.S. weapons technology were shot down, and CFIUS permitted the buyout," reported Insight magazine and WND.

Oh, yes, we used to have a rare-earth mine in the US. It was shut down, and you'll LOVE the reason:

In terms of the raw materials used to make the permanent magnets, the country's foremost supplier (80 percent) of rare earth materials (Molycorp) went bankrupt in 1998 and shut down after spending millions to remake its mining facilities following Bureau of Land Management complaints that it was endangering the desert-tortoise environment.

Fast forward to today. Bloomberg reports:

...A generation after Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping made mastering neodymium and 16 other elements known as rare earths a priority, China dominates the market, with far-reaching effects ranging from global trade friction to U.S. job losses and threats to national security.

The U.S. handed its main economic rival power to dictate access to these building blocks of modern weapons by ceding control of prices and supply, according to dozens of interviews with industry executives, congressional leaders and policy experts. China in July reduced rare-earth export quotas for the rest of the year by 72 percent, sending prices up more than sixfold for some elements.

Who uses this stuff? You won't be happy to know...

...U.S. suppliers use the obscure but essential substances -- including those that silence the whoosh of Boeing Co. helicopter blades, direct Raytheon Co. missiles and target guns in General Dynamics Corp. tanks.

Nothing important.

The turtle-infested plant in California will re-open--in 2012. Kinda makes J-I-T a challenge if you're building a smart bomb in 2010.

Thanks, Rumsfeld and Bush. Thanks, Bill Clinton!

We hope you sleep well.


Anonymous said...

Not only does it harm national security to stop all production of these items until 2012... think of the jobs lost!

I work in manufacturing and everything we produce is for the military. The problem isn't just the components that need the rare earth materials aren't being produced... neither is anything else in the missile (including our parts).

neomom said...

I don't want to minimize the national defense aspect of this, but it goes way beyond them.

Rare earth metals are used heavily in the medical and electronics industries. They are also required in the manufacture of nuclear fuel. Lastly, they are needed for all that fancy "green" technology like in wind turbines and hybrid/electric car batteries.

China has been buying mineral rights and mines to these metals all over the frickin' globe for over a decade while we worried about turtles. Now the have already cut off exports to Japan over a fishing trawler. Guess we don't want to piss off our new masters either huh?

Maybe we should try to sell them some more of our debt. (sarc)