If the US was smart, we would be funding a massive switch to renewable energy now, while we still can. By 2012 we could be out of luck. China is sitting on the only currently mined sources of many of the rare earth minerals needed to build electric cars, solar panels and wind turbines. Reasonably enough, having developed the resources, China wants to keep them for its own needs, that is has planned for.
But we are not smart. Even before the Supreme Court ruling this week, we already allowed fossil interests to dictate our energy policy by allowing the purchase of both policy makers and the formerly public airwaves to impede smart energy policy. In no other democracy is such corruption allowed.
The result is that we will be out of the ability to protect ourselves from peak oil from 2012 to at least 2020 (the earliest that new rare earth mines outside China might begin to come online). If we don’t pass effective climate legislation this year, we will miss that crucial transition window.
Now that other nations are beginning to move into renewable energy development, the world will need 200,000 tons of rare earth elements by 2014. In just a decade world needs went from 40,000 tons to 120,000 tons, but there is not enough to go around. Faced with shortages, China plans to stop exporting completely by 2012.
As a result, just at the same time that we will be beginning to see the effects of peak oil, making oil increasingly expensive, we will suffer a crucial gap in the materials needed to build renewable energy. The shortages will be worst in Dysprosium and Neodymium to make electric vehicle motors and in Erbuium to manufacture vanadium steel needed for wind turbines.
One nation will be able to bypass peak oil and transition to the new renewable energy economy, because it thought ahead, and that is China. That is survival of the fittest, I guess.
There’s some ways around the Senate stalemate, though. One very effective way to transition fast to clean power in a way that can bypass our Senate block on cap and trade, is to make PACE funding for renewable energy available to homeowners nationwide in the budget. Budget funding can be passed with a majority of of just 51 votes like in other democracies.
Image: Sun Light & Power
Source: The Independent