“”China will impose export restrictions on industrial products and materials containing gallium and germanium from August 1 to ensure its national security and interests,” China Daily, a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party, announced this week. “According to the relevant provisions of China’s Export Control Law, Foreign Trade Law and Customs Law, gallium, which is used in the production of semiconductors and optoelectronic devices, and germanium, an important raw material for the semiconductor industry, as well as their related products, cannot be exported without permission after July. Export of other industrial materials such as gallium nitride, gallium oxide and zone-refined germanium ingot have also been prohibited.”
That’s a big deal because, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, “in 2021 the top exporters of Gallium, germanium, hafnium, indium, niobium (columbium), rhenium and vanadium: articles thereof, unwrought, including waste and scrap, powders were China ($170M), Chinese Taipei ($53.2M), Germany ($52.4M), Brazil ($43.1M), and South Korea ($32.4M).” China alone is responsible for 29.4 percent of the total (the U.S. is also an exporter, with a 5.47 percent share.)
Specifically breaking out the two restricted minerals, Reuters adds that China produces roughly 60 percent of the world’s germanium and 80 percent of gallium. So, there’s a lot at stake here for computer chip producers and for governments trying to promote domestic producers at the expense of Chinese competitors.”
“Greater reliance on green energy also requires a stupendous increase in mineral extraction to provide the needed materials. Even if the world unquestionably possessed the mineral capacity necessary for the global energy transformation envisioned by President Joe Biden, Democrats in practice are enemies of mining. The U.S. Mining Association estimates that the country has $6.2 trillion of recoverable mineral resources like copper and zinc available for mining on millions of acres of federal, state, and private lands. Unfortunately, our labor, health, and climate regulations often make it practically impossible to profitably mine. As a result, these precious resources stay in the ground, which explains why the United States went from being the world’s No. 1 producer of minerals in 1990 to seventh place today.
Democrats committed to a green energy transition should make it a priority to reform counterproductive regulations like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and to implement other permitting reforms. Yet for the most part they won’t do so, as we saw when they helped strike down the permitting deal cut last year between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.).”
“Russia controls 4 percent of global cobalt production, for example, and 11 percent of nickel production. Following the sanctions package dropped on Russia, cobalt’s price increased from $74,000 per ton to $82,000 per ton and has now more than doubled since the start of 2021. Nickel’s price, meanwhile, has zoomed since the beginning of March, rising from $25,000 per ton on March 1 to a high above $45,000 briefly before settling at $32,000. Since 2019, the price of nickel has nearly tripled.
Shortages and price rises in those commodities will stymie any transition from carbon-emitting combustion engines to electric cars, since the average electric car battery contains 80 pounds of nickel and 15 to 30 pounds of cobalt. Increased gas prices due to a Russian oil collapse would not necessarily increase the adoption of green energy programs because electric cars, solar panels, and wind turbines all use nickel and cobalt to varying degrees. The rising costs of nickel and other inputs will very likely cause electric vehicle batteries, which were growing rapidly less expensive over the last decade, to stop getting more affordable until at least 2024.
Reduced access to Russian commodities will drive up the cost of renewables and electric vehicles as gas prices also increase. It’s easier to increase oil production than it is to increase nickel or cobalt production; America has at least 35 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and OPEC can increase oil production whenever it wants. Pumping more oil is a faster and less arduous process than building a new nickel mine.
But the U.S. has another available source of nickel and cobalt that could be counted on when countries on the other side of the world have production difficulties due to war or internal strife, and it’s a scant 90 nautical miles off the coast of Florida.
Unfortunately, this source happens to be Cuba, and American companies have been forbidden by law to do business with Cuba for most of the last 60 years.”
“America’s security and economy increasingly depend on the exotic metals and minerals that go into high-tech manufacturing, from batteries that will be crucial to Joe Biden’s climate plan to the high-power magnets needed for the Pentagon’s precision-guided weapons.
And they’re largely controlled by China, the leading economic and military rival to the United States.”