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Übercargeek
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Discussion Starter #1
Although many of us die-hard car nuts don't necessarily want to get all geopolitical when we talk cars, it's sometimes inevitable that we do. One of the arguments frequently used by advocates of alternative-powered vehicles is that the vast majority of the world's oil reserves happen to be located in countries whose political agendas run counter to developed capitalist nations' interests. The Kuwait and Iraq Persian Gulf Wars are, at heart, wars fought over oil. Beyond the Middle East nations, Nigeria is hardly a bastion of stability, and, with Venezuela led by the megalomaniac, Fidel Castro-wannabe Hugo Chávez, there's compelling arguments for the electrification of the automobile.

Yet, the cure may well be just as bad, if not worse, than the disease itself. The "next big thing" in electric car batteries, with their best-to-date range and compact packaging possibilities are lithium-ion batteries. (See: http://my.is/forums/f116/toyotas-dave-hermance-hybrid-lithium-ion-batteries-fuel-economy-310068/ ). So, where are the world's largest lithium reserves? In Bolivia, currently led by leftist Hugo Chávez disciple-cum-puppet Evo Morales. And now comes word that other obscure and rare metals/elements needed for electric car batteries are found almost exclusively in China. First, here's the "Trov notes" concise summary article from Autoblog on the latter:

China pondering hoarding precious metals used in hybrids and EVs by banning exportation?
by Sebastián Blanco

Ever hear of neodymium? How about dysprosium or yttrium? Thulium or lutetium? These are just some of the metals that China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is considering either banning the exportation of, or at least severely limiting the amount that it will let leave the country. These precious metals are used in manufacturing new (and sometimes green) technologies, and China wants keep the goods available for its growing domestic use.

Neodymium, in particular, is required for making the electric motor in hybrid cars, and every Toyota Prius you've ever seen contains 25 pounds of rare earth elements. iPods, Blackberries and countless other items also require these rare earth minerals.

Right now, China mines more than 95% of the rare earth minerals that are taken out of the ground. Let us repeat that: Ninety-five percent. While some might see the export limits as an act of aggression by China, an Australian rare metals expert told the UK's Telegraph, "This isn't about China holding the world to ransom. They are saying we need these resources to develop our own economy and achieve energy efficiency, so go find your own supplies." Does this mean BYD (a leading Chinese electric and hybrid advocate carmaker in which Warren Buffett has invested) will one day have a big, big advantage?

China pondering hoarding precious metals used in hybrids and EVs by banning exportation? — Autoblog



And here's the full Telegraph article referenced above:

World faces hi-tech crunch as China eyes ban on rare metal exports
Beijing is drawing up plans to prohibit or restrict exports of rare earth metals that are produced only in China and play a vital role in cutting edge technology, from hybrid cars and catalytic converters, to superconductors, and precision-guided weapons.

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

A draft report by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has called for a total ban on foreign shipments of terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium. Other metals such as neodymium, europium, cerium, and lanthanum will be restricted to a combined export quota of 35,000 tonnes a year, far below global needs.

China mines over 95pc of the world’s rare earth minerals, mostly in Inner Mongolia. The move to hoard reserves is the clearest sign to date that the global struggle for diminishing resources is shifting into a new phase. Countries may find it hard to obtain key materials at any price.

Alistair Stephens, from Australia’s rare metals group Arafura, said his contacts in China had been shown a copy of the draft -- `Rare Earths Industry Devlopment Plan 2009-2015’. Any decision will be made by China’s State Council.

“This isn’t about the China holding the world to ransom. They are saying we need these resources to develop our own economy and achieve energy efficiency, so go find your own supplies”, he said.

Mr Stephens said China had put global competitors out of business in the early 1990s by flooding the market, leading to the closure of the biggest US rare earth mine at Mountain Pass in California - now being revived by Molycorp Minerals.

New technologies have since increased the value and strategic importance of these metals, but it will take years for fresh supply to come on stream from deposits in Australia, North America, and South Africa. The rare earth family are hard to find, and harder to extract.

Mr Stephens said Arafura’s project in Western Australia produces terbium, which sells for $800,000 a tonne. It is a key ingredient in low-energy light-bulbs. China needs all the terbium it produces as the country switches wholesale from tungsten bulbs to the latest low-wattage bulbs that cut power costs by 40pc.

No replacement has been found for neodymium that enhances the power of magnets at high heat and is crucial for hard-disk drives, wind turbines, and the electric motors of hybrid cars. Each Toyota Prius uses 25 pounds of rare earth elements. Cerium and lanthanum are used in catalytic converters for diesel engines. Europium is used in lasers.

Blackberries, iPods, mobile phones, plams TVs, navigation systems, and air defence missiles all use a sprinkling of rare earth metals. They are used to filter viruses and bacteria from water, and cleaning up Sarin gas and VX nerve agents.

Arafura, Mountain Pass, and Lynas Corp in Australia, will be able to produce some 50,000 tonnes of rare earth metals by the mid-decade but that is not enough to meet surging world demand.

New uses are emerging all the time, and some promise quantum leaps in efficiency. The Tokyo Institute of Technology has made a breakthrough in superconductivity using rare earth metals that lower the friction on power lines and could slash electricity leakage.

The Japanese government has drawn up a “Strategy for Ensuring Stable Supplies of Rare Metals”. It calls for `stockpiling’ and plans for “securing overseas resources’. The West has yet to stir.

World faces hi-tech crunch as China eyes ban on rare metal exports - Telegraph
 

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Technical Poseur
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Putting a ban on exportation is an act of hostility. What helps the economy grow more than building factories to make these batteries is letting the market dictate price and selling it for what people are willing to pay. As such your mining company can now afford to hire a research and development staff that can develop ways for your product to become more in demand.
 

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truth versions only
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Putting a ban on exportation is an act of hostility. What helps the economy grow more than building factories to make these batteries is letting the market dictate price and selling it for what people are willing to pay. As such your mining company can now afford to hire a research and development staff that can develop ways for your product to become more in demand.
Same as limiting cash for clunkers to domestic products only
 

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Übercargeek
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Discussion Starter #4
Same as limiting cash for clunkers to domestic products only
Which, in the end, didn't happen, even though certain politicians wanted it.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
More on rare earth metals and the auto industry

As hybrid cars gobble rare metals, shortage looms

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -- The Prius hybrid automobile is popular for its fuel efficiency, but its electric motor and battery guzzle rare earth metals, a little-known class of elements found in a wide range of gadgets and consumer goods.

That makes Toyota's market-leading gasoline-electric hybrid car and other similar vehicles vulnerable to a supply crunch predicted by experts as China, the world's dominant rare earths producer, limits exports while global demand swells.

Worldwide demand for rare earths, covering 15 entries on the periodic table of elements, is expected to exceed supply by some 40,000 tons annually in several years unless major new production sources are developed. One promising U.S. source is a rare earths mine slated to reopen in California by 2012.

Among the rare earths that would be most affected in a shortage is neodymium, the key component of an alloy used to make the high-power, lightweight magnets for electric motors of hybrid cars, such as the Prius, Honda Insight and Ford Focus, as well as in generators for wind turbines.

Close cousins terbium and dysprosium are added in smaller amounts to the alloy to preserve neodymium's magnetic properties at high temperatures. Yet another rare earth metal, lanthanum, is a major ingredient for hybrid car batteries.

Production of both hybrids cars and wind turbines is expected to climb sharply amid the clamor for cleaner transportation and energy alternatives that reduce dependence on fossil fuels blamed for global climate change.

Toyota has 70 percent of the U.S. market for vehicles powered by a combination of an internal-combustion engine and electric motor. The Prius is its No. 1 hybrid seller.

Jack Lifton, an independent commodities consultant and strategic metals expert, calls the Prius "the biggest user of rare earths of any object in the world."

Each electric Prius motor requires 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of neodymium, and each battery uses 10 to 15 kg (22-33 lb) of lanthanum. That number will nearly double under Toyota's plans to boost the car's fuel economy, he said.

Toyota plans to sell 100,000 Prius cars in the United States alone for 2009, and 180,000 next year. The company forecasts sales of 1 million units per year starting in 2010.

As China's industries begin to consume most of its own rare earth production, Toyota and other companies are seeking to secure reliable reserves for themselves.

Reuters reported last year that Japanese firms are showing strong interest in a Canadian rare earth site under development at Thor Lake in the Northwest Territories.

A Toyota spokeswoman in Los Angeles said the automaker would not comment on its resource development plans. But media accounts and industry blogs have reported recently that Toyota has looked at rare earth possibilities in Canada and Vietnam.

http://www.autonews.com/article/20090831/ANA02/308319944/1186
 

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Discussion Starter #7
From January '09, a Time magazine article on lithium and Bolivia

For Lithium Car Batteries, Bolivia Is in the Driver's Seat
By Jean Friedman-Rudovsky

Breaking America's dependence on foreign energy supplies and suppliers who often don't like the U.S. is a driving force behind the search for alternative fuels. That includes electric cars, which wheezing Detroit has finally realized it needs to produce. But at Detroit's International Auto Show this month, the excitement surrounding the Big Three's announcements that they're shifting from gasoline to voltage has been tempered by another realization: most of the lithium used to make the batteries for those cars is found in Bolivia, whose leftist President isn't too fond of the U.S.

Small, impoverished Bolivia, in fact, is the Saudi Arabia of lithium. It's home to 73 million metric tons of lithium carbonate, more than half the world's supply. The largest single deposit is the Salar de Uyuni, a vast, 4,085-square-mile (6,575-sq-km) salt desert in the southern Potosi region that is also one of Bolivia's biggest tourist attractions.

President Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous head of state, prides himself on state control over natural resources he nationalized the country's (massive natural gas reserves in 2006). If the past is any indication, electric carmakers should look to the Andes with sober eyes. "This is a unique opportunity for us," says Bolivian Mining Minister Luis Alberto Echazu. "The days of U.S. car companies buying cheap raw materials to sell expensive cars are over." Indeed, Bolivia's lithium abundance could put car manufacturers in the position of replacing one energy-rich Latin American U.S. critic — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — with another.

Many foreign carmakers have already found that out. Auto executives estimate the demand for lithium could exceed supply in a decade. As a result, representatives from companies like Mitsubishi and Toyota have approached the Morales government to get in on the ground floor of Bolivia's lithium development. They've been routinely turned away. "All they wanted to do was carry away the raw lithium carbonate," says Echazu, "and that's not what we're after."

What Bolivia is after is a largely, if not purely, state-run lithium industry from mining to industrialization, which might even include actual manufacturing of the coveted lithium-ion batteries. Morales recently announced a $5.7 million pilot plant to process raw lithium carbonate, now under construction on the edge of the Salar, which hopes to produce its first 40 metric tons of the material by the end of this year.

Last week, General Motors Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner insisted that "the supply, design and construction of [electric-car] batteries must be a core competency of GM." GM plans to build a plant soon, as well as a battery research center, along with the University of Michigan. Toyota is already majority owner of the plant that makes the batteries for its Prius gas-electric hybrid car. Other car companies are looking to manufacturing firms like Chinese BYD, a leading cell-phone battery producer, to satisfy their battery needs.

The core question is whether Bolivia's lithi-leverage will eventually drive up the price of those batteries, which can already add about $10,000 to the cost of a car. Experts say that as production of the lithium-ion packs increases, they're actually getting closer in price to cheaper but less effective nickel-based batteries. Still, a big factor will be whether the demand for them rises as much as anticipated. "It is difficult to predict just how many electric vehicles we will see in the market," says Jennifer Moore, a spokeswoman for Ford, which hopes to have its family of BEVs (battery electric vehicles) on the North American market by 2012. "Much depends on the speed at which battery technology progresses, but equally important, cost considerations related to lithium-ion batteries."

But Bolivia analyst Erasto Almedia of the political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group says automakers shouldn't panic. Morales may talk a big nationalist game, Almeida argues, but he always ends up accepting foreign investment and technological support that could give the car companies a foot in the lithium-production door. "The conditions exist for foreign investment and involvement in the lithium sector in Bolivia," Almeida contends, especially if Bolivia wants to expand beyond the initial pilot plant.

Saul Villegas, a director at the Bolivian Mining Corporation (COMIBOL), the operative wing of the Mining Ministry, seems to agree. "We know that we lack know-how and that we need investment to pull this off," says Villegas, pointing out that the government has formed a scientific committee made up of auto experts and representatives from car companies worldwide.

Foreign investors will have to be sensitive to Bolivian anger and resentment about the past, however. This is hardly the first time, for example, that Bolivia's Potosi region has been eyed by the outside world for its natural riches. During the colonial era, silver from the area's prodigious mines helped fund the Spanish empire. But historically, all that wealth has left the local population, especially the indigenous, with little more than desperate poverty and early death by mining-related diseases like black lung. Another concern is the environmental impact; but lithium mining, as observed in countries with deposits like Chile, Argentina and China, seems to be less hazardous than other kinds of mineral extraction. "Lithium could be one of the least contaminating mining processes," says Marco Octavio Rivera of Bolivia's Environmental Defense League, although he notes that prolonged exposure to lithium can cause nervous system disorders.

The relatively safe extraction process is also good news for the thousands of tourists who flock to Potosi each to see the Salar's sprawling white desert and sleep in a hotel made entirely of salt. Lithium is found in the water in the area, but instead of unsightly pipelines, the lithium-mining process will use hidden underground ones to siphon the water from below the Salar's surface to extract the lithium carbonate.

Either way, Morales' main concern is that a larger portion of the lithium profits remain at home to better the lives of people for whom electricity and paved roads are rare and electric cars non-existent. "We are very excited about the prospects," says Delia Alejo of the Southern Highland Regional Federation of Women Peasants, which represents the farmers of Rio Grande, near the pilot plant. "This is going to bring great development." It could if Americans are as serious as they say about trading in an old foreign energy supply for a new one.

For Lithium Car Batteries, Bolivia Is in the Driver's Seat - TIME
 

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Übercargeek
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Discussion Starter #8
A subsequent article relieves the concerns over lithium supplies

Lithium supplies enough for two million vehicles by 2015, easy, expert says
by Sebastián Blanco - Autoblog

Nissan was clear from the unveiling of the Leaf EV that the battery would be a 24 kWh lithium ion pack. They've now said that each pack will require about 4kg of lithium (metal equivalent*). This new number gave an analyst over at GL Groups a chance to crunch some numbers and see if any of the worry over a limited amount of lithium available as we move to more and more electrification in automobiles. The short answer: no need to worry.

Using 24 kWh as an average pack size – a reasonable choice considering that the Chevy Volt will use a 16 kWh pack while the Tesla Roadster will sport a 53 kWh pack – and an estimated worldwide production of 500,000 hybrids and pure electric cars with these large packs in 2015, the total lithium demand would be around 2,000t (metal equivalent). This would be not even 10 percent of the lithium that was mined in 2008. The analyst – an unnamed "GLG Expert Contributor" who is a member of the GLG Energy & Industrials Councils – estimates that enough lithium could be produced to make up to two million li-ion vehicles by 2015. Add in some lithium recycling and the fact that lithium producers were only operating at about 75 percent of total capacity last year, and worries about a lithium OPEC seem misplaced. At least for now.

*Non-rechargeable lithium batteries contain lithium metal, whereas li-ion batteries do not use lithium metal.

Lithium supplies enough for two million vehicles by 2015, easy, expert says — Autoblog Green
 

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Are hybrids or electric powered cars really the wave of the future? Will this really even matter?

I honestly believe without a doubt that in the next 4-5 years reports will be out about the damages hybrid vehicles cause the environment during the manufacturing process. Once these are widespread the environmentalists will panic and we will be back to looking at something else.

I still want to know why hydrogen powered cars are making more of an impact. Even natural gas vehicles.
 

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Technical Poseur
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I really have to agree with what TopGear said about Hydrogen being the car of the future. It most closely emulates what we currently do. And humans are creatures of habit not change.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
True about hydrogen's potential benefits as a fuel, but there are still two major issues to conquer: the ridiculously high cost of fuel cell stacks and the chicken-and-egg quandary of a hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

Meanwhile, back to this thread's original subject, here's a new article on Bolivia and lithium:

Lithium the New Oil in Electric Auto World
By Pacifica Goddard, Anca Gurzu, Gavin Blair and Keith Nuthall
WardsAuto.com

New technologies devour new resources, and the transition to hybrid and electric vehicles could make some currently impoverished countries rich.

As the world moves away from fossil fuels, the soft metal lithium will become increasingly in demand as a critical component of auto batteries for green cars.

One country in particular looks set to prosper from this: poverty-stricken and land-locked Bolivia. But mining the resource poses stiff challenges.

Home to an estimated 6 million tons (5.4 million t) of lithium, Bolivia controls about of 50% of the material’s global reserve, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The next largest supplies can be found in Chile (3.3 million tons [3 million t]); and China (1.2 million tons [1.1 million t]).

This fall, the First International Forum on Science and Technology for the Industrialization of Lithium and Other Evaporative Resources was staged in the South American country’s capital of La Paz.

Sponsored by the vice ministry of science and technology of Bolivia’s ministry of planning and development, some proceedings also were held at the country’s richest lithium deposit, the Uyuni salt flats.

There, the Bolivian government demonstrated it was well aware of the potential riches it could make from lithium.

“We know there are obstacles, (however) we are optimistic we’ll have a large lithium plant on target by 2014,” the country’s mining minister Luis Alberto Echazu told journalists during the event.

Unlike other countries with proven reserves – such as China, Argentina, Australia, Canada and Chile, Bolivia does not yet produce lithium.

However, the Bolivian government, reinvigorated by the re-election of President Evo Morales, has said it plans to invest $500 million in a large lithium plant and another $500 million in supporting infrastructure. The goal is to create a plant producing up to 33,000 tons (30,000 t) of lithium carbonate per year, about 30% of current annual global production.

The construction of a $5.7 million pilot raw lithium-carbonate processing plant, on the edge of Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, (the world’s largest salt flat), is nearing completion, and the government hopes to extract an initial 1,300 tons (1,200 t) in 2010.

Although many companies, such as Japan's Mitsubishi Corp. and Sumitomo Corp., France's Bollore Group and South Korea's LG Chem Ltd., are interested in getting involved in the Bolivian lithium industry, none of these companies have been ready to meet Bolivia’s various demands – including that lithium-ion batteries be produced locally.

Consequently, President Evo Morales declared in November the lithium industry would be 100% state owned. However, Bolivia is receiving some free advice and expertise from Bollore, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo and Kores Ltd., as well as from countries such as Iran and Brazil.

Keith Evans, a U.S.-based geologist and industrial-minerals expert, says that despite this help, “in rejecting foreign investment, the project will be ignoring the important expertise available from the development of somewhat similar brine projects” involving the extraction of lithium from salts.

Uyuni is not an ideal location for lithium production, he says, because although “the brine reserves in the Salar de Uyuni are undoubtedly very large, the concentration of lithium is low in comparison with competitive sources. The brine also contains high concentrations of magnesium, which will greatly increase the cost of lithium recovery.”

There are additional problematic factors, Evans tells Ward’s, such as “the low evaporation rate for a project, which largely will be dependent upon solar evaporation as a major processing step, and the fact that the Salar floods seasonally to the depth of half a meter.”

If that combination of poor foreign investment and geological difficulties hamstrings Bolivian extraction, it could have a serious effect on world supplies of the mineral, some experts say.

Japan’s Mitsubishi predicts that without significant production in Bolivia, there will be a global supply shortage of lithium by 2015, as production of electric and hybrid vehicles rises.

Others argue the country won’t be a limiting factor on advance battery production.

Even if Bolivia fails, it “will not be an impediment to the massive electrification of the world's motor vehicle fleet, as adequate lithium reserves are available elsewhere in the world,” Evans says.

General Motors Co., set to launch its plug-in Chevrolet Volt in November 2010 using battery technology from LG Chem, also appears confident in the lithium supply pipeline.

“There’s a lot of lithium out there with or without Bolivia,” says spokesman Brian Corbett. “We are definitely not concerned about long-term lithium supplies.”

Increased demand likely means raw-material prices will escalate, but that too doesn’t appear to be a major worry for industry insiders.

“It’s very likely the price of lithium is going to rise along with the increased demand, but the cost of batteries doesn’t depend only on raw-material prices. It’s just one factor,” says Wataru Nakamoto, assistant manager at Lithium Energy Japan, a joint venture between Mitsubishi, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and battery maker GS Yuasa Corp. “The economies of scale as supplies increase, as well as advancements in technology, are also important.

“Bolivia is not the only supplier,” he adds.

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., which has a battery JV with NEC Corp. and is about to launch its electric Leaf small car on the global market, also believes current worries over lithium availability are overblown.

“We’re confident there are enough lithium reserves to meet our requirements,” Nissan spokesperson Pauline Kee says.

Lithium the New Oil in Electric Auto World
 

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Übercargeek
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Discussion Starter #12
Toyota turns to Argentina for lithium

The full article is a Wall Street Journal subscriber-only article, but the introduction is informative enough:

Toyota in Lithium Agreement
BY ANN DAVIS AND DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI

A key supplier of Toyota Motor Corp. moved to secure a long-term source of lithium in Argentina, in one of the first global natural-resource plays of the electric-car age.

Edging out Chinese buyers, Toyota Tsusho Corp., which is 21.8% owned by Toyota Motor, secured low-cost loans from the Japanese government to take a stake in a lithium project that could begin commercial production by 2012.

The move signals how the search for high-quality lithium used in hybrid and electric-car batteries is prompting jockeying for the earth's commodities.

Toyota Seeks Lithium Supply for Batteries - WSJ.com
 

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truth versions only
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The full article is a Wall Street Journal subscriber-only article, but the introduction is informative enough:

Toyota in Lithium Agreement
BY ANN DAVIS AND DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI

A key supplier of Toyota Motor Corp. moved to secure a long-term source of lithium in Argentina, in one of the first global natural-resource plays of the electric-car age.

Edging out Chinese buyers, Toyota Tsusho Corp., which is 21.8% owned by Toyota Motor, secured low-cost loans from the Japanese government to take a stake in a lithium project that could begin commercial production by 2012.

The move signals how the search for high-quality lithium used in hybrid and electric-car batteries is prompting jockeying for the earth's commodities.

Toyota Seeks Lithium Supply for Batteries - WSJ.com
Yes ladies and gentlemen, Toyota got a bailout. But good for them, one step in controlling the reach of the China empire (that is soon coming).
As much as I despise electric/hybrid cars for their pollution, they still are the cars of the future especially when all these 'environmentalists' are still around
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Taking Lithium With A Pinch Of Salt
By Matthew Walls - The Source at The Wall Street Journal

Lithium’s best known for its use by those suffering bipolar disorder. Visions of an age of electric vehicles powered by lithium batteries would have this mood stabilizer become the new black gold. At present, only specialty car makers like Tesla Motors have cars on the road with lithium batteries.

But Nissan, GM, Toyota, Honda and Chinese automakers have models they plan to roll out in the next few years. Nissan has been the most ambitious, with plans to build capacity for over 500,000 electric vehicles, which use much more lithium than hybrids like Toyota’s Prius.

Not surprisingly, miners have been quick to seize on the story, playing up lithium’s green credentials. About 50 exploration companies have announced lithium developments over the past year, according to U.S. based industry analyst TRU.

Though small, the miners can deliver big gains for investors: shares of Orocobre, an Australian exploration company, nearly doubled after Toyota took a 25% stake in its Argentinean lithium deposit in January.

Sorting the wheat from the chaff among these small miners isn’t made easy by disagreements over just how much lithium is in the ground, or how quickly electric vehicles will catch on. A small community of geologists, chemical engineers and consultants follow lithium and it appears to suffer a bipolarity of its own.

On one side are those warning of shortages and a Bolivian monopoly–most lithium comes from the salt flats of the Andes, where it’s found in salt crusts left atop evaporated plains. Bolivia may have half the world’s lithium reserves, but the bulk of today’s production comes from deposits in Chile, Argentina and Australia.

Competition among Japanese, Korean, French and Chinese companies for South America’s lithium brines has created the impression of scarcity.

But on the other side are those forecasting oversupply for the next decade and possibly even declining prices.

The world’s biggest producer, Chile’s SQM Holdings, claims existing capacity and reserves are abundant enough to meet demand under even the most bullish scenarios for electric vehicles over the next 10 years. World demand is roughly 120,000 metric tons a year, with a quarter used in batteries, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS puts world reserves at 11 million. SQM puts the number at 19 million tons, and battery maker Johnson Controls – a big winner in the Obama administration’s $1.7 billion subsidy package for battery makers in 2009 – puts the number close to 28 million tons. Recycling would create another large supply source, and many expect recycling output to grow even faster than that from brines and mines.

The big unknown in forecasting lithium supply and demand trends is how quickly electric vehicles catch on. A new lithium brine can take more than five years to develop, so supply potentially could struggle to keep pace if demand takes off. The Obama administration has called for 1 million hybrids and electric vehicles on American roads by 2015. Optimistic forecasts put hybrids and electric vehicles at around 20% of world auto sales by 2020. That roughly correlates to 5%-10% annual growth in lithium demand, strong growth but not unusual for a young market.

Existing producers and exploration companies with low-cost assets backed by proven reserves are likely best positioned to profit from the age of electric vehicles. Investors would be right to be cautious of anything else. Whether lithium supply should be a worry for battery makers and automakers is questionable. It’s well known the high cost of lithium batteries is one of their current drawbacks. But lithium accounts for roughly just 5% of the battery’s cost.

But battery makers, and automakers in particular, could tolerate higher prices without undue damage to margins.

Taking Lithium With A Pinch Of Salt - The Source - WSJ
 

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Discussion Starter #15
This summary of an article from The New Yorker goes back to my fears over Evo Morales:

Lithium Dreams
by Lawrence Wright

With the emergence of electric cars, lithium could challenge petroleum as the dominant fuel of the future. And nearly half the world’s known resources are buried beneath vast salt flats in southwestern Bolivia, the largest of which is called the Salar de Uyuni. Bolivians have begun to speak of their country becoming “the Saudi Arabia” of lithium. Yet it’s not clear that Bolivia is capable of making money off its trove. President Morales, who is closely aligned with the populist socialism of Hugo Chávez, of Venezuela, is prone to revolutionary declarations: “Either capitalism dies or else Planet Earth dies.” Such rhetoric tends to scare away the kind of foreign investment that would facilitate the development of the Salar. Then there is Bolivia’s lack of infrastructure: electricity, water, and gas are sparsely distributed, and few of the country’s roads are paved. Before Bolivia can hope to exploit a twenty-first-century fuel, it must first develop the rudiments of a twentieth-century economy. Writer visits a pilot project for extracting and processing lithium on the Salar. The pilot project is a crucial test for the government, but it is only a portion of what Morales has promised. Morales told the writer that not only would Bolivia mine and process lithium on its own; it would also make batteries—and, eventually, cars. Discusses the history of batteries and tells about the use of lithium-ion batteries in hybrid and electric cars, including the Chevrolet Volt, which goes on sale later this year. Also mentions the “lithium-air” battery researchers at I.B.M. are working on. Gives biographical information about Morales, who grew up in an adobe hut in the Altiplano. Like many poorly educated Bolivians of his generation, Morales had few opportunities for employment. Being an Indian was also a barrier. Before entering politics, Morales made his reputation as a fearless and canny leader of the coca growers’ union, an office that he still holds. Tells about Morales’s opposition to the activities of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. In 2008, after President George W. Bush placed Bolivia and Venezuela on a blacklist, Morales and Chávez expelled their respective American Ambassadors. Discusses Bolivia’s long rivalry with Chile and the reduction of Bolivian territory in wars with its neighbors. Writer accompanies Morales on a visit to the town of Baures. Carlos Mesa, a historian and former President of Bolivia, told the writer that Morales has four fixed ideas: “The state is sacred; the state represents all Bolivians; the state should be the boss of everything; and these things together guarantee happiness and progress.” Writer meets Guillermo Roelants du Vivier, who is the head of the scientific committee that Morales has charged with developing the resources of the Salar—of which potassium chloride may rival lithium as a source of income for Bolivia. Tells about the announcement in January of a hundred-million-dollar deal between Toyota Tsusho and the Australian mining company Orocobre to supply Argentine lithium for hybrid and electric cars.

Read more:
Can Bolivia become the Saudi Arabia of the electric-car era? : The New Yorker
 

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Discussion Starter #16
An update on the "rare-earth metals from China" aspects of this issue:

Chinese Control of Rare-Earth Metals Could Stall Hybrid Growth
By Christie Schweinsberg - WardsAuto.com

China’s control of most of the world’s supply of lanthanides at the same time demand is increasing for the rare-earth metals could hurt the growth of hybrid-electric vehicles, author Robert Bryce says.

Lanthanum is a key ingredient in nickel-metal-hydride batteries that power many HEVs worldwide, and experts say new sources for the rare-earth metals have yet to be found.

Increasing U.S. corporate average fuel economy to a 35.5 mpg (6.6 L/100 km) fleet average by 2016 is “an ambitious goal, and it may well be laudable,” Bryce, author of the new book “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future,” tells attendees here during a recent Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. Sustainability Seminar.

The key question, he says, is whether there will be sufficient quantities of lanthanides to produce the quantity of hybrids needed to meet the mileage standards set by President Obama.

Using data provided by Toyota, Bryce says each Prius HEV contains about 25 lbs. (11 kg) of rare-earth metals, more than twice the amount in a standard vehicle, likely making it the most lanthanide-intensive consumer product ever made. Other HEVs also contain large amounts of rare-earth metals.

Lanthanides also are in demand for consumer electronics, such as computer hard-drives, cell phones and televisions; as well as in wind turbines, X-ray machines and precision-guided munitions.

China controls somewhere between “95% and 100% of the world’s supply of this entire row of the periodic table,” Bryce says, flashing a chart showing 15 elements such as lanthanum, neodymium and samarium.

The Prius’ NiMH battery pack contains 22 lbs. (10 kg) of lanthanides. Some 2.2 lbs. (1 kg) of neodymium is used in each Prius’ iron-boron magnets found in the motor-generator and batteries.

“There are no significant supplies (of lanthanides) that can come on stream in anything close to the time span the market needs,” Bryce says, noting studies show demand for lanthanides could outstrip supply as early as 2013.

Today’s market for lanthanides is about 100,000 tons (90,718 t) per year, he says. “Estimates are that within two-three years the market demand will be 120,000-130,000 tons (108,862-117,932 t) per year.”

The U.S. Geological Survey shows worldwide rare-earth reserves at 99 million tons (89.8 million t) but 2009 production at just 124,000 tons (112,490 t), with 120,000 tons of lanthanides mined in China and none in the U.S.

China, exemplified by the quote from former Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping – “There is oil in the Middle East, there are rare-earths in China; we must take full advantage of this resource” – is well aware of its position of power on lanthanides, Bryce says.

“In this headlong rush to go ‘green,’ we are essentially trading one type of import reliance for another,” he warns of China.

Unlike the number of countries the U.S. relies on for oil imports and exports, the movement to produce more HEVs means “we are going to be more dependent on a single market, where there’s no transparency and one dominant market player who happens to own most of our debt already,” Bryce says.

China is cutting back on exports of rare-earth elements, while increasing export fees on lanthanides and encouraging companies using such metals to locate in China.

“This makes perfect sense from a strategic standpoint, an employment standpoint, from a balance and trade standpoint,” he says. “The Chinese don’t want to sell you the rare-earth elements that are needed to make a television. They want to sell you the television.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report showing deposits of rare-earth ore are “geographically diverse,” with locations in the U.S., Australia, Canada and Greenland. However, the report found China is dominant in the ability to process rare-earth oxides into metals.

A U.S. mine in Mountain Pass, CA, operated by Molycorp Minerals LLC, was shuttered in 2002 partly after pollution concerns arose. Plans are to bring it back online later this year, but Molycorp is lacking in its ability to refine oxides into finished metals, the GAO says.

Molycorp reportedly hopes to raise $350 million-$500 million through an initial public offering to modernize and expand Mountain Pass, as well as fund new processes and technologies.

But the GAO report says it may take up to 15 years for the U.S. to rebuild its rare-earth supply chain, a scenario dependent on investments in processing infrastructure being made, new-technology development and acquiring patents.

Other U.S. rare-earth deposits have been found in Idaho, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Utah and Wyoming, but they only are in the exploratory stages and could take seven to 15 years to come fully online after complying with state and federal regulations, the GAO says.

But Bryce warns U.S. sourcing of rare earths could backfire if the Chinese decide they are “not really crazy about competition” and undercut the price of U.S. lanthanides.

Reducing the need for rare-earth metals in HEVs is a noble goal, he says. But for some rare metals, there’s “just no replacements.”

Chinese Control of Rare-Earth Metals Could Stall Hybrid Growth
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Another informative update

Material costs threaten affordable green cars
By MARK RECHTIN, AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

Talk with any executive involved with hybrid- or pure-electric vehicles, and the conversation inevitably comes back to cost. The hope is that economies of scale will save the day, bringing down component costs and making green vehicles affordable and profitable for all.

Except that prices might not fall.

Several recent studies indicate that the cost of batteries may not decline as much as hoped over the next decade. What's more, some researchers think the cost of rare-earth elements--essential to key components in an electric drivetrain--actually may increase.

Rare-earth elements and lithium for batteries are at the heart of the new technology. Far more than any consumer product, hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius are the world's biggest users of rare-earth elements. And for electric vehicles--burdened by high battery costs--price reductions are essential to selling to mainstream buyers.

Yet a report from Roskill Consulting says demand for rare-earth elements will exceed supply within four years. That would make the elements known as lanthanides--crucial for the magnets installed in motor-generators--very pricey.

"It would suggest prices will gyrate upward, adding cost to any automaker building hybrids," said Robert Bryce, author of the book Power Hungry. "And that's assuming automakers can be assured of a reliable supply."

For example, the per-kilogram price of neodymium -- a crucial element sourced from China and used in high-end magnets -- has doubled in the past year, according to metal-pages.com.

"The mandated higher fuel economy standards mean the auto industry will have to embrace hybrids to meet standards," Bryce said. "The increased volume of hybrid production will increase the demand for rare-earth elements. We are trading one type of foreign dependence--on foreign oil--for another."

'Go big, go volume'
Although Toyota Motor Corp. has been the leader in hybrid vehicles, Renault-Nissan is placing the biggest bet on pure-electric vehicles.

Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is betting 4 billion euros ($4.92 billion) to create eight electric-vehicle models and 500,000 units of global capacity within the next few years. He may be the firmest believer that economies of scale will make EVs affordable and profitable.

"Go big, go volume, that's the big driver," said Simon Sproule, communications director for the Renault-Nissan alliance. "We're not going to claim profit from Day One, but we're not in the EV business to lose money."

But Sproule admitted that EVs entail a changed mind-set from traditional internal combustion vehicles: "We are ensuring we have stability of suppliers. It's a different set of raw materials at play."

The two leading alternative-fuel vehicle companies, Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors, must base their entire business case on the idea that a plug-in hybrid or electric sedan can be made profitably.

Their strength is that they don't have the overhead of large automakers. The downside is that they cannot spread costs among many platforms and divisions. Both also are planning to fill out their product lineups with higher-volume--and lower-priced--vehicles than their high-end initial offerings.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose company may be most reliant on lithium ion batteries, hopes that scale will reduce purchasing costs.

"It definitely affects the cost of battery cells. To really get the cell cost much lower than where it is today--and we think we have a very good cell cost for our volumes--you really want the battery pack requirements of the car business to far exceed that of the laptop business," Musk said in a recent interview.

Similarly, Fisker Automotive CEO Henrik Fisker said: "We all want the price to go down -- not just of batteries; it's the inverters and cabling. Right now those parts are not manufactured in the millions, like every other component in cars.

"In the next three, four, five years, all those component costs will go down."

Price decline?
Future supply and demand for both rare-earth elements and lithium spur intense debate.

"Batteries are commodities, as are all of the raw materials that are used to make the batteries, motors and other components required," said John Petersen, a lawyer specializing in alternative-energy clients for Fefer Petersen & Cie in Barbereche, Switzerland.

In a report written for the Seeking Alpha Web site, Petersen noted that backers of hybrids and electric vehicles ignore "fundamental natural resource development issues like location, economics, environmental impacts and the difference between known mineral resources and developed mineral reserves."

Said Petersen: "Battery costs are commodity materials that are not going to decline in price as demand increases. We've all gotten used to the IT business, where price falls and performance soars with each new generation. That cannot happen in the battery business because we are dealing with chemistry instead of physics."

In a January report, Boston Consulting Group said that in the future, "actual battery costs will likely be higher than what carmakers predict."

While automakers such as General Motors Co. are heartened by Boston Consulting Group's prediction of a 60 to 65 percent drop in battery prices by 2020, that won't be as advantageous as automakers need, the report said.

"The adoption of fully electric vehicles in 2020 may be limited to specific applications, such as commercial fleets, commuter cars and cars that are confined to a prescribed range of use," the report states.

Still, GM isn't panicking.

"We see no issues with the supply or reserves of lithium," said Micky Bly, GM executive director of electrical systems and hybrid vehicles. "Even with something like 100 million Volts [or similar hybrids], each using 16 kilowatt-hours of energy capacity, there is no issue with supply."

Bly thinks the Boston Consulting Group report was "conservative."

Oil for lanthanides?
While lithium is still selling for less than $1 per pound, a deeper concern is access to the rare-earth elements used in many hybrid powertrain components. Those elements are sourced mostly from China.

Bryce worries that the West is trading reliance on Middle Eastern oil for Chinese rare-earth elements. Not a good deal, he said.

So far, only Toyota has signed corporate deals to secure rights to search for these elements, specifically in Argentina, Vietnam and Canada.

Bill Reinert, Toyota's national manager of advanced technology vehicles, worries that predictions of rapid price deflation may be overstated.

GM's Bly said access to lanthanides is not a zero-sum issue.

"There are other materials available, but you might lose a couple percent of efficiency," Bly said. "It's not as though if you don't get this, you get nothing. A couple points of efficiency are measurable, but it will not hamper the ability of electric machines or motors to propagate very rapidly."

Material costs threaten affordable green cars
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Bolivia, China and... Afghanistan?!?!

Some excerpts from a lengthy The New York Times article by James Risen titled U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan:

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines.

American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan. The American-led offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Meanwhile, charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government, and Mr. Karzai seems increasingly embittered toward the White House.

So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the American officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact.

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.

Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts. Afghanistan has a national mining law, written with the help of advisers from the World Bank, but it has never faced a serious challenge.

At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully. “This is a country that has no mining culture,” said Jack Medlin, a geologist in the United States Geological Survey’s international affairs program. “They’ve had some small artisanal mines, but now there could be some very, very large mines that will require more than just a gold pan.”

In 2004, American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

So far, the biggest mineral deposits discovered are of iron and copper, and the quantities are large enough to make Afghanistan a major world producer of both, United States officials said. Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan.

Just this month, American geologists working with the Pentagon team have been conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan where they believe there are large deposits of lithium. Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world’s largest known lithium reserves.

U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan - NYTimes.com
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Over a year later, perhaps some of these fears are overblown

Rare Earths Fall as Toyota Develops Alternatives: Commodities
By Sonja Elmquist - Bloomberg

Rare-earth prices are set to extend their decline from records this year as buyers including Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) and General Electric Co. (GE) scale back using the materials in their cars and windmills.

Prices for cerium and lanthanum, the most abundant rare- earth elements, will drop by 50 percent in 12 months, Christopher Ecclestone, an analyst at Hallgarten & Co. in New York, has forecast. Neodymium and praseodymium, metals used in permanent rare-earth magnets, may fall as much as 15 percent, he said.

Makers of electric cars, wind turbines and oil-refining catalysts have sought to reduce use of the metals after China, which supplies more than 90 percent of the market, said in July 2010 that it would cut exports and clamp down on the industry. That boosted prices, encouraging mining companies to develop new prospects and buyers to find alternatives.

“If you think you can keep raising the prices for those materials and still keep your customers, you’re crazy,” Jack Lifton, co-founder of Technology Metals Research, said in a telephone interview. “The principal customer for rare-earth metals is a global automotive industry using rare-earth permanent magnets. That industry will engineer this stuff out.”

Declines in August and September pared a five-month, fourfold surge that brought the average price for eight of the most widely used rare-earth oxides to a record 396,850 yuan ($62,025) a metric ton in July, data from consultant Shanghai Steelhome Information show. The average price declined 13 percent from its July peak as of Sept. 27.

Share Performance
The Bloomberg Rare Earth Mineral Resources Index dropped 43 percent in the past three months, led by a 61 percent decline in Montreal-based Quest Rare Minerals Ltd. (QRM) Great Western Minerals Group Ltd., which explores in North America, climbed 3.1 percent in the period and is the only gainer on the 17-member benchmark.

Rare earths have been pushed lower because of selling by speculators, Michael Gambardella, a New York-based analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in a report last week. Tsunami- related disruptions in Japan and dumping of unpermitted material in China have undercut prices, while industrial substitution has driven “demand destruction,” said Sam Berridge, a Sydney-based analyst at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

“A greater focus on recycling and substitution, particularly by Japanese consumers, has resulted in tightness of demand easing somewhat for the lighter rare earths,” Berridge said by phone.

‘Huge Savings’
Rising prices for the so-called light metals, such as neodymium and lanthanum, have prompted automakers including Toyota, Asia’s biggest automaker, to look at reducing the use of relatively powerful and expensive rare-earth magnets in their vehicles. Some Toyota vehicles will be built with an induction motor, which doesn’t use rare-earth magnets, said John Hanson, a Toyota spokesman in Torrance, California.

“Moving from a fixed-magnet motor to an induction motor is a huge savings with regard to rare-earth metals,” Hanson said by phone.

“The Japanese are leading the push to replace, reduce and recycle their rare-earths consumption,” said Dudley Kingsnorth, chief executive officer of Perth-based advisory Industrial Minerals Co. of Australia. “Users are recycling rare earths wherever they can, using them more efficiently, particularly in the magnet industry where they are producing powerful magnets with smaller volumes.”

GM’s Plans
General Motors Co. (GM), the largest U.S. automaker, plans to sell a Chevrolet Malibu Eco next year that uses an induction motor, and otherwise cut down on magnets that use a lot of rare earths.

“The magnets are like God’s gift to electric motors,” Pete Savagian, GM’s chief engineer for electric motors, said in a telephone interview. “But we don’t always need that level of magnet. Even at prices we saw three and four years ago, there’s a more economic alternative, albeit at slightly less efficient outcome.”

The largest portion of demand for rare earths, one third, comes from generating electricity, according to Bloomberg Industries.

In August, GE announced the development of wind-turbine generators that will reduce dependence on the rare-earth materials prevalent in so-called permanent-magnet machines. Some current offshore wind turbines may contain as much as half a ton of the metals, according to Bloomberg Industries analysis.

‘Demand Destruction’
“Everybody is going back to the drawing board and trying to redesign their generators to minimize the usage of permanent magnets,” said Steve Duclos, chief scientist and manager of material sustainability for GE Global Research. “In all of our businesses we’re looking to reduce our usage.”

Companies that use cerium to polish glass, such as manufacturers of liquid crystal displays, will reduce their reliance on the element by as much as 70 percent this year by installing new polishing machines, said Jonathan Hykawy, an analyst with Byron Capital Markets in Toronto.

“They made the decision to substitute operational expenditure with capital expenditure,” Hykawy said. “Even if the price of cerium goes back to $5 a kilo, they will continue to buy less cerium because the machines are there and they’ll save a little bit of money. That’s a quasi-permanent demand destruction for cerium.”

Gasoline Refining
W.R. Grace & Co. this year began selling an oil-refining catalyst with reduced lanthanum, a rare earth that has increased in price more than fourfold in the past year. Lanthanum improves the amount of gasoline refiners can extract from crude oil and is also used in hybrid-car batteries.

Half of the company’s customers had switched to the new formula, which offers the same performance and gives them “double-digit type percent decreases in their cost,” Grace Chief Financial Officer Hudson La Force III said on a conference call this month.

The development doesn’t worry Mark Smith, CEO of Molycorp Inc. (MCP), owner of the largest rare-earth deposit outside China.

Fluid-cracking catalysts have “always been one of the largest single markets for any of the individual rare earths,” Smith said in an interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. “We don’t see that deteriorating in any significant form.”

While rare-earth prices have fallen, demand will outpace supplies even with new mines in California and Australia expected to come online in 2014, Smith said.

‘Short Supply’
“Like any market, you’re going to see up and down in the course of a month or two,” Smith said. “But the overall trend remains short supply, heavy demand.”

The ability to substitute many rare-earth applications will be limited, said Constantine Karayannopoulos, CEO of Neo Material Technologies Inc. (NEM), a Toronto-based producer of rare- earths, magnetic powders and rare metals.

“All kinds of folks are trying to use alternative technologies,” he said by phone. “Longer-term, don’t expect these technologies to be in place this quarter or the next.”

Molycorp fell $1.22, or 3.5 percent to $34.06 as of 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, extending its decline this year to 32 percent. Neo Material Technologies dropped 63 cents, or 8.9 percent, to C$6.47 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Its shares have tumbled 17 percent this year.

GE’s Duclos says he has little doubt companies will find substitutes, sooner or later.

“It will depend on the element, it will depend on the usage, but getting 10-20 percent efficiencies out of the usage of an element is not that terribly difficult,” Duclos said. “What I don’t subscribe to is this idea that there’s nothing we can do.”

Rare Earths Fall as Toyota Develops Alternatives: Commodities - Bloomberg
 
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