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April 9, 2013 > Access to energy critical elements

Access to energy critical elements

Submitted By Allison Bormel

Congressman Eric Swalwell (CA-15) has introduced H.R. 1022, Securing Energy Critical Elements and American Jobs Act 2013, to help the United States develop the technical expertise and production capabilities to assure a long-term, secure and sustainable supply of energy critical elements. The U.S. relies on other countries for more than 90 percent of energy critical elements, which have applications in everyday electronics, like smart phones and flat screen TVs, clean tech innovations, such as hybrid cars and wind turbines, and U.S. military needs, like night-vision goggles, cruise missiles and other weapons. Swalwell serves as the Ranking Member on the Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and has two Department of Energy national laboratories in his district, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore.

There are few locations where rare earth elements, one sub-section of energy critical elements, exist in concentrations high enough to make extraction cost-effective. For that reason, China generates 97 percent of the world's rare earth elements' supply. This legislation reinvigorates U.S. federal research on critical elements to satisfy the national security, economic well-being and industrial production needs of the United States to avoid relying so heavily on China for rare earth production and bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. In 2010, China temporarily cut its rare earth exports, causing global prices to skyrocket and highlighting the potential consequences of over-reliance on China for these elements.

"Most energy critical elements are not household names but the products they create are. Securing our supply of rare earths is in our national, economic and energy interest," said Swalwell. "Energy critical elements are vital to many of the green sustainable technologies that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and the innovations that keep our troops safe. As we saw in 2010, relying so heavily on China for these elements is short-sighted policy and subjects us to their whim. The Securing Energy Critical Elements and American Jobs Act 2013 is a step forward to securing our domestic energy critical elements supply, bringing certainty to businesses in the U.S. and encouraging investment and job growth at home."

H.R. 1022 directs the Office of Science and Technology to coordinate the actions of federal agencies to promote a stable supply of energy critical elements through finding methods to recycle critical materials and use the elements more efficiently. To address workplace shortages because of The Sequester, it directs the Secretary of Energy to collaborate on research with university students. It also encourages private investment by authorizing the Department of Energy to issue loan guarantees to companies with new processing and refining technologies.

A similar bill was passed in the 111th Congress but was not taken up in the Senate.

"By leveraging our vast federal resources, the talent at our universities and the innovation of the private sector, we can ensure a sustainable supply of critical earth elements and continue to lead the world in technologies that support job creation in America and our national and energy security. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this legislation," added Swalwell.

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