Notre Dame Associate Professor Eugene Gholz was featured last night on BBC Four's The World Tonight (beginning at 14:30) talking about rare earths and how restricting their export to the U.S. is not necessarily the threat China thinks it is. The U.S. doesn't really import raw rare earth elements, rather, they come in the form of finished products from other countries such as powertrains from Japan, Gholz noted.
Below are several quotes from the BBC interview. Gholz is happy to speak via email, cell phone or satellite connection (Notre Dame has an on-campus studio): firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 703 582 0867.
"Some applications are more critical than others or where the rare earths are more uniquely required so some things would grind to a halt but if you were just constricted and had to prioritized, you could be more flexible and get it to the really essential applications."
"Total defense demand for rare earths is a small fraction of the market; it’s significant and it’s important, but there are lots of ways to get those rare earths into the U.S. defense products that would not be affected by an export ban from China of exporting just raw material to the U.S."
"There are substantial sources of supply even at current market prices in Australia and the U.S. and I think those non-Chinese sources of supply could fairly readily expand."
"Neither side - China or the US – looks inclined to make concessions and the U.S. has essentially told China in recent policy statements when we’ve justified policies that we’ve taken on national security grounds by saying we’re vulnerable in rare earths. So, if China’s looking for a lever to pull, it makes perfect sense that they would pull this lever."
"People aren’t thinking about how dynamic and resilient markets are and how complex it would be for China to impose economic costs on the U.S. trying to use that rare earths lever."
Assistant Director, Media Relations
University of Notre Dame