Author: Castlen Kennedy

Rare Earth Elements: A Critical Component of a Clean Energy Future

As our nation moves towards an increased use of renewable energy technologies, we should plan for the increased demand this will place on rare earth elements. In an effort to prevent the substitution of a dependence on foreign oil for a dependence on foreign REEs, the United States should implement a proactive strategy to diversify our supply of these elements. REEs include elements such as neodymium, lanthanum, lutetium, scandium and yttrium. These elements are critical components of many of the technologies we use today, including superconductors, hybrid and electric vehicles, catalytic converters, compact fluorescent light bulbs, lasers, cell phones and even advanced weapons systems. The elements are not actually rare but are difficult to find in concentrations that are economically extractable. Currently, 97 percent of the rare earth elements produced each year come from China. There are deposits in various parts of the world, but China’s production techniques and costs are among the cheapest, making it economically challenging for other countries to aggressively participate in the market. Furthermore, mining of REEs is a chemical-intensive process and precautions must be taken to prevent environmental contamination. Relative to the United States, regulation in China is more lax, further lowering production costs. China is also home to much of the world’s alternative energy technology production and consumes two-thirds of the REEs it produces for manufacturing. The United States produced REEs domestically until...

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A Brewing Storm over the Internet

As another hurricane season brews off our coasts, a storm of another kind is brewing in the halls of Congress over how the Internet should be regulated. The concept of “network neutrality” may be cloudy, but the implications are clear: Unnecessary restrictions on those that invest in the development of our nation’s high speed networks will stifle development and innovation here at home. In September 2008, Hurricane Ike hit the Texas Gulf Coast, killing 48 Texans and ranking as the costliest weather disaster in the state’s history with a price tag of $12 billion. In the lead up to the storm as well as in its aftermath, Texans turned to the Internet to assist in preparation and recovery. Public interest in Hurricane Ike was recorded by Google Hot Trends, which noted “Tropical Storm Ike” as one of the most popular search terms the day it became a named storm. After landfall, top searches were related to the landfall location and flooding. Citizens were sharing their stories online by uploading homemade videos of the devastation to YouTube. Texans were flocking to local government websites for news and the latest information. But in the aftermath of such a significant storm, whose job was it to ensure the broadband capability for Texans was up and running, and to restore lines and connectivity after the clouds parted? Not Google’s who provided search capabilities....

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