It has been a couple of weeks since I posted my last commentary… so my apologies to those who look forward to them, and my apologies to those who don’t. Seriously, I’ve been somewhat distracted preparing primers on individual rare metal elements, attending and speaking at conferences, and tending to a family health matter (the latter is going extremely well).
But no better time to return the RareMetalBlog than on Earth Day – a perfect scenario when Renewable Energy solutions and CleanTech are front and centre, and for several of us in the know – the opportunity to remind the powers that be, that they are only made possible with the application of rare metals.
The keynote address of Earth Day was certainly President Obama’s remarks from Trinity Structural Towers, a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Iowa. In his wide ranging remarks, in which he articulated several specific targets and plans, Obama reaffirmed that his administration has placed renewable energy as essential to America's future prosperity. Obama's $3.6 trillion budget for next fiscal year, which is currently before Congress, calls for $15 billion each year for ten years to develop clean energy including wind power, solar power, geothermal energy, and clean coal technology. He also announced that his administration will, for the first time, lease federal waters for projects to generate electricity from wind as well as from ocean currents and other renewable sources.
The primary theme underlying his remarks revolved around the following challenge… "We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy. We can allow climate change to wreak unnatural havoc across the landscape, or we can create jobs working to prevent its worst effects….the nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy”.
Obama further said that wind energy could generate as much as 20 percent of our electricity by 2030, creating as many as 250,000 jobs.
Today, America produces less than 3 percent of its electricity through renewable sources like wind and solar. Denmark in comparison produces almost 20 percent of their electricity through wind power alone. Obama’s criticism and challenge was clearly captured in his comment that “We pioneered solar technology, but we've fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in generating it, even though we've got more sun than either country.”
In 2000, energy technology represented just one half of one percent of all venture capital investments. Today, it's more than 10 percent.
The US government also recognizes that it has to get away from its big car, SUV mentality, and as such the Obama administration will be creating incentives for companies to develop the next generation of clean-energy vehicles — and for Americans to drive them, particularly as the U.S. auto industry moves forward on a historic restructuring that can position it for a more prosperous future.
The Recovery Act also includes $2 billion in competitive grants to develop the next generation of batteries for plug-in hybrids. The US government is planning to buy 17,600 American-made, fuel-efficient cars and trucks for the government fleet, and is initiating a Clean Cities grant program through the Recovery Act to help state and local governments purchase their own clean-energy vehicles.
President Obama also reiterated that the Environmental Protection Agency determined that carbon dioxide and other tailpipe emissions are harmful, advising that his administration would press forward to establish a Cap-and Trade market to provide economic incentives whereby over time, as the cap on greenhouse gases is lowered year by year, companies and consumers will have greater incentive to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency as the price of the status quo becomes more expensive.
These announcements can only drive increased demand and application of rare metals, be it for rechargeable batteries and energy storage devices, permanent magnets for hybrids, wind turbines and high efficiency motors, or thin film solar panel technologies. Here goes!
If you would like to read the full text of US President Obama’s Earth Day remarks, please click here .