Today in Cleantech

Hold on to your resources! Today’s news analysis from Reuters takes a look at the recent spats over rare earth materials to frame a larger picture of nation-states reversing the decades-long progress of globalization by starting to insist that they’ll be hanging on to their own natural resources, thank you very much. Of course, for the green technology industry, China’s grip on rare earth metals production and export has been the leading issue on the natural resources front. China controls about 97 percent of global production of rare earths critical to wind turbines, advanced batteries, electric motors and other greentech technologies, and has been putting increasingly tough quotas on their export, driving up prices over the past year. Just this week China made clear it didn’t intend to relax those quotas, despite a recent World Trade Organization ruling against its restrictions of other raw materials. But beyond the matter of raw materials for manufactured goods, there’s the issue of restricting the export of core energy supplies. Indonesia and Australia have placed restrictions on the prices they’ll accept for their massive coal exports, for example — and we all know about OPEC’s grip on international oil markets. As energy grows more and more expensive, expect more conflict over the trade of all sorts of materials — and while green technology is aimed at easing some of these resource pressures, the industry’s growth also relies on their inputs.