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Member Speeches :: September 28, 2010

Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Vice Chair Kathy Dahlkemper's Remarks on H.R. 6016

As prepared for delivery

Madam Speaker,
What would happen to our national defense if we could no longer build a jet engine? Vehicle batteries? Advanced targeting systems?
What are the chances that we become energy independent if we cannot produce hybrid cars, wind turbines and other alternative energy products?
What would happen to our economy if the technologies we depend on to make businesses work are no longer available?
These are questions we would have to answer if China cut off our supply of rare earth materials—vital components to nearly every piece of advanced technology we use in our national defense and throughout businesses and industry.
For the past decade, the United States has been almost entirely dependent on China for its supply of rare earth materials, despite the fact that we have an abundant reserve of these materials within our own borders.
China currently accounts for as much as 97 percent of the world’s available supply of rare earth materials.
But they are reducing the amount of these materials going into the global market. Just this summer, China announced it would cut its rare earths exports for the second half of 2010 by 72 percent. 
The bottom line is this: China is cornering the market on rare earth materials and we are falling behind.
That is why we need to act now to begin the process of creating our own domestic supply of rare earth materials so the United States is never dependent on China—or on any other country—for crucial components for our national security.
My bill, H.R. 6160, the Rare Earths and Critical Materials Revitalization Act is a bipartisan plan to jump start U.S. research and development in rare earth materials to improve our ability to find, extract, process and use rare earths to improve products.
We want to ultimately create a domestic supply of rare earths.
My legislation will foster a strong rare earths industry here in the United States. The scope of this bill spans the full supply chain, from exploration to mining to manufacturing. It will reduce risk in financing new rare earths production facilities by guaranteeing loans to companies with new processing and refining technologies.
My bill would also help create a U.S. minerals and materials policy so we are never without a plan of action if our supply of rare earths falls short.
China has stated clearly that foreign firms that move their manufacturing capacity onto Chinese soil will have no trouble procuring rare earth materials. That’s just another way American manufacturing jobs are being lured overseas.
That has to stop. We need to make things right here in our country and give those great manufacturing jobs to American men and women here.
M. Speaker, this bill cannot wait. Just last week, China reportedly cut off Japan’s supply of rare earths in the wake of a territory conflict.
This is a clear warning sign, and we would be foolish to ignore it. If China is willing to use their control of rare earths as leverage over other countries, we need to counter that advantage by jump starting our domestic market of rare earths now.
The GAO reports that it may take up to 15 years to rebuild the U.S. rare earth supply chain. Delaying the seed money to begin this process only prolongs our dependency on China.
I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan plan to promote U.S. global competitiveness and to ensure our national defense is Made in America.

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