Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise in strong support today of H.R. 6160, the Rare Earths and Critical Materials Revitalization Act of 2010.
This bill was introduced by the gentlewoman from Pennsylvania, Mrs. Dahlkemper, and cosponsored by Mr. Jerry Lewis, Mr. Coffman, Mr. Carnahan, myself, and a number of other members who all recognize that we must take steps to recapture our technological lead in a wide range of industries critical to our economic health, our national defense, and a clean and secure energy future.
For the last week you couldn’t open a newspaper or watch TV without seeing a story warning us about the danger of our reliance on China for a little-known but critical class of raw materials, called “Rare Earths”. Rare earths are an essential component of technologies in a wide array of emerging and established industries. And, for everything from oil refining to hybrid cars, wind turbines to weapons systems, computer monitors to disk drives, the future demand for rare earths is only expected to grow.
However, despite the U.S. at one time being the leader in this field, China now controls 97% of the global market. Making matters more urgent, China has begun limiting production and export of rare earths.
There have also been signs that China is willing to leverage this power for political gain, and cripple manufacturing elsewhere. Just last week, in retaliation for Japan’s detainment of a Chinese fisherman, China reportedly chose to stop rare earth shipments to Japan.
This is clearly an untenable position for the U.S.
This is not the first time the Congress has been concerned with the competitive implications of materials such as rare earths. In 1980—30 years ago—we established a national minerals and materials policy. One core element in that legislation was the call to support "a vigorous, comprehensive and coordinated program of materials research and development.”
Unfortunately, over successive administrations, the effort to sustain that program eroded. Now, it is time to revive a coordinated effort to level the global playing field in rare earths.
Mrs. Dahlkemper’s bill calls for increased research and development to help address the Nation’s rare earth shortage, and reinvigorates the national policy for critical materials.
Furthermore, the bill does not start a big new government program. All activities authorized in this Act should take place within existing programs at the Department of Energy, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and other relevant agencies. And the bill does not authorize any new appropriations.
I call on my colleagues to support H.R. 6160, and I look forward to its passage. With that, I reserve the balance of my time.