China’s monopoly on rare earths

Michael Marshall It’s a rare fight. The US, Europe and Japan have lodged a formal complaintwith the World Trade Organization over China’s export of rare earths – or lack of it. China produces 95 per cent of the global supply of the 17 metals, which are used in technologies from cellphones to wind turbines, but … Continue reading

Voracious Tibetan pikas fingered for grassland loss

Caitlin Stier These cute critters are accused of having a destructive appetite. The pikas burrow through the meadows of the Tibetan plateau, feasting on grass and storing hay for the long winter. China is exterminating the creatures by throwing botulism-laced grain into pikas’ burrows in an effort to preserve what’s left of deteriorating grasslands for … Continue reading

World’s Largest River Restoration Project Begins

The removal of two dams on the Elwha River​ will help restore once abundant salmon runs. David Biello Ninety-eight years ago, engineers tamed Washington State’s Elwha River. Dams provided electricity, at the expense of runs of five types of Pacific salmon. But the fish should soon be back.  The two dams on the Elwha are … Continue reading

Many U.S. Drinking Water Wells Contaminated

Private drinking water wells are unmonitored and unregulated, but often contaminated with potentially dangerous elements Marla Cone and Environmental Health News  Iron, arsenic, manganese, and aluminum are in the acidic fountain at the Echinus geyser in Yellowstone National Park. Image: daveynin/Flickr In Nebraska, along the Platte River​, it’s uranium. In Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, … Continue reading

The Americas, Not the Middle East, Will Be the World Capital of Energy

Adios, OPEC. BY AMY MYERS JAFFE For half a century, the global energy supply’s center of gravity has been the Middle East. This fact has had self-evidently enormous implications for the world we live in — and it’s about to change. By the 2020s, the capital of energy will likely have shifted back to the … Continue reading

German official blames China for Somalia’s famine

Edmund Downie With east Africa in the grip of famine after its worst drought in 60 years, Germany’s Africa policy coordinator has fingered an unlikely culprit: China. Agence France-Presse reports: Guenter Nooke told the daily Frankfurter Rundschau it was clear that "this catastrophe is also man-made". "In the case of Ethiopia there is a suspicion … Continue reading

Nova Scotia cod fishery indicates initial recovery

John Timmer Like other areas off Canada’s east coast, the Scotian Shelf suffered a collapse of its fisheries during the 1990s. Haddock and cod were caught in an unsustainable fashion, eventually leading to a tremendous decline in their numbers that prompted the government to shut the fisheries. Despite this drastic action, stocks of fish like … Continue reading

Think you know how to search for a job?

Suzanne Ball, careers advisor at the University of Hertfordshire (Image: Jonathan Banks/Rex Features) The best place to look for jobs is the internet, right? Well yes, but it is not as straightforward as it sounds. Enter a search term such as "Biology Jobs" – you’ll get thousands of hits but how do you know which … Continue reading

China’s Maritime Interests

What They Are and What They Aren’t Peter J. Munson A recent article at the Small Wars Journal by Dr. Tony Corn asserts the existence of a "Sino-Islamic nexus," based on the first ever entry of a Chinese warship into the Med to extract refugees from Libya.  While this move certainly is reflective of China’s … Continue reading

The Atlantic Alliance and the Sino-Islamic Nexus

From the Hindu Kush to the Shores of Tripoli by Tony Corn Of all the theses and sub-theses put forward by Samuel Huntington in his seminal article on The Clash of Civilizations (1993), none turned out to be more controversial than his assertion concerning the emergence of a Sino-Islamic nexus based on an “arms-for-oil” quid … Continue reading

The Hoover Dam and Venezuela’s Electricity Crisis

By Freddy Núñez … although great works of civil engineering can surely weather earthquakes and other natural disasters, they are no match for inept, corrupt and irresponsible governments. Translated By Adam Zimmerman Edited by Patri­cia Simoni Venezuela – Tal Cual Digital – Original Article (Spanish) The Hoover dam is located on the Nevada-Arizona border. The … Continue reading

History of water availability in the Rockies shows trouble ahead

Scott Johnson Dillion Reservoir outside of Dillon, Colorado Communities in the Rocky Mountain region of North America rely on snowmelt to provide water for drinking, sanitation, irrigation, and industry. Snow, which falls in the mountains during the winter, acts like a massive frozen water tower, providing a steady supply of water throughout the drier summer … Continue reading

Resource Efficiency: The Sixth Wave of Innovation

Olivia Solon The global financial crisis of 2007-2009 heralded the start of a sixth major wave of innovation — that of resource efficiency, according to Dr James Bradfield Moody, author of The Sixth Wave, speaking at the Creative Sydney conference. The Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev first postulated the major cycles of innovation in 1925. The … Continue reading

Where the River Ends

The mighty Yangtze is dwindling — and a debate has emerged in China over the role of the Three Gorges Dam in exacerbating this summer’s devastating drought. BY CHRISTINA LARSON SHANGHAI — In glittering Shanghai, known for its hopping night life and influx of Western luxury stores, a VIP cocktail reception last Thursday night, May … Continue reading

China’s Port in Pakistan?

China’s dream of Indian Ocean ports — the so-called string of pearls — is heightening geopolitical tensions in a rough neighborhood. BY ROBERT D. KAPLAN Pakistani officials have announced that the Chinese look favorably on taking over the operation of the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar close to the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz, … Continue reading

Yangtze drought leaves shipping high and dry

Cian O’Luanaigh Fishing boats grounded on the dry Yangtze river bed in Wanxian, south-west China, in January, 2010 (Image: STR/AFP/Getty Image) A 228-kilometre stretch of China’s Yangtze river has been closed to ocean-going ships due to a severe drought, which has left fishing vessels high and dry near the city of Wuhan in Hubei province. … Continue reading

Taking Old Oil from Crankcase to Gas Tank

By Chuck Squatriglia Billions of gallons of motor oil are drained from engine crankcases each year, and only some of it is reused. Much of it is simply thrown away or burned. But that old oil could find new life as fuel for your car. Researchers at University of Cambridge have developed a process that … Continue reading

The future of food and farming

How to feed 9 billion people By Jonathan M. Gitlin Facing a convergence of threats, the global food system is failing. Each month, the global population grows by another 6 million, and an ever-wealthier world means one with more purchasing power, which drives up prices. Currently, with the global population at 7 billion and change, … Continue reading

Drinking from a Bottle Instead of the Tap Just Doesn’t Hold Water

Some 2.7 million tons of petroleum-derived plastic are used to bottle water worldwide every year, and costs consumers up to 1,900 times more than tap water Image: Photo courtesy Ryan McVay, Thinkstock Bottled water has been a big-selling commercial beverage around the world since the late 1980s. According to the Worldwatch Institute, global bottled water … Continue reading

Central Asian States of America

By Vladimir Mukhin Americans welcome the project to construct the TAPI pipeline … for which an agreement was concluded on Dec. 11, 2010. Translated By Sierra Perez-Sparks  Edited by Patricia Simoni Russia – Nezavisimaya Gazeta – Original Article (Russian) New U.S. military strategy implies Washington’s domination in the post-Soviet sphere The United States of America … Continue reading

China’s Economy and the Water Crisis

by Elizabeth C. Economy  The algae-filled Chaohu Lake is seen in Hefei, Anhui province, on August 3, 2010. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) While China’s economy continues to grab headlines, a new report, “Choke Point: China,” suggests  that we ought to be spending a bit more time on an often-ignored economic fundamental: water.   China’s environment has been a … Continue reading

Get ready for genetically modified biofuels

By John Timmer Switchgrass, with a USDA researcher shown for scale. The cell wall of plants is made of a network of cellulose, a polymer of the simple sugar glucose, and a complex polymer called lignin. Lignin is tough enough to support everything from buildings to the largest living thing on the planet, a giant … Continue reading

First water map of Earth’s leaky surface

Michael Marshall (Image: Tom Gleeson/Geophysical Research Letters) The map above (click to enlarge) is the first-ever global survey of Earth’s permeability: essentially, how leaky it is. It shows how easily water passes through surface rocks, which will help us understand the planet’s water cycle and predict the sustainability of underground water sources. Crucially, it could … Continue reading

Make or break time for Mali’s fertile wetland

by Fred Pearce  … Wetlands International’s mission is to protect the delta and its waters by helping the people who live here use its resources – including the migrant birds – in the most effective and sustainable way possible. That mission is about to be made more difficult: construction has begun upstream on an irrigation … Continue reading

Digging out the truth about Saudi oil

By Steve LeVine A senior Saudi Arabian oil official said in 2007 that the kingdom has 388 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil reserves, about 45 percent more than official public estimates. But about the same time, a retired Saudi Aramco executive met with U.S. diplomats in Dhahran and asserted that the country’s figures in … Continue reading

I Was a Rare Earths Day Trader

How a naval confrontation in the South China Sea created a global investment bubble — and cost me half my life savings. BY JASON MIKLIAN "What’s the definition of a mine? A hole in the ground with a liar on top." The most famous aphorism about the mining business is usually credited — possibly apocryphally … Continue reading

The oily subtext of South Sudanese independence

By Steve LeVine Resource curse theorists say that oil inherently creates evil within states. What they actually mean is that how oil revenue is shared — or not — often creates the evil. Such is the subtext in this week’s referendum in southern Sudan on whether to secede. In order for the breakaway from Sudan … Continue reading

The Great Food Crisis of 2011

It’s real, and it’s not going away anytime soon. BY LESTER BROWN As the new year begins, the price of wheat is setting an all-time high in the United Kingdom. Food riots are spreading across Algeria. Russia is importing grain to sustain its cattle herds until spring grazing begins. India is wrestling with an 18-percent … Continue reading

China to control rare earth extraction, pollution

China will step up its controls over the mining of rare earths and release new industry standards to cut pollution, a minister and media said on Friday, after the world’s biggest supplier cut export quotas for the minerals. China to control rare earth extraction, pollution A worker waters the site of a rare earth metals … Continue reading

California Mine Aims To Challenge China’s Rare Earth Supremacy

  Renewable energy, information technology, and many other industries are in a political and economic bind—they require the obscure periodic table denizens called rare earth metals, and nearly all the world’s supply of those elements comes from China. But now, for the first time in years, rare earth elements will be mined at an American … Continue reading

The Easiest Way To Make $50 Million

Alexander C. Hart   It’s always an exciting opportunity when the federal government can raise revenue and protect the environment while simultaneously increasing profits at private businesses. That’s why a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on waste from the energy production processes is encouraging, even if it’s irritating. When energy companies like Shell, BP … Continue reading

What Resource Curse?

Is it really true that underground riches lead to aboveground woes? No, not really. BY CHARLES KENNY Bad news: Mozambique has just discovered between 6 trillion and 8 trillion cubic feet of gas sitting off its shoreline — quite enough for commercial production. This on top of a recent coal-mining boom is destined to make … Continue reading

‘No Fish Left Behind’ Approach Leaves Earth With Nowhere Left to Fish, Study Finds

Earth has run out of room to expand fisheries, according to a new study led by University of British Columbia researchers that charts the systematic expansion of industrialized fisheries. In collaboration with the National Geographic Society and published in the online journal PLoS ONE, the study is the first to measure the spatial expansion of … Continue reading

US reserves of rare earth elements assessed for first time

Katharine Comisso  The US has 13 million tonnes of rare earth elements but it would take years to extract them, suggests the first detailed report on the country’s supply. "Rare earth" is an alternative name for the lanthanides – elements 57 to 71 – plus yttrium and scandium. The elements are integral to modern life, … Continue reading

China’s rare earth grab isn’t our problem — it’s Japan’s

Steve LeVine Over at the New York Times, I’m part of a panel discussing whether the United States needs to re-create a homegrown rare-earths industry even though such mining can be highly polluting. One point I make is that so many companies are responding to China’s actions that we are actually in danger of a … Continue reading

More on China’s jade obsession

By Jared Mondschein Last week we listed some items that are growing in popularity among China’s increasingly wealthy middle class, along with some of the impacts of these recent obsessions, including jade. One major consequence not included in the list is the fact that China’s passion for jade has been criticized by both human rights … Continue reading

Will we cope if the rare earths live up to their name?

by Katharine Comisso  FOR decades, the world has been busy incorporating the so-called rare earth elements into all manner of high-tech devices, including disc drives, wind turbines and hybrid cars. The messy business of mining the ore and extracting the elements was left to China, and few people in the west cared that the nation … Continue reading

German Industry Feels Rare-Earth Metals Squeeze

  REUTERS Over 95 percent of commercial rare-earth metals are mined in China. Worries over a bottleneck in rare-earth metals from China, which are needed in the production of high-tech equipment, have dominated a conference on raw materials in Berlin this week. Beijing says export quotas are almost filled for the year. German Economics Minister … Continue reading

Britain selling Sherwood Forest?

By Joshua Keating The Telegraph reports that as part of its austerity measures, Britain plans to sell off around half of its 748,000 hectares of government-owned forest, possibly including Robin Hood’s old haunt: The controversial decision will pave the way for a huge expansion in the number of Center Parcs-style holiday villages, golf courses, adventure … Continue reading

China and Rare Earth Metals: the good, the bad and the not as ugly as it seems

by Elizabeth C. Economy  So why this increasingly severe cap on exports of rare earths? The official reason—and it makes sense—is that China is worried about its environment and its own future supply. It estimates that if it doesn’t take action, it won’t have any rare earths left in 20 years. Since 2006, Beijing has … Continue reading

Is China’s rare earth power play really such a big deal?

By Steve LeVine  Chinese Premier Wen Jinbao says that China isn’t using its near rare-earths monopoly as a "bargaining chip," China Daily reports. Beijing also says it is not violating its pledges under the World Trade Organization, as the Financial Times’ Leslie Hook and Mure Dickie write. The rare-earth hullabaloo is reminiscent of the alarm … Continue reading

The China Syndrome

Jacob Heilbrunn  The media is starting to excavate the story about China’s monopoly on rare earth elements. Deng Xiaoping reportedly said in 1992 that "The Middle East has oil, China has rare earths." Indeed it does. But its curbing of sales to Japan during the controversy over the seizure of a Chinese national who rammed … Continue reading

Is it a clean energy trade war yet? China cuts off U.S. rare earth supply

By Steve LeVine A few days ago, the United States responded to a United Steelworkers suit by announcing an investigation of China’s alleged gargantuan subsidizing of its clean-energy industries — something regarded by many countries, including China, as a strategic priority. Today we get China’s apparent reply: Beijing is cutting off its exports of rare-earth … Continue reading

Peak Everything

Lithium Neodymium Phosphorus Helium The theory [Li]    There is not enough lithium in the world to make a new generation of battery-powered cars. [Nd]   Rare earth magnets are in everything from disk drives to EVs to wind turbines and there is no end to demand in sight. [P]     Fifty years of mining phosphorus for fertilizer … Continue reading

Rare Earths: Elemental Needs of the Clean-Energy Economy

So-called rare earths are not rare, but with no current domestic source the essential trace elements can be harder to come by than U.S. makers of wind turbines, hybrid cars, weapon systems and other technology would prefer By David Biello RARE EARTH MAGNET: The properties of rare earths find uses ranging from powerful magnets to … Continue reading

Why is China still hoarding its rare earths?

By Steve LeVine Is China still sore over the humiliation of tuna fisherman Zhang Qixiong? Is it China’s 32 rare-earth metals exporters — are they, as Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming suggests, so wound up over Japan in general that they have decided collectively to strangle Japan’s electronics and hybrid-car industries, as Keith Bradsher and … Continue reading

Snaring the Wealth: Can Negotiators Reach a Uniform Position on Patenting the World’s Genetic Resources?

A new international regime hopes to help reverse the trend of biodiversity loss as well as spur economic growth and research for both industrial and developing nations By Robynne Boyd Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) Image: Winfried Bruenken, courtesy Wikimedia Commons High in the Cederberg Mountains of South Africa grows a bristly shrub that embodies the tug-of-war … Continue reading

How the U.S. learned to stop worrying and love the Chinese oil behemoth

By Steve LeVine For the Chinese National Offshore Oil Co., otherwise known as CNOOC, the summer of 2005 must seem like ages ago. That’s when the entirety of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus, the state of California and all good American patriots arose in unison and said no, a Chinese company could not buy the … Continue reading

Iraq: We’re back in the game

By Steve LeVine In the world of oil reserve forecasting, Iraq is hunky, handsome, and — to its dissatisfaction — often overlooked. Today, it sought to rectify this negligence with the announcement of a whopping 24 percent increase in its estimated reserves. With a poke in the eye to a traditional rival, Iraq’s oil minister … Continue reading

Wasted Food Equals Wasted Energy

Wasting food isn’t just bad in its own right, it also represents a profound waste of energy. David Biello reports We Americans waste over a quarter of all our food. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I think of all the fruits and vegetables I buy that rot, or bread that gets moldy … Continue reading