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Slow at first to pick up on the disruptive nature of battery technology, Europe is now aiming to give the industry a boost. The U.S. and Asia, especially, have a head start. The stakes are high: if Europe loses out, not only could it suffer economically, it could also lose geopolitical influence to China.
Dr. Frank Umbach
Western industries are faced with a grave challenge: the
exploding demand for rare metals and elements required by cutting-edge decarbonization
and digitalization technologies could far outpace the projected growth in their
supplies. Moreover, the global market for these raw materials is dominated by a
handful of countries, and the usual conservation and substitution strategies in
the developed world will not kick in soon enough. More research and development
As new technologies grow in popularity, rare earths and other critical raw materials like lithium and cobalt are becoming crucial to the global economy. But their production is often concentrated in one or two countries, raising the risk that supply could be cut off suddenly. Perhaps most worrisome, China has a stranglehold on many of these materials and their supply chains.
The unique chemical and physical properties of rare earth elements make many cutting-edge
technologies possible. China is richly endowed with the resource and once
attempted to corner the REEs market. Beijing’s predatory policy was thwarted by
the WHO and the global economic slowdown, but the West’s efforts to develop
alternative supply sources have come up short.