More Dwindling Natural Resources…Bummer Dude!

“‘Hold on you guys…it’s my wife’s car!”  You should have seen it… just like that scene out of Bullitt, ya know where Steve McQueen casually fastens his seat belt while looking in the rear view mirror?  Well we’re sitting at this stop light, and the car next to us rolls down his window… I’m thinking he’s gonna ask directions… “Nice Prius, what year??”  My wife’s been here before, she casually lowers her sunglasses, mutter’s something about the guy’s mother, and the next thing I know, we’re flying down the road, sliding sideways thru turns taking bullets from an automatic assault rifle.  After a couple miles, she rolls down her window, salutes the guys goodbye with the Hawaiian peace sign, and let’s loose with an ear piecing holler…”Damn I love my Prius!!!”

We live in unprecedented times!!

My wife's Prius almost got jacked!

And I thought buying our Prius was gonna save Western Civilization….Bummer!   I guess I’ll have to add another Impending Bummer to the list. But hey, when the price of rare earth metals goes through the roof, our Prius will be worth more than gold!!!

Turns out,  rare earth metals are rare. Just when gold seems ridiculously high, the neodymium and dysprosium come along.

Desperadoes have been crawling under Toyotas, and cutting the catalytic converters off with battery powered saws. In a few years, the rare earth metals in the battery powered saw’s batteries will be worth more than the platinum in the catalytic converters…then what?? A real dilemma!


Electric cars and wind turbines may indeed help wean the U.S. from oil dependence, but these technologies rely on rare-earth metals to operate—metals that are in short supply, and that leave radioactive waste behind after extraction. According to a recent article in MIT’s Technology Review, 95% of the rare-earth metals needed for everything from compact fluorescent bulbs to magnets for electric vehicle motors and wind turbines come from China—and these metals are increasingly difficult to find.

The article reports: “Of particular concern are neodymium and dysprosium, which are used to make magnets that help generate torque in the motors of electric and hybrid cars and convert torque into electricity in large wind turbines. In a report released last December, the U.S. Department of Energy estimated that widespread use of electric-drive vehicles and offshore wind farms could cause shortages of these metals by 2015.” There is no real known alternative to these metals needed to make magnets that are incredibly strong. The article reports that a Toyota Prius motor uses about a kilogram of rare earth metals, while offshore wind turbines need hundreds of kilograms of such metals each. Here’s the full article

OK, our options seem to be getting fewer… guess it’s time to figure out what makes sustainable real!…

Images courtesy of Norcal minis


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