Neodymium illustrates a consequence

Our technology and economy is so complex and interdependent that it’s often impossible to predict the effect of one thing on another. Sometimes things done with the best of intentions — driving hybrid cars and building wind turbines, for example — have unintended consequences.

Tthe Atlantic article Clean Energy’s Dirty Little Secret tells how the quest for neodymium, a component of the magnets that make a lot of green technology work, has created environmental hazard here in the United States. It’s also threatened to make us dependent on China for a critical industrial need.

This article also points out that prosperous and wealthy companies like the United States can afford to be concerned about the environment. China either can’t afford this, or doesn’t care to pay. With something that causes local pollution, that’s one thing. But carbon dioxide has a global effect. It doesn’t matter where the carbon is created. To the extent that it is harmful to the environment — and that’s something that’s far from settled — it has a worldwide impact.

That’s why it’s important that we in Kansas realize that there’s little we can do to impact carbon emissions on a worldwide scale. For us to harm our own economy in this impossible quest is unwise.


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