SOURCE: SPIE

SPIE

April 07, 2011 15:41 ET

SPIE Supports Bill to Ensure Crucial Rare-Earth Elements Supply for Optics and Photonics Innovation

BELLINGHAM, WA--(Marketwire - April 7, 2011) - Proposed legislation aimed at securing a reliable supply of materials essential to the optics and photonics industry has received support from SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs declared the Society's backing for the Rare Earths Supply Chain Technology and Resources Transformation (RESTART) Act of 2011 introduced this week by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) and co-sponsors. The bill, HR 1388, would reestablish a domestic rare-earth industry in the United States.

"Efforts to secure a reliable supply of the rare-earth elements (REEs) and other critical materials are necessary to sustain optics and photonics manufacturing in the U.S.," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. "In doing so, RESTART will support domestic innovation in this vital sector of the economy."

"The legislation addresses SPIE concerns about supply restrictions that would raise prices to prohibitive levels or disrupt production operations for U.S.-based manufacturers," Arthurs said.

Coffman said his bill responds to "the urgent need for us to act to correct our rare-earth supply-chain vulnerability." China, which supplies about 95 percent of the world's rare earth metals, plans to cut exports of rare earth metals by 35 percent in the first half of 2011. The bill would expedite permitting for new REE exploration, without waiving environmental laws. It establishes a rare-earth inventory to oversee domestic markets and sourcing, and sets up a USGS rare-earth program.

"Fifteen of the seventeen REEs are important to the optics and photonics industry, which supplies components used in millions of products and enables much of today's innovation," Arthurs said. "REEs are essential for new energy and defense technologies. Supply disruptions and the current lack of U.S. sources now pose a strategic threat to our economic and national security."

SPIE also supports establishment of a Rare Earth Policy Task Force within the Department of the Interior as called for in RESTART.

"The task force will accelerate approval and completion of RRE projects, as well as increase investment in, exploration for, and development of domestic rare earth materials," Arthurs said. "SPIE supports a temporary program for rare earth materials revitalization, as specified in HR 1388. This would stimulate new production and focus on loan guarantees related to the National Defense Stockpile, but not commercial subsidies."

SPIE also supports other RRE initiatives in Congress, including those focused on the environmental impact of such efforts and similar assessment of the global supply chain for RREs. One Senate initiative involves the U.S. Geological Service and the U.S. Department of Energy.

During the last session of Congress, SPIE supported bipartisan passage of the Rare Earths and Critical Materials Revitalization Act of 2010 (HR 6160).

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, was founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. Serving more than 188,000 constituents from 138 countries, the Society advances emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, patent precedent, and career and professional growth. SPIE annually organizes and sponsors approximately 25 major technical forums, exhibitions, and education programs in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific, and supports scholarships, grants, and other education programs around the world. In Europe, SPIE supports the optics and photonics community by acting as an advocate and liaison to political and industry associations.

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