The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Policy has released a new report detailing how the supply of high-demand materials could affect the progress of alternative energy. The report, titled “2012 Critical Materials Strategy,” shows how important rare earth materials are to the clean energy business. These materials are often used in the construction of clean energy systems, such as hydrogen fuel cells. As their name suggests, these materials are rare and ultimately finite, presenting a significant supply risk to nations interested in adopting alternative energy.
According to the report, the rarity of these materials may hamper the development of new energy systems and their distribution. These materials are vastly expensive, putting them out of the reach of nations where these materials are not native. The report notes that the supply risk is likely to decrease in the long term, as researchers around the world are finding ways to build clean energy systems that do not use these rare materials.
The Department of Energy believes that the risk can be mitigated by making funding a priority. If researchers have enough access to funding, they will be able to develop energy systems that do not rely on rare materials but still meet efficiency standards. In the case of hydrogen fuel cells, this could translate into a major gain for the auto industry, which is enamored with the entire concept of hydrogen fuel.