(Not So) Rare Earth Metals Could Spark Green Energy Advances

Feb 3, 2023

Moving away from the carbon-heavy energy sources that have added to climate change and global warming will be a hard process, experts say. But there is good news! We have the raw materials to do so. That’s according to a new study.

“Decarbonization is going to be big and messy, but at the same time we can do it,” one of the study's authors told The Associated Press (AP). “I’m not worried we’re going to run out of these materials.”

“These materials” are 17 rare earth elements. The metals are found in the earth’s crust. They include dysprosium. It's used to build the magnets that allow wind turbines to create power. A move toward cleaner energy, the study said, would require three times the amount of the metal than what is currently mined. The AP reports, though, that there is more than enough of the metal to make the move. In fact, there's 12 times the needed amount in current reserves. 

Other rare earth elements, like scandium and yttrium, simply aren’t as rare as once thought. 

Scientists stress that a shift to cleaner energy sources will require a renewed focus on mining. Some environmentalists say mining has its own risks. Mining releases the same harmful emissions that burning coal or oil does — as much as 10 billion metric tons of carbon per year. But the study shows that the benefits of the switch outweigh the harmful parts of mining. 

Based on the language used in the infographic, which words could be used to replace “metals” in the phrase “rare earth metals” used in the article? (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. gasses
b. elements
c. liquids
d. non-metals
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