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Most hybrid and electric vehicles rely on rare earth metals. There'd be nothing wrong with that if China didn't supply in excess of 90 percent of the world's rare earth metals. Why is this a problem? Because China's recent decision to slash export quotas on rare earth metals has caused a surge in prices, for one thing.

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A UN-backed report released late last week warns that lack of recycling threatens the future of hybrid and plug-on vehicles. In particular, the report, issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), claims that:

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China's decision to begin hoarding using it's rare earth metal resources to bolster productivity in Mongolia may have Toyota bracing itself (and making use of its long-term plans) but the news is music to the ears of Molycorp Minerals LLC. They are the company with plans to re-open a Mountain Pass, California mine containing the world's richest proven reserves of rare earth metals. The open-pit quarry had been closed, along with similar operations around the world, after China began producing an

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2010 Toyota Prius - Click above for high-res image gallery

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Ever hear of neodymium? How about dysprosium or yttrium? Thulium or lutetium? These are just some of the metals that China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is considering either banning for export or at least severely limiting the amount that it will let leave the country. These precious metals are used in manufacturing new, sometimes green, technologies, and China wants keep the good available for domestic use.

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