It's the bubble you've probably never heard of: The rare earth bubble. And it's due to pop in 2012, potentially devastating the industries of western nations that depend on these rare elements.
What industries are those? The automobile industry uses tens of thousands of tons of rare earth elements each year, and advanced military technology depends on these elements, too. Lots of "green" technologies depend on them, including wind turbines, low-energy light bulbs and hybrid car batteries. In fact, much of western civilization depends on rare earth elements such as terbium, lanthanum and neodymium.
So what's the problem with these rare elements? 97 percent of the world's supply comes from mines in China, and China is prepared to simply stop exporting these strategic elements to the rest of the world by 2012.
If that happens, the western world will be crippled by the collapse of available rare earth elements. Manufacturing of everything from computers and electronics to farm machinery will grind to a halt. Electronics will disappear from the shelves and prices for manufactured goods that depend on these rare elements will skyrocket.
These 17 rare earth elements (REE) -- all of which are metals -- are strategic resources upon which entire nations are built. In many ways, they are similar to rubber -- a resource so valuable and important to the world that many experts call it the "fourth most important natural resource in the world," right after water, steel and oil. Without rubber, you couldn't drive your car to work or water your lawn. Many medical technologies would cease to work and virtually all commercial construction would grind to a halt.
Read more at - 'Global supply of rare earth elements could be wiped out by 2012'