This month, many lamping manufacturers will raise their prices up to 25% for all fluorescent lamps due to the growing scarcity of rare earth oxides, coupled with increase in global demand and its subsequent hyperinflation. Rare earth oxides such as phosphor are used in the production of fluorescent lamps and are the back bone of military and green technology. Their extraction is almost wholly concentrated in China and controlled by the Chinese government who has, since 2010, lowered their export quotas and created a frenzy for supply.

In less than 12 months, costs of some rare earth oxide materials used in lighting products have experienced increases ranging from 500 percent to more than 2,000 percent, and they continue to climb.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

It is estimated that 97% of all rare earth extraction is done in China, however, China’s quiet domination over rare earth extraction is beginning to be challenged by mines being set up in South Africa, Australia, USA, Sweden and yes, even Canada.

The price increases for fluorescent lamps will be felt well outside of the realm of the lighting industry, as most European, North American and South American homes are looking to replace inexpensive incandescents for now even more expensive fluorescent alternatives.

Our reliance on these resources for something as basic as light is propelling manufacturers to completely rethink and redesign the realm of lighting technology and because of rising costs, it forces us as consumers to be more conscious of what and how much we consume.

General Electric has an interesting facts sheet for its customers, to help them try and understand rare earth oxides and what they mean to their everyday lives. We encourage all our readers and clients to do the same.

Check it out the GE fact sheet here, and read National Geographic’s compelling article on The Secret Ingredients of Everything.


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