Energy Markets & Shifts in Pricing with Michael Snyder

Michael Snyder, CEO of MDS Energy Development, discussed how the energy markets have shifted.
Michael Snyder, CEO of MDS Energy Development, discussed how the energy markets have shifted. The primary culprits for this shift have been COVID-19 and the supply war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Over the past two and a half years the natural gas market has been strong, yielding prices around $2.50 to $3.00. This can be attributed to the Permian Basin shutdown of their surplus-driving pipelines.

Contrary to trends in the natural gas market, oil has been oversupplied for quite some time due to those companies with lower production costs which continuously try to dilute the market and overwhelm competition. With the implications of new shelter-in-place orders from governments around the world, oil demand will decline while people continue to stay in their homes.

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Ryan Morfin:                    Welcome to NON-BETA ALPHA. I’m Ryan Morfin. On today’s episode we have Michael Snyder from MDS, a family owned natural gas energy company based in western Pennsylvania. Today he’s going to talk to us about the energy markets and the dynamics of the shifting pricing models. This is NON-BETA ALPHA.

Ryan Morfin:                    Mike welcome to the show, thanks for joining.

Michael Snyder:              Thank you for having me.

Ryan Morfin:                    So seems that you’re out in the mountains in Pennsylvania. What part of Pennsylvania are you calling in from today?

Michael Snyder:              I’m in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Ryan Morfin:                    Fantastic. Good place to quarantine.

Michael Snyder:              Yeah, it’s a nice a… There’s not a whole lot to do but I don’t think there’s a whole lot to do anywhere right now.

Ryan Morfin:                    No that is true, that is true. Well this no touch economy is making us either enjoy the outdoors more or find new hobbies I’m sure. I appreciate you joining and coming in to share a little of your thoughts. The energy markets are really dynamic today and you guys are very large in the Marcellus Shale, in the natural gas industry over at MDS. I’d love to hear your thoughts about natural gas prices have gone up and how they’re decoupling from the WTI market. Maybe you can give us a little bit of macro perspective from a producer standpoint of what’s going on.

Michael Snyder:              Yeah I’d love to. I mean I can definitely tell you my point of view and the way my family and myself, as investors in natural gas and oil both, the way we are viewing the market right now today. About last summer… Well let’s back up a little bit in time. About two and a half years ago the natural gas price was half ways decent. When I say half ways decent I say $2.50 to $3 pricing that we’re receiving here in the Marcellus Shale. So the days of $6, $7 gas that would be great but it’s kind of unrealistic today to us at least with the volumes of natural gas that we’re able to produce out of the Marcellus Shale, which is the primary source of gas in our country nowadays.

                                           The price was pretty decent about two and a half years ago. It was bad for about two years leading into that. When I say bad it was even under $1 for several months and under $2 for extended periods of times. So we like to have $2 or above natural gas pricing to feel comfortable making nice profitable returns on the wells that we’re drilling, so those are the types of pricing that we are looking at. So two and a half years ago the price recovered a little bit from two years of a downturn in the pricing, which when a downturn in the pricing comes along all the rigs get stacked in the yard and the drillers quit drilling.

                                           We had pricing recover about two and a half years ago, all the rigs went back out in the Marcellus, the large public companies were… I call it the Aubrey McClendon effect where they have to grow, grow, grow to show reserve growth on their balance sheet, so they had 10, 15 rigs out, each one of those public trading companies in the Marcellus and they just flooded the market. As well as the drilling boom that’s been going on for the last several years in the Permian Basin, and now with the regulatory environment where the EPA wants them and the oil basins to capture that gas and put it in a pipeline rather than what they did 10 years ago and beyond was they just flared the gas off and didn’t even worry about the gas.

                                           There’s been a lot of new gas come out the Permian the last couple of years because there’s been a lot of pipelines, large volume pipeline systems that have been built out of the Permian to capture a lot of that gas. So between the drilling frenzy and the Marcellus that started about two and a half years ago after a small price recovery, as well as the drilling boom in the Permian, there was an oversupply of natural gas, and actually last summer 2019 the price of gas really fell off. The spot price here in the Marcellus has been very poor, very weak last year. The second half of last year it was very weak. It’s been a month ago was down to $1.20, which we don’t like. Luckily our company has some gas hedge, so all of the unhedged gas that we have we have shut in, so our company right now is producing about 250 million cubic feet of gas a day and we have about 100 million cubic feet of gas today shut in right now because it’s unhedged.

                                           Now we were able to… Essentially what happened last summer was the same thing that happened three, four years ago where the rigs all went to the yard in the Marcellus so right now all the major companies, all the major drillers in our basis went from 10, 15 drilling rigs are down to one or two drilling rigs right now. They’re just doing maintenance drilling and no growth. That coupled with the oil disaster that’s going on right now, with oil prices this low I’d have to imagine that there’s huge volumes of oil wells in the oil basins that are shut in right now, which thus means that the natural gas associated with those oil wells are also shut in.

                                           We are seeing, just in the last month we have seen natural gas pricing start to recover, so our company just a couple of days ago we hedged some gas. We only hedged 2 million 500 cubic feet of gas a day. We had 2,500 we call it. We hedged 2,500 I think on Thursday morning for next winter gas, so it’d be November through April of 2020 into 2021. We just hedged for $2.50. That’s a nice profitable level for the type of wells that we drill, so can’t go broke by blocking in a profit. One month ago, 30 days ago the best we could get for next winter pricing was $2, so we saw a $.50, 25% increase in the pricing just in the last month for winter strip pricing next winter, so things are improving as you said and what I just mentioned with the lack of drilling the Marcellus, coupled with the Permian being shut down, it may get very interesting in natural gas come later this year and next year. You never know, there could be a shortage of supply.

Ryan Morfin:                    Well that’s interesting. Maybe the macro environment you could take a step even further back and talk about the supply war that’s going on by Putin and MBS and Saudi Arabia and how that’s impacting the entire US energy market. Because I mean a lot of people aren’t paying attention but we really are energy independent over the last few years with excess probably capacity, and how that pricing war may be spilling over and why the incentives maybe from the Russian and Saudi’s, what’s driving them to want to go after these marginal producers in the US.

Michael Snyder:              Well kind of the way I look at it is I think kind of the way it actually is. There’s just too much oil and for every one million barrels of oil a day that’s coming out of the Bakken here in the United States or the Permian. For every new one million barrels of oil a day of growth that we’re pumping out here and all over the world. You’ve got lots of oil coming out of Africa and South America and the North Sea and Russia. You got oil coming from everywhere now, and the last time I checked oil demand is not growing, it’s actually on the decline because of green energy and natural gas and people are driving more efficient cars and etc.

                                           So the oil companies here in the United States and smaller companies worldwide, they had no problem taking market share away from the Saudis and the Russians and Exxon Mobile and Chevron, the big boys that have supplied the oil to our global economy for decades and decades. So I think right now it’s just really at the point where the Sauds and the Russians and everybody are… It’s like, “Hey, we can continue… OPEC, all of us, we can continue to restrict our production, but they just keep growing production in the Permian Basin and all these other places around the world, so I mean I think they basically look at it from the standpoint that there’s nothing they can do other than survival of the fittest at this point and who has the best reservoir and can produce that reservoir at the cheapest prices. I think the companies that can say they can do that are Saudi’s, your OPEC countries, your Russians, Exxon Mobile, Chevron, Shell. I mean those guys have reservoirs that they can produce at extremely low prices and still cash flow of them.

                                           You can’t cash flow a well in the United States on shore for less than maybe $30 a barrel, $40 a barrel. You can’t make an economic rate of return for less than $30 to $40 a barrel, and I think you have to have a really good well to even get much of a return at $30, $35. I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but that’s really the way I view the market. Just really there’s too much oil and the guys that can produce it the cheapest are taking advantage of the situation and they’re trying to put the other guys out of business that have been taking their market share away from them.

Ryan Morfin:                    Yeah, well it’s interesting because there’s a lot of bad debt, or we’ll call it maybe over leveraged marginal producers, the debt markets were hot and heavy with these folks and now with oil where it’s at maybe the PV10s and the assets are less than the liabilities today. Is that going to create distress? Do you think a lot of these smaller producers are going to go out of business creating opportunity for buyers?

Michael Snyder:              I would say that most companies that are oil focused are going to struggle going forward. It really depends on what happens to the demand globally. I mean I think you started this call off or maybe our discussion offline before the call… I think you state, “Hey, we really look at this for the next six to 12 months. It’s kind of a no touching thing.” We don’t really want to meet with people, we don’t really want wholeseller’s stopping in our office. That goes a lot further than just not having a meeting. That goes from not getting on these airplanes.

                                           I’m sure the Dallas airport down there’s stacked with American Eagle jets, so I mean those things are out burning oil everyday when they’re in the air. They’re not in the air right now, same with cruise liners, same with vehicles. You drive around right now, there’s nobody on the roads and I just… Long story short, I don’t really see and I think you probably agree with me that we don’t think people are just going to go back to normal life anytime soon. Even if the governors and the president tell us to go back to work, I don’t think we’re all going to go back to flying around everyday and going on airplanes.

                                           I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t really see demand going back to the peak levels that it was three months, four months ago prior to the COVID-19 crisis, which is where levels need to go to get back to $50 a barrel because that’s where the price of oil was before COVID-19 was $45 or $50 a barrel. I think that’s what we have to see to get back to those levels and quite frankly, there’s probably going to be a heck of a lot of demand off the table for the rest of this year.

Ryan Morfin:                    Yeah, no that’s absolutely right.

Michael Snyder:              Create a lot of distressed companies. I don’t know how they’re going to manage through it. They can’t sell their oil right now. I mean it’s a disaster for them. I mean this has only been going on for a month or two here now, got really bad recently so who knows what’s going to happen. I mean try selling-

Ryan Morfin:                    Yeah we were-

Michael Snyder:              If you’re a company that makes bread and it costs you $2 to make a loaf of bread and you have to sell it for $1 in all the grocery stores, how long are you going to be in business for? That’s what’s going on in the oil business. It costs $50 a barrel to drill that oil in the United States and get any type of a decent rate of return. And if that oil’s at $20 or $10 or you can’t even sell it like right now, how long are you going to be able to maintain your $5 billion or $10 billion debt load or even $500 million debt load, any debt load? I’d have to say that there’s going to be some problems.

Ryan Morfin:                    Yeah, I think we were mentioning it earlier before we jumped on, the no touch economy. People are going to do Zoom and they’re going to work from home and really waiting for the virus to be contained and antiviral treatments and vaccines but we could be 12 to 18 months away. The Gilead remdesivir or whatever it’s called, I mean that drug flopped on its first trial and that was supposed to be our savior drug. Hydroxychloroquine’s not working. This solution set may take a lot longer to find and I think you’re right, I think people, and this is not a good thing, don’t trust what the government’s saying, don’t trust what the media’s saying, and the herd mentality is going to say, “Let’s play it safe if you can afford to.” I think domestic public travel’s not coming back in a real way for the next six to 12 months unfortunately.

                                           So you’re right, that’s going to take a lot of demand drivers off the table for the energy market. So the distress is going to come, it’s going to impact the balance sheets, people are going to have to stop drilling. It seems to me then that some of these lenders who have debt are going to need to get active and trying to protect their capital. Do you think this will create buying opportunities for people who have access to cash to go buy a distressed asset today and take a long-term perspective?

Michael Snyder:              I would say. I would say any down market creates opportunities for cash, cash is king.

Ryan Morfin:                    Yeah I mean so as it relates to these oil wells, and we’ll go back to natural gas in a second, but the oil wells I mean so right now people are saying, “You’re going to have to pay to take the off take.” Maybe you can explain that concept to our viewers. That sounds insane, oil is a commodity but now it’s a negative priced commodity. Maybe you can talk about that.

Michael Snyder:              Yeah, so what really created the negative oil price was basically storage looking like it’s going to fill up here, global storage running out. The way the oil contract trades, the last… The day whenever oil went to a negative we had all the traders that were holding May contracts for oil they dumped them and they were paying to get rid of those contracts because their fear was they were going to actually have to do a physical delivery, which you can’t do that at these prices and there’s nowhere to deliver the oil to, that’s the problem. So it’s like the pipelines are full, the storage facilities are all full, the refineries don’t want your oil. At the end of the month of May Cushing was filling up so they just dumped their contracts and they paid to get rid of their contracts to avoid having to make a physical delivery, which was impossible for them to do.

                                           The month of June, the June contract was trading at about $20 with two days left on the May contract. Two days left on the May contracts when all the traders dumped their contracts for May, drove the price down to a negative to get rid of those contracts to avoid a physical delivery, which is impossible. Now we’re trading in June for oil and I don’t think it’s going to… It might be a while here. I mean it’s really bad. I mean there’s just too much of it.

Ryan Morfin:                    This may be a novice question, but how hard is it to build new storage capacity because it seems like a great time to expand our strategic petroleum reserve.

Michael Snyder:              Yeah, I don’t know that it’s… I think the feds still have huge storage capacity. I mean they have… I think I heard Trump talking about it a few weeks ago with Ted Cruz when he was meeting with Harold Hamm and the Exxon president and all the chiefs, the big oil meeting that they had that I don’t think anything came out of. But I remember Trump and Ted Cruz talking in the meeting about all the federal reserves for storage that they have down in Louisiana and that area. There’s a lot of caverns and caves that they can pump a lot of oil in there, so I think the storage capacities there, if the feds want to use it, but it really boils back to who’s going to buy it if you’re an actual producer of oil? You can’t pump your well and sell it for $7 a barrel or sell it for a negative. You can’t pump your well in the United States and sell that oil for $20, you’ll lose money.

                                           That’s the problem and that’s why we’re a very natural gas focused family energy company and I want to stay on oil because that’s where we’re at, but that’s one of the big problems with being an oil producer is you have a lot of associated operational costs to operate those wells. I mean your lifting cost, you got cost to pump the wells, you have a lot of costs. Your costs to pump a well is going to go up as it gets older because your volume of oil’s going down too. It may cost you $35 or $45 or $65 for certain wells just to get that oil out of that hole in the ground and get it in a truck or a pipeline.

Ryan Morfin:                    Well you bring up a great point that a lot of these marginal produces, and this will tie us back over to natural gas, are not vertically integrated and so they have these off take contracts. One of the benefits of being a vertically integrated company like you guys are is that you’re able to turn off faster your infrastructure because you own the entire supplier chain here. Maybe you can talk a little bit about some of the pressures in nat gas for some of the off take agreements and some of the vendors that have long-term contracts with these suppliers.

Michael Snyder:              Yeah, so that was… I talked a little bit earlier about the drilling frenzy in the Permian and then now they started capturing a lot of that associated gas in pipelines, which that’s brought a lot of gas online the last couple of years here that I don’t think the Marcellus producers were anticipating the Permian ever getting these pipelines built. But one of the big problems in the Marcellus, which my family’s been here for 100 year in the Marcellus Shale. We started as a coal mining family 100 years ago so we have a mega land position. We just got lucky in the Marcellus Shale and the Utica Shale was discovered underneath all of our land.

                                           We have about 200,000 acres of land and between land and lease holds and mineral rights, concentrated right in the core of the Marcellus. We were kind of I guess we kind of got lucky. We weren’t the best geologists of all time but we got lucky where we were located for all these years and being in the natural resources business. That’s been one of the big problems in the Marcellus is these midstream contracts, which is what you’re talking about, which these drillers they sign… What these public companies have done, which you guys all know this because you guys probably own stock or have clients that have stock in the midstream companies, but take a company like EQT, they’re a Pittsburgh based company here, they’ve been around forever, they were just like us, they happened to have a lot of land position in the Marcellus here. They’re publicly trading so they had the Aubrey McClendon effect and they were running 16 drilling rigs at one time helping to flood the market, grow baby grow.

                                           That hasn’t worked out too well for them, let me tell you. At any rate, I think most all of these drillers that were drilling like that kind of wished they had a little less debt today and a little less production from not drilling so much. Let’s take EQT for example. They spun off EQM, EQ Midstream. That was the thing that one of these public EMP companies did it and it worked, they all do it. I think EQT was one of the first ones here in the Appalachian Basin to spin off their pipelines that… Historically when you’re a driller and you drill a gas well, you build your own pipeline and you get your gas to the downstream market and you sell it at that point to the minion or whoever it is, [inaudible 00:25:05] source that’s going to buy it at that point.

                                           Then you’re done with it, you’re the driller and you get it to the point of sell. What EQT did 10 years ago or so, they spun off EQM in a partnership and they IPO’d that company, which that company took ownership of all the pipelines, moving all that gas, they signed a really high transportation contract, so I think they were paying $.80 an MCF over to EQM, which that was all find and dandy back then because the price of gas was $4, $5, $6. Nobody ever thought the price of gas would be $1.50 or $2.50 and you got to try to make money off of that, but that’s where we are today. You’ve got EQT sitting over there, they’ve been paying $.80 an MCF on all their gas DQM. DQT, the EMP company, their stock’s in the tank. Starting to recover now, but EQM that stock has been pretty solid over the years because they’re collecting that toll.

                                           In addition to that, EQT gives a volume commitment to EQM, so they have to produce a certain amount of volume into those pipelines guaranteed, and if they don’t produce that volume they’re paying the tolling fee no matter what, the transportation fee. That’s really one of the big problems is all of these companies, all of the publicly trading EMP gas companies have… They all have these whether it’s to an affiliated midstream company or whether it’s to a third party midstream company, they all have these midstream contracts and they have volume commitments that they have to meet in those midstream pipes that the midstream company built for them and built the pipe right to their well pads so all they had to do was pay to drill the well, they put the gas in the other guy’s pipeline but they’ve got volume commitments. If you don’t meet those volume commitments you have to pay for that anyways, so these guys have been stock… I was talking to my buddy, he’s in charge of Antero Resources, he’s in charge of the fracking side of all their wells that they drill.

                                           They were running a couple years ago they were running 15 drilling rigs here, so he’s a very busy guy. Him and I have a hunting camp together in Ohio together, but right now I talked to him last night and he said, “Hey, they’re dropping down to one drilling rig right now,” and he said, “The reason why they’ve been still running a lot of rigs is because they had to meet their volume commitments to their own midstream company.” They’ve got that contract, so that’s been a huge problem. That has bankrupt a lot of smaller EMP companies when they have these volume commitments on these pipelines. Because I started this call out, I kind of gave a brief introduction of our company. I said, “Hey, we produce 250 million cubic feet of gas a day.” That’s a lot of gas. I never thought we’d produce that type of gas 15 years ago.

                                           We can produce four times that if we wanted to. All’s we got to do is spend more money to drill more wells, but we’re living within our cash means, we’re different than all the guys working with the bank debt. We work with all cash, so right now our company’s producing 250 million a day. We have 100 million a day of gas shut in, so we have 40% of our daily gas volume shut in. There’s two reasons why we can do that. One, we don’t have a bank that we have to pay. The only thing we have to do is pay ourselves back and your investors back for the cost to drill those wells. If the price of gas is too low we don’t want to sell our gas and give it away for a loss. The other reason we’re able to shut that gas in is we don’t have volume commitments on the pipeline systems like I was explaining. We build and own our own midstream pipes.

                                           When the price of gas is really bad here the last eight months or so, we’ve even lowered our transportation rate. We were charging $.40 at MCF. We lowered it to $.30 in MCF on pipelines that don’t have a compressor on them. Because of our vertical integration, being here for 100 years with this massive land position, we own the pipelines, we own the land, we don’t have the bank debt associated with our company, we’re able to control when and what price we sell our product at. One other really nice thing about a dry natural gas well, which is what we target and what we drill compared to an oil well or even a wet gas well, is the dry gas well we can shut those wells in. It actually makes the well better. It’s called seasoning the well, so that gas goes in there and it builds up pressure and it actually… They call it aging the well or seasoning the well. It’s proven that it actually increases the reserves of the well because it helps frack a little bit better those little fractures that we’re creating down there to get the gas out.

                                           It actually benefits the well. Long story short, it doesn’t hurt the well. When we decide to turn the well back on. We’re locking in gas for $2.50 for next winter, we can get… Spot price is almost up here to $1.70 for us right now. We were at $1.20 a few weeks ago. We get up to $1.70 we’ll probably start turning a lot more gas back in, but we’re not quite there for our own hedged gas yet. We’re not looking to lose money just to sell our gas. We have to make money, we have our own money involved. We don’t have a bank to pay. We don’t have a midstream company to meet volume commitments with, so we’re able to do business smart and it really helps us control our own destiny here and not get in a jam. I mean a lot of these… It kind of goes back to my analogy. If you make bread and it costs you $2 a loaf of bread and you got to sell it for $1 how long are you going to be in business?

                                           If I need $2 an MCF, $2 gas pricing to basically be worth drilling these wells and I’m sitting there selling it for $1.20 like the price has been, or under $1 like it was a couple of years ago for a couple of months, if I’m sitting there selling my gas for $1.20, how long am I going to be in business for?

Ryan Morfin:                    You’re going to run out fast, yeah. That’s right.

Michael Snyder:              Guys that have these volume commitments they got to produce when the price is $1.20. They don’t have any stipulations in their contracts that says, “Well if the price is below profitable margins we don’t have to produce.” They don’t have that. They have to produce that gas. They’ve got a volume commitment on those pipelines. They’ve got to produce that gas at whatever the price of gas is, and then they’ve got banks as well. A lot of them have banks to pay back and worry about servicing their debt. But I think even a bigger problem than the banks is these pipeline contracts. I mean they don’t go away.

Ryan Morfin:                    So if the bank pushes these companies that have all these, we’ll call it capital structure impairments, volume commitments, the tolling fees, and then high leverage debt. If they go into a bankrupt scenario that’s going to basically blow back to the unsecured creditor, which would be the pipeline company. They could see themselves, if they don’t start giving some relief maybe, killing all their customers. Is that an accurate statement?

Michael Snyder:              In a sense. I think the oil companies are the ones that are more concerned of the banks right now because the gas companies I think they’re able to service their debt. Everybody’s able to at least sell their gas. Most of these companies are pretty well hedged. It’s like us, we have 60% of our gas hedged at over $2.20, $2.40, something like that. We’re selling that gas for decent prices. When you have the debt you usually have hedges because the banks usually say, “If you’re borrowing my money to drill your wells you’re going to keep at least 80% of it hedged at certain prices.” That does kind of help them a little bit there, but for all their unhedged gas, which hedges don’t last forever.

Ryan Morfin:                    That’s right.

Michael Snyder:              That’s whenever the price is $1.20 and you’ve got a $5 billion debt load like Antero and EQT and all these other publicly trading EMP companies, it’s like the T Rex dinosaur coming to eat you and you’re sitting there saying oh shit.

Ryan Morfin:                    Well one interesting question is have you seen or has the industry seen foreign demand for US gas, LNG, start to fall off? I know there was a lot of talk over the last few years about these giant terminals that were financed and built for export of our gas. Is that market starting to dry up given the oversupply globally of energy?

Michael Snyder:              You’re referring to LNG?

Ryan Morfin:                    Yeah.

Michael Snyder:              I think the LNG projects are kind of still moving forward. I think there’s a lot of capital that was already invested in the LNG importing facilities and exporting facilities, depending on if you have gas or don’t have gas in your country. These are projects that you don’t just decide I’m going to build it. It’s not like building a house. You’re going to have it built in six months. I mean these are projects that take six, eight years to build and LNG facility or to export or to import. Once these projects get capitalized and they’re underway, it’s hard to turn the light switch off on them. I think those projects are still underway, they’re being built, there’s still going to be a lot of new demand for LNG.

                                           Now a lot of the LNG with COVID-19, with China being shut down and everything like that, the LNG market was shut down. Before COVID-19 United States had about eight BCF a day of gas going to LNG exporting. We produce about 80 BCF a day, so about 10% of our demand, daily demand before COVID-19 was LNG exporting, and that’s anticipated to continue to grow. That was shut in.

                                           I’ll tell you another really interesting fact on demand of natural gas while I’m thinking about it. Is I see you’re in your office Ryan and I don’t see a lot of other people in there. Nobody’s going to their offices, so this is something that I learned through this whole COVID-19 crisis, every weekend, every Saturday and Sunday there’s four BCF a day of gas demand that’s not being burned in office buildings on Saturdays and Sundays. So I’d say a lot of that demand’s off the table right now too, but there’s a lot of other factors driving the natural gas price and it’s looking fairly healthy here going into the second half of 2020.

Ryan Morfin:                    Yeah, no you’ll have to keep us posted. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of interesting investment opportunities in the coming months as this pressure builds up in the system and maybe seasons the industry, as you put it. Real quick, a few personal questions. So what have you been doing to weather the quarantine? You’ve been up in the mountains enjoying the outdoors?

Michael Snyder:              Yeah, pretty much. So when this started I don’t think any of us knew how long it was going to last. I thought maybe two to four weeks. Now we’re looking at two to four months of quarantine, so when this all started I said “Hey,” I spend a lot of time in Miami, Florida is kind of my second home and I live in Pittsburgh is my primary residence. I said, “Hey, I’m going to make a to do list.” We all run businesses, right, whether you’re a financial advisor or a CEO like you Ryan or myself. We all have a backlog of stuff that we need to get done all the time, right? None of us are perfect, so I made a to do list of all these various documents and projects and employment agreements, commission contracts. So I made a list and I’ve been taking advantage of being grounded and being at my computer and phone and been working through my list getting all my paperwork organized and spending time outdoors as well.

                                           I’ve got a Can-Am side by side that I’ve been wearing the treads off the tires on here riding around the four wheeler trails and it’s trout fishing season here right now, so couple evenings a week we’ve been going down to a little creek and trying to catch some trout.

Ryan Morfin:                    You know I haven’t spent enough time in western Pennsylvania and I’d love to, I hear it’s beautiful out there. One question, most important question, is it Ford country, is it GM, or is it Tesla country out in western Pennsylvania? What kind of trucks do you guys drive?

Michael Snyder:              I drive a GMC and I just bought my first Dodge. Only because I bought a diesel. But this is Ford, GM, and Dodge country. There’s very few Teslas.

Ryan Morfin:                    I was going to say did you see that cyber truck? What’d you see about that cyber truck that came out recently? What do you think about that?

Michael Snyder:              To be honest being in the natural gas business we actually like electric cars. Natural gas is a primary source for electric now, so every electric car is less oil that’s being consumed, but more demand for natural gas.

Ryan Morfin:                    No doubt, and I think there’s a lot more Teslas on the road down here in Texas than I was surprised to see and it’s growing. All I’d say is when we get our Tesla cyber truck delivered I’ll make sure I take you for a ride in it. But thank you so much for joining us, I appreciate your insights and we hope to have you back on the show maybe in a few months to kind of give us an update.

Michael Snyder:              Okay, that would be great.

Ryan Morfin:                    Thanks Michael. I’ll see you soon. Thanks for listening to NON-BETA ALPHA and before we go please remember to subscribe and leave us a review on Apple Podcast or our YouTube channel. This is NON-BETA ALPHA. Now you know.

Speaker 2:                        Get busy time. Get busy time. Get busy time.


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Ryan Morfin: Welcome to Non-Beta Alpha. I'm Ryan Morfin. On today's episode, we have Pini Althaus, CEO of USA Rare Earth, talking to us about the supply chain glut in rare earth minerals. This is Non-Beta Alpha.

Ryan MorfinPini, Welcome to the show. Thank you for coming on today.

Pini AlthausThank you for having me, Ryan. Good to be here.

Ryan Morfin: So you're an investor and a miner in rare earth minerals. Can you share with our listener base, what are rare earth minerals? Why are they important and why is there a geopolitical race going on globally?

Pini AlthausYeah, I mean, rare earths are an extremely ubiquitous part of all advanced manufacturing or technology manufacturing today's day and age. Several years ago, I had not heard too much about rare earths myself. I was not that familiar with it and being involved in this sector, in this company, for the past few years has given me an education of course. And I mean, I was sad to hear that 50% of all imports into the United States contain are earth elements and it runs the gamut from consumer electronic devices that we use every day. Our cell phones, our laptops, most communication devices, medical equipment. So there's a tie with COVID, which we can touch on at your discretion. Electric vehicles, defense equipment. So pretty much anything or everything high tech today has a rare earth element or critical minerals contained within them.

Ryan MorfinAnd what are some of the names of some of the more important rare earth? I know there's lithium for batteries, but what else is considered in this category, critical?

Pini Althaus: Yeah, so lithium is a separate category to battery material. The rare earths are 17 rare earths. The four, let's call it, key rare earths that we're focused on at our company, the four rare earths that go into the permanent magnets. And these are the magnets that are found, there are a number of them in your back of your cell phone or an iPad. But if you look at an F35 striker jet, you've got about a ton of rare earth magnets in those. And we've got two heavy rare earths and two light rare earths is part of the permanent magnets. You've got dysprosium, ytterbium are the heavies, and then you've got neodymium, praseodymium as the two light rare earths. So those would be key rare earths that are the focus.

Ryan MorfinAnd you use these in, I guess, in military applications as well, but historically, where has the United States sourced the rare earth for supply chain?

Pini AlthausYeah. And that's the shocking part. We've been securing those materials from China. So China controls the rare earth sector and has done so for the past 30 years or so. And it was a significant misstep on the part of the United States, allowing China to have this control. And actually this wasn't a question of China coming in and doing anything nefarious as far as stealing IP or anything. The US government made a conscious decision about 30 years ago to allow China to come to the United States and acquire the processing capabilities for rare earths. So just as part of some background, you've got the rare earth materials containing various mining projects, but once you extract them, you have to then process them and they go through certain phases before they get to the magnet phase. And China, the thought process was let China do the mining, let China do the processing.

Pini AlthausWe don't need to do that here. And we'll buy the materials from China cheaply and the premier of China at the time, Deng Xiaoping made the comment, he said, "The Middle East has oil. China has rare earths." And unfortunately we weren't smart enough to understand what he was saying. And the Chinese understood that the future of manufacturing is going to revolve around control of the rare earth and critical mineral supply chain. So if you think about it today, Ryan, we cannot build... Forget about consumer electronics and medical equipment. We cannot build the equipment that the US Pentagon or the US armed forces require, whether it's F35 fighter jet, Tomahawk cruise missile, communications equipment, without going to China and obtaining those materials. And it's obvious to all that this should be extremely alarming. We've seen China use this as a weapon, if you will, as far as how it interacts with other countries back in 2010, when there was a dispute between China and Japan on the East China Sea.

Pini AlthausSo China cut off rare earth exports from Japan for 40 days. Japan obviously being a significant user of rare earth elements for their high-tech manufacturing sector, that was stopped after 40 days. But in fact, it was President Obama that first made the United States aware of this, formed a division within the Department of Defense to handle this issue, but not much has happened. And we continue to be relying on China for these materials. And what has been made about trade war with China and whether the trade war is really the impetus for China withholding rare earth exports. And that is a huge misnomer. Whilst China had been talking or implying that they would cut off rare earth exports, the truth of the matter is that China, under it's made in China, 2025 mandate, its belt and road initiatives and others. And you seem to control the critical minerals and rare earth supply chain so that it can continue its dominance as a manufacturer or a global supplier of these materials and finished products.

Pini Althaus: It's the backbone of its economy. And in fact, China has become a net importer of rare earths from different countries like Miramar and others. So with that, they are decreasing the exports to countries like the United States, Japan and others.

Ryan Morfin: And was it ever a risk that the Chinese were going to turn off the exports of rare earth to the US during the trade war? How close were we to that? And was that ever some saber rattling that went down during trade negotiations?

Pini AlthausYeah, I think it was saber rattling. I think it would be paramount to an act of war. I can't say with any authority that that would not happen, but it would be probably, aside from war itself, it would be one of the most significant acts of war cutting the United States off from the ability to procure rare earths. But that being said, I mean, if you look at, as an analogy, the oil and gas sector and the reliance of the United States had for many, many years on OPEC countries to supply us with the oil. And we had embargoes and we had price manipulation by OPEC. This is far more significant given the ubiquity of where these rare earths go. And yes, we're always under the threat that China can cut off exports under the guise of a trade war or for any other nefarious reasons.

Pini AlthausBut I think even more importantly, to just as the natural run of the course of things with regards to their business and their desire to maintain themselves as the global leader in manufacturing and exporting of goods, China is in a position now where it actually requires these materials for their own domestic consumption and can legitimately cut off rare earth exports by stating that they need it for manufacturing and that would actually be somewhat correct. So we're in an extremely dangerous position here with this reliance on China. And it wouldn't just be China. If it was another country, it would be similar issues, not to the same extent, but reliance on one country for these materials is dangerous.

Ryan Morfin: And it's been mentioned in the past that in 2010, China flooded the market to really kill all the competitors in the rare earth mining industry. Where was the World Trade Organization during this period? And how did that play out and how does that set the chess board for China to run the tables?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. So the WTO stepped in when China cut off rare earth exports from Japan, I think it lasted for about 40 days because the US and Japan protested the WTO, and they stepped in and China resumed exports. While I'm not an expert on these trade matters, one thing that I am aware of is that one of the reasons why China had to resume the export of rare earths was it did not legitimately need all the rare earths for domestic consumption. So therefore it was a nefarious act, if you will, to cut off rare earth exports. Now that has changed, which means China have to cut off rare earth exports today, they have a legitimate case to say that they require these materials. There's a shortage of these materials and they require them for their own domestic purposes. It is the backbone of their economy and there's very little we could do about this today, which is why it's becoming an even more urgent issue.

Ryan Morfin:

And the US government started stockpiling some of these after that incident. Can you talk a little bit about what DOD and DOE has done to start making sure that there's not a critical supply shortage going forward, and is it enough?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, again, there is a national defense stock pile, and there are materials still that the United States needs to procure in order to shore up its stockpile. There are magnets, the finished magnet products as well, the United States government needs to stockpile. Again, there's a limited amount that the United States government has. It requires approval from Congress, whether it's in the NDAA or other approvals from Congress, to allocate monies for the national defense stock pile of these materials. That being said, there's no endless supply of these materials. And unfortunately, the apparatus, the way it's set up right now with the US government, it's going to continue to require having a secure supply chain of those materials for many, many years to come. So it's not a question of stockpiling for 10 or 20 years, and then this complacency and saying, we'll kick the can down the road. But keep in mind as well, Ryan, that US government accounts for low single digits of overall rare earth imports into the United States.

Pini Althaus:

We're talking about defense contractors, we're talking about the manufacturing sector. The direct impact this has on the economy, jobs, the automotive sector, and others is significant. So it's not just limited to the United States government. If you look at over the past couple of weeks, the sanctions that China have put on Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed, et cetera. I mean, the question is where are they going to get those materials? And if we go beyond that, you need rare earths for the 5G network. Now that Huawei has been banned from installing the network, not only in the US but other countries, we have to have the ability to get a secure supply of these materials as well. Which currently, again, trying to control the hundred percent. So it runs across the board, both for government, defense and manufacturing in this country.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, and so help me paint a picture for our audience. Does China have all the mines for rare earth, or they're the only ones who started mining it? Or are their mines globally dispersed and nobody's been doing the actual infrastructure to do the mining?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. So finding rare earth projects or rare earth elements is not the difficult part. It's finding them in significant quantities that makes a project economically viable. And part of that consideration are the environmental rigors that companies in the West have to adhere to. And China, even by their own admission, have had a complete disregard for mining these materials and even for processing these materials. And in fact, just the last week or so, the BBC did an expose on this, 60 Minutes has done an expose on this. But the Chinese have not denied this and have talked about cleaning up their act, but it has an effect on the bottom line for what the costs of mining and processing are if you have no environmental standards to adhere to. So China have exploited those rare earth projects they have, primarily in inner Mongolia, and have brought a number of projects online and quite quickly, and in a significant way, with a complete disregard for the environment.

Pini Althaus:

So it was seen as an environmental no-no in the West for many years. Now, what's happened over the past few years is you're starting to see rare earth projects in different parts of the world sprout up. You've got the Mountain World project in Australia owned by Linus, which is a producer of Nd and Pr, neodymium and praseodymium. So two of the light rare earths. They may have some heavy rare earths coming online at some point in time. And you've got Arafura, which is another company in Australia that we're working with to assist them with their processing so they don't have to send the materials to China for processing. But really these are a drop in the bucket for what the requirements are for the United States. And certainly what the requirements are for allied countries, the EU, et cetera. So there is a race, if you will, worldwide to start bringing projects online. The Chinese are very active in trying to secure assets outside of China.

Pini Althaus:

So in Africa. They have ownership of a project in Greenland. So there is somewhat of a race. The Australian government has stepped in and has started limiting the ability for China to own, or have ownership in, or off takes for the Australian rare earth projects. And that's part of the strategic Alliance between Australia and the US. Canada, similar thing as well. There are a number of projects that are looking to come alive, but these projects are, for the most part, will take many, many years to come online. We have to expedite the process. We have to assist with a [inaudible 00:14:41] supply chain and the domestic rare earth sector, because previously investors have been scared off by things like China flooding the market, which is not a possibility at this point in time, given that China can't actually afford to flood the market. They are already very heavily subsidizing their mine to magnet supply chain there.

Pini Althaus:

This is more now a case of being able to get production from non-Chinese sources so that the United States and allies have a viable, secure supply chain of these materials. And it's a concern worldwide. We speak to governments all over the world, and we're all facing the same issue. Some more than others, especially countries like Japan, that don't have their own rare earth projects there and are reliant on Australia where they've made some investments there. And in the United States, they've made an investment recently in Africa. So there is this race, if you will. And I think we've got a five-year window here to at least stand up a few projects worldwide. Otherwise we've lost this race and we will be dependent on China for many, many years to come. And Ryan, it's a bit of a hypocrisy. If you look at it where you've got materials going through clean, green energy applications, like electric vehicles, wind turbines, et cetera.

Pini Althaus:

That we're sourcing these materials from China, where they've, again by their own admission, has been complete environmental devastation to water bodies around these mines and processing facilities, to the communities. People have been getting sick around these projects yet we're putting these materials into our electric vehicles or wind turbines. It makes no sense at all. And people are starting to wake up to this. And that's why the sector is starting to see a lot of support come out of Congress and bi-partisan support. And in fact, it's one of the only bi-partisan issues right now in Washington. And it's good to see that some things decided to move in the right direction.

Ryan Morfin:

And is there a special process? You talk about the expense, is it really difficult to mine these? You have to go through a special chemical process to extract and clean and purify. Is it a lot harder than, say, gold or silver or some of the other, we'll call, more traditional elements?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. It's all about the processing to some extent. So if you look at MP Materials in California, which used to be Molycorp before they went through their bankruptcy. They are a miner of Cerium and Lanthanum, which are two of the light rare earths, the lower valued light rare earths. Given that they do not currently have processing technology, they are sending those materials to China for processing where China is tariffing those heavily. Linus is also, they're doing their processing work in Malaysia and elsewhere. So it's really about the processing at this stage. One of the things that we've done, after we put out our PDA last year with our upgraded resource, which now includes a significant amount of lithium. We make a decision that, based on the test work that we had done around our processing methodology, that we were not going to send our materials to China. That it's paramount for us to do this work in the United States and in a collaborative effort as well.

Pini Althaus:

We've been asked by some of our investors, "Well, why would you be looking to help other projects with their processing?" And the answer is simple. There's no one project or one company that's going to put China out of business or make a dent, or somehow be able to take care of the overall demand worldwide for rare earths and critical minerals. And it's very important for us to have processing capability in the West. So that was the impetus for us opening up our own rare earth and critical minerals processing facility earlier this year, which we did in Wheatridge, Colorado. And in fact, we've made some significant progress on the method that we're using for this. And we're starting to collaborate with Australian companies, Canadian companies. We're currently talking to a group over in Europe as well, because this has to be a collaborative effort.

Ryan Morfin:

How does Europe solve for these problems? Do they have this better under control than the US?

Pini Althaus:

No, they're in a far worse position than we are. The EU commission recently put out a report, I think, a couple of months ago that the requirement for rare earths is going to increase tenfold within a short period of time. Lithium 18 times. They don't really have rare earth projects. Again, there are the Greenland projects, which people have heard in the news recently. Those need to further development work so they don't have rare earth projects ready to come online there. There are a couple of lithium projects that are spread around Europe, but for the most part, Europe is in an even more precarious position. If you look at Germany with the auto manufacturers, you look at the big companies like ThyssenKrupp and others, all these countries and companies are looking for alternatives to China, because we've already seen in the news about China withholding or reducing exports of some of these rare earths that are required for these industries.

Ryan Morfin:

And you mentioned earlier the regulatory posture of the US makes it difficult to mine. Is it becoming a more bi-partisan issue that we need to maybe relax some regulation around the mining exercise, to incentivize private sector to come in and start producing this? Or is the Republican party versus the Democratic party on two separate pages of music?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. Good question, Ryan. I mean traditionally the Republican party is obviously being more pro-mining and in favor of less regulation when it comes to these things. With regards to our project, we're on Texas state land. So we don't trigger federal environmental permitting at this point in time. And obviously Texas being Texas, a mining state and oil and gas state, things are a lot easier in Texas than they are on projects on federal land where the Bureau of Land Management controls the environmental process around that. But the thing is here, and I don't want to step into what other companies are doing, et cetera, but we do need to be reasonable about allowing projects to come online if they're adhering to environmental standards that are acceptable worldwide. And what we do know, is that China is destroying the environment and cities and water bodies around their mines and processing facilities.

Pini Althaus:

We have standards here in the United States, and I think what we need to do is make it easier for companies to mine, while at the same time protecting the environment. And there are ways to do that. And we're definitely seeing buy-in from Congress, from both sides, with regards to looking how we can stand up a secure supply chain. And, obviously under the Obama administration, they had very strict regulations when it comes to mining. And that's changed under the Trump administration. Hopefully what we start to see is some normal middle ground that'll allow other projects to come online.

Ryan Morfin:

And typically in these rare earth mines, is it amalgamation of different minerals that are all consolidated together and you have to separate them out? Or do you ever find pure play, Europium, I can't even pronounce some of these. Gadolinium, Cerium. I mean, are they all mixed together and you've got to filter and sift them through, or are they pure play mines?

Pini Althaus:

No, they're generally they have a mix. So they're polymetallic projects. They have a number of different materials. Some projects, you more to what we call the light rare earths like MP in California or Linus in Australia. Our project is actually on the opposite end of the spectrum. We have a very high concentration of heavy rare earths. That being said, we do have to go through a process of separating these materials. But the case of our project where we've got 30 materials. We're not going to produce 30 materials. We're not going to market 30 materials. So what we're doing is we're focusing on the key materials that are marketable, that we need for permanent magnets, lithium as well, and working on the separation and the optimization of those materials in particular. But we're all faced with the same processing challenges and that is something that can't be set.

Pini Althaus:

There's no easy way to do this. There are different technologies that have been used in different parts of the world. So predominantly there's a process called solvent extraction, but it's big, it's bulky, it's not benign. It's a bespoke solution for one particular project. So it doesn't work for feedstock from other projects. What we've done is we're using a processing technology that's actually been around since the 1940s. It was part of the Manhattan Project. It's called continuous ion exchange. In fact, the Chinese use it to increase the purities from 99.99 to four nines, five nines, and even six nines. So for some applications you require higher purity levels. It's a far easier processing method to scale up and to take feedstock from other projects. In fact, we've demonstrated for the Department of Energy that we can take coal waste from Pennsylvania and do high purity separation of rare earths using our processing methods. So it's not a step that can be skipped unless one needs to send it to China for processing, which is not going to help us with our objectives here.

Ryan Morfin:

How many other, we'll call it, going concerns on any other businesses that are doing this, that are trying to, I guess, start the development of these mines. Are you guys one of a few or are you one of many? And is it an international or just a US game? Who's leading the charge at going after this?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, well, I'd say the Australians are leading it outside of China right now. You've got some really good projects in Australia. Again, more skewed toward the light rare earths. There's one more heavy rare earth project in Australia, which is not yet producing. The United States, you've got MP Materials, you've got Ucore in Alaska, you've got the Bear Lodge project in Wyoming, which is also another light rare earth project. So as far as a heavy rare earth project that looks like it will come online in the near term, that would be our project. In Canada there are a couple of projects there as well, and again, more skewed toward the light rare earths. But we really need to get as many of these projects online as possible. Because again, I don't see it as competition. We all have a problem doing supply agreements or offtake agreements for our materials.

Pini Althaus:

In fact, one of the things that we're going to have to consider is looking at potentially scaling up our production, based on the demand that we're already starting to see. And I think other companies would find that as well. So it's all about the economics of the project. You have projects that were economically viable back in 2012 or rare earth prices with 35% or so higher than they are today, and are not necessarily viable today. So that's the challenge as well, economically viable projects. And we've got to get as many of them online as possible. It takes many, many years. I mean, our project has had over $70 million put into it to get to where we are today, and we're close to getting to the production scenario. It all revolves around processing at this point in time.

Pini Althaus:

We'd be very happy to see another couple of projects come online, because this is extremely important for national security and for the economy as well. I mean, if you think about it, Ryan, if you've got a billion dollars of rare earth materials, that translates into a trillion dollars or I should say trillions of dollars of finished product. So you've got a magnet in your phone there that's worth a couple of dollars and the cell phone's a thousand dollars. And electric vehicles and defense applications even more.

Ryan Morfin:

Yeah, everyone has one of these iPhones now, and there's tremendous amounts of rare earth on the circuit boards here. And I think people take it for granted that that supply chain is not secure right now. So one question for you, there's talk of this maybe medium term to longterm, but there's talk about mining in space. Do you think that's a feasible option in the longterm, medium term? What are your thoughts on that?

Pini Althaus:

No, that's just ridiculous. I mean, we're trying to find ways to make mining on earth economically viable. I think the cost of going up to space would be more than what our capex will be bringing our entire project into production. I mean, we've got about a 350 to $400 million capex to bring 130 year mine life into production. I'm not an aerospace expert, but I think sending a rocket, building a rocket ship and sending it up, I think maybe on the fuel alone, you could bring a couple of projects into production. So unless we have a fortunate situation or an asteroid lands on earth, and fortunate if it lands somewhere where we don't care, I don't see how that happens. And if it's big enough, it's a problem as well. It's nonsense. And even, options aside of the deep sea mining for rare earths, I mean, you've got all sorts of environmental issues around that as well. I think we need to look at projects that we can bring online, that can be done so in an economic way, that can be done so in an environmentally responsible way.

Pini Althaus:

I mean, one of the things that we've done at our project is we've got in excess of 60% of the materials that have come out around top, will have a clean green energy applicability to them. So we're using the benign processing method. We're going to be using renewable energy on site. In fact, we will likely be putting a solar farm on site as well. We've talked to a couple of companies that have approached us about that, and we'll be a net producer of power for the surrounding area. So there are ways to do it which don't affect the environment. Obviously if there's a project that's situated on a sensitive area, that's a unique situation for that specific project. We've seen it with the Pebble project, which is not a rare earth project. The Pebble project in Alaska where their environmental concerns is we've been recognized by both Republicans and Democrats, but we have to be reasonable about the projects that don't have environmental concerns.

Ryan Morfin:

So Pini, in season two, we ask all of our guests a series of six questions. They're usually, yes, no questions, but trying to take a survey of our conversations. And if you want to add a little context to the yes or no, feel free, but here goes the first question. If there was a COVID vaccine available today, would you take it?

Pini Althaus:


Ryan Morfin:

Who do you think is going to win the election?

Pini Althaus:

Which election?

Ryan Morfin:

The US election.

Pini Althaus:

Well, I think it looks like Joe Biden's going to win it, but I think what happens, if we go past January six from my understanding is that the house will vote on it and it's one vote per state. But I don't know if I see it getting there at this point in time. I really don't have a crystal ball.

Ryan Morfin:

Third question. What type of economic recovery are we in? What type of shape is it taking? A V-shape, W, U, L?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, I think 2021 is going to be challenging. I think we've been, and rightly so. I mean, we've had no choice as of almost every other country. We've been printing money for the past year because of COVID. And I think we've got to brace ourselves that, at some point in time, the chickens come home to roost. It was a necessary step. People needed it on an individual level. Businesses needed it as well, but I think we've got to do whatever we can to stimulate the economy, give people confidence to go out and work again, employ people. So I think we've got to watch ourselves, especially in 2021. And I have some concerns, but long-term, I think the approach in the United States is a healthy one.

Ryan Morfin:

During lockdown this summer and quarantine, was there anything in particular that you accomplished that you're particularly proud of?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. A great amount of family time, which, if you would've asked me a few years ago if I could sit at home and be at home for six months, I would have told you absolutely not. I wouldn't be able to do it for six days, but it has... I'm sure it's done this with a lot of families as well. It's brought families together. We had a baby actually last year on Thanksgiving. So I was doing a lot of travel at the time and thought I wouldn't get to see my daughter in her first year or couple of years too often. And being home with her every day is actually been just the most amazing experience. So thankful at least for some silver lining in COVID.

Ryan Morfin:

Are there any silver linings that you see in the economy going into 2021?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, I think we've gone through an absolute beating and it looks like we've got the ability to come out of it. And I think that's a testament to how strong the economy was built up in the years preceding COVID. So overall I remain an optimist. I mean, we are a country built on opportunity and going out and making it happen. And we're not a socialist country sitting and waiting for people to send us paychecks or wealth distribution or anything like that. I think the American dream still lives on. I think if you go out and you're willing to work and put your head to it and heart in it, I think we do have the ability to climb out of it. So if we look at what the economy is doing over the past few weeks, it looks like it's starting to rebound. And to me, that's assuring because it could go completely one way as well.

Ryan Morfin:

And the last question is, is there anything that you're watching, or listening to, or reading today that has been impactful on your thinking that you'd like to share with our audience?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, that's a good question. I think it's been more personal stories. The news, I sort of take that in context or with more than a grain of salt. In some cases stay off the news channels for a number of days at a time, it became quite repetitive. But I think on the personal side, talking to friends, my family's all back home in Australia, they've just come out of 110 day lockdown, which we can't relate to that. It's been very trying on them and seeing the fortitude that they've had to come out of that and stay intact. I think the mental health issues that will come out of COVID are going to have a far longer effect than the economic issues. I think we're going to have to focus on mental health issues in this country for a long time to come.

Pini Althaus:

The impact on kids has been significant with regards to lockdown or remote schooling, et cetera. But to see people come through it. I think it's a testament to people in general and to the country and other countries as well, to see got that fortitude and survival instinct to try to get through whatever adversity we can. So hearing the personal stories, the challenges that people have gone through, I think it's made me a lot more aware of things that I have to be thankful for and where we can help out other people as well. I think we have to be united going forward because there are things...

Pini Althaus:

I think one of the things that COVID has shown us is we can get into this complacency and life goes on and we go one day to the next. And all of a sudden we get hit by something that affects everybody equally. I mean, COVID, whilst there were groups of people, whether it was the elderly or people with underlying health conditions, that got hit the worst. I mean, we all got hit in some form or another. So really, this should be something that unites us, not divides us.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, Pini, I appreciate you coming on today to talk to us a little bit about the supply chain crimp on rare earth and we'll definitely keep an eye on it and would love to have you back in the future.

Pini Althaus:

Thank you, Ryan. Thanks for having me.

Ryan Morfin:

Absolutely. Thank you. Bye-bye. Thanks for watching Non-Beta Alpha. And before we go, please remember to like, and subscribe on Apple podcasts and our YouTube channel. This is Non-Beta Alpha, and now you know.


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