Sellout

  • by Victoria Bruce
  • Narrated by Tom Parks
  • 10 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The story of one citizen's fight to preserve a US stake in the future of clean energy and the elements essential to high-tech industries and national defense.
American technological prowess used to be unrivaled. But because of globalization, and with the blessing of the US government, once proprietary materials, components, and technologies are increasingly commercialized outside the United States. Nowhere is this more dangerous than in China's monopoly of rare earth elements - materials that are essential for nearly all modern consumer goods, gadgets, and weapons systems.
Jim Kennedy is a retired securities portfolio manager who bought a bankrupt mining operation. The mine was rich in rare earth elements, but he soon discovered that China owned the entire global supply and manufacturing chain. Worse, no one in the federal government cared. Dismayed by this discovery, Jim made a plan to restore America's rare earth industry. His plan also allowed technology companies to manufacture rare earth-dependent technologies in the United States again and develop safe, clean nuclear energy. For years Jim lobbied Congress, the Pentagon, and the White House Office of Science and Technology and traveled the globe to gain support. Exhausted, down hundreds of thousands of dollars, and with his wife at her wits' end, at the start of 2017 Jim sat on the edge of victory, held his breath, and bet it all that his government would finally do the right thing.
Like Beth Macy's Factory Man, this is the story of one man's efforts to stem the dehumanizing tide of globalization and Washington's reckless inaction. Jim's is a fight we need to join.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

"Sellout": A book about a history of bad decisions

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This is a book about two individuals: Jim Kennedy and John Kutsch, who dared to question the decisions of just about every agency of government that deals with energy and strategic materials.Anyone who wonders who is in charge of national policies of vital national interest, and what a citizen can do to influence government should read this book. Since the 1960's the U.S. Department of Energy has basically given up on the idea that the U.S. should be a leader in development of advanced nuclear technology, and has converted our nuclear programs to a series of rules and regulations rather than innovation and development. One area where this has had major impacts is in the development (or failure of development) of the element Thorium as a fuel in nuclear reactors. This technology was invented in the U.S., but all serious work on it was pretty much halted by the end of the Clinton administration. At the same time the Chinese government clearly saw the importance of Thorium as a fuel in advanced reactors, and set up an aggressive program to develop Thorium Breeder reactors. They used U.S. technology to do this. Meanwhile the U.S. government has taken a hands off position on Thorium and molten salt reactors which use them. In fact the U.S. has classified Thorium as a precursor for nuclear weapons and a hazardous material.The other side of this coin is the matter of Rare Earth Minerals. These are of immense industrial and strategic value, but because of the Thorium Problem, it is virtually impossible to mine rare earths in the U.S. Our two protagonists have spent the better part of their careers trying to overturn this situation, and get the U.S. back on its feet with respect to both rare earth development and the Thorium fuel cycle for civilian power generation. This is a story of incredible frustration and dogged determination.


What did you like best about this story?

This story shows how private individuals with little in the way of prestigious credentials and economic backing can get into a position to affect national policy because of the correctness of their position and their unwillingness to take no for an answer. The two issues of rare earth development and Thorium energy seem unrelated, but due to geology they are inextricably linked. As long as Thorium is considered a hazard rather than an energy resource it will be impossible to ever develop either Thorium for energy or rare earths for the range of high tech devices that require them. Leaving us with no option but to buy the rare earth products we need from the Chinese (as long as they are willing to sell them) and an energy system based on windmills and natural gas combustion.


Which scene was your favorite?

There is a great scene where Jim and John are meeting with a room full of staffers from the Senate Armed Services Committee and Jim lays out the fact that Congress is violating the law and its responsibility to the Country by failing to set up the National Rare Earth Co-operative, which would provide a structure for both a domestic rare earth mining and production "value chain" and a system for transporting and storing Thorium and for its development as a fuel source for the next generation of civilian power stations.


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

One of the most interesting and disturbing parts of the story was when Xu Hongjie spoke at the Oak Ridge National Labs about how China wanted to commercialize Thorium breeder reactors and own all of the intellectual property, and they were happy to have been provided with the information generate by ORNL, which had been abandoned by the U.S. This showed how China, a country run by scientists and engineers could run circles around the U.S., a country run by bankers, stock speculators and lawyers.


Any additional comments?

At the end of the book, our heroes had exhausted all of the congressional and departmental sources of funding and support for the National Rare Earth Co-op, but they saw one last ray of hope, which is that the President sign an executive order to set up the program. This would be great, but one wonders how much spare capacity there is in the White House to deal with a trivial matter of the technological and energy future of the country when there are pressing matters like the Russian hacking to attend to.

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- W. B. DeOreo

Rare Earths--It's Worse Than Suspected

If you could sum up Sellout in three words, what would they be?

Fools, idiots, traitors


What other book might you compare Sellout to and why?

Stonewalled by Sharryl Attkisson for both the title and content, but I do not remember any of the numerous nonfiction books causing goosebumps on my neck so many times--not even WWII stories about spies, resistance fighters, or escapes.


Which character – as performed by Tom Parks – was your favorite?

All characters were appropriately conveyed, certainly Mr. Parks has a good voice and pace.


What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

The close connection of thorium with the areas where rare earth elements can be found or their association with the magnetite deposit in Missouri.


Any additional comments?

Victoria Bruce must be commended for bringing the serious national security and energy development issue to general reader. While I have wondered how or why China was allowed to wrap up the source and serious amount of the rare earth supplies, the extent that the supply affects where products are manufactured is beyond what I thought it was. Learning that thorium relates to a nuclear energy technology that has virtually been turned over to China is amazing. It was helpful to remind the reader of the energy development Germany used to substitute coal for oil during WWII. [It seemed like Japan had a control over rubber sources but was probably short on iron ore or salvage material.]

It is good to know that there are men out there like Jim Kennedy who are trying to get the attention of people in Washington, DC, even if no one is willing to take action. What is described in this book is an extremely serious situation for national security, industry and commerce, energy, communications, space applications, probably medical equipment, and more. Sure seems like the people who have been authorizing sales or transfers to China (even the uranium transfer to Russia) makes me wonder who is really minding the store and the book sure has me worried.

Excellent book. Everyone should read this. Many thanks to the author and the men who are working so hard.

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- deb

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-06-2017
  • Publisher: Audible Studios