Will We Run Out of Critical Minerals for the Energy Transition?

November 17, 2022

Texas A&M Atmospheric Scientist Andrew Dessler has been thinking out loud about the availability of critical minerals for the energy transition, and the possible impacts of extracting them.

He makes a good comparison to the “End of Oil” memes of the mid-2000s, as well as pointing to the wager between Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich, in which Ehrlich, author of the “Population Bomb”, bet that the world would run out of critical resources sometime well before the year 2000. (this was back in the oil-shortage 70s, I think)
Moral: prices rose and markets dealt with supplies.
I would also point to Amory Lovin’s spectacularly prescient 1976 observation that demand for energy was far more elastic to price than most anybody at the time could imagine, allowing him to make energy demand forecasts 50 years ahead that are pretty close to reality, although he was a bit too optimistic on renewable uptake. (but not by much)
My recent Yale Climate Connections vid examined the problem of mining for critical minerals, Lithium in particular.


2 Responses to “Will We Run Out of Critical Minerals for the Energy Transition?”

  1. John Oneill Says:

    Amory Lovins’ ‘Soft Path’ was almost the opposite of the modern renewables doctrine. Whereas the call now is to ‘Electrify Everything’, with supersized grids ferrying power across and between continents to balance solar, wind, and demand, Lovins wanted to reduce electricity use to the bare minimum, by using energy directly. Where biofuels or solar thermal (and vertical axis wind turbines, another non-starter) could not meet local needs, he was very keen on fluidised bed coal furnaces. ‘Coal can fill the real gaps in our fuel economy with only a temporary and modest (less than twofold at peak) expansion of mining..’
    Jimmy Carter was heavily influenced by Lovins. As well as putting solar water heating on the White House roof, he also called for the doubling of coal production Lovins advised. Bill Clinton likewise put a stop to research on advanced reactors. Lovins -‘..consider.. “The United States will phase out its nuclear power program, and its support of others’ nuclear power programs.”‘ A shame that, since the Experimental Breeder Reactor II in Idaho was in the process of figuring out how to run on used fuel and depleted uranium. The Japanese had even agreed to pay for the work.
    According to Lovins, oil use should also have dropped right away over the last twenty years, as we all switched to ‘hydrogen hypercars’.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Amory Lovins’ soft path from 45 years ago:


    He sure underestimated the tenacity of the fossil fuel industries.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: