Is the supply of certain key metals—like lithium, copper, nickel, and cobalt—and “rare earth” metals—like vanadium and indium—potentially a limiter on the progress of energy transition? Or is there enough of them to realize our ambitions? Are they being produced in a sustainable way? How will the geographic concentration of these metals affect geopolitics and trade as the energy transition progresses? How confident can we be about our assessments of their abundance? And how confident can we be about how much of them we’ll need in the future, given the rapid evolution of many of these technologies, and the many alternate ways of producing them?
Our guest in this episode brings all of these questions into a whole new focus, and shows why these questions can’t be answered with some back-of-the-envelope calculation. Instead of asking whether there is enough of these metals in the Earth’s crust, he says, or about how they are mined, we should be asking much more sophisticated questions about the chemical industry, the opaque, illiquid markets in which these metals are traded, and the geopolitical implications of their trade.
Dr. Morgan Bazilian is Director of the Payne Institute and Professor of Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines. Previously, he was Lead Energy Specialist at the World Bank. He has over two decades of experience in energy, natural resources, and environmental policy and international affairs. He holds a Ph.D. in energy analysis and was a Fulbright Fellow. He is a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
On Twitter: @MBazilian
On the Web: The Payne Institute
Recording date: June 7, 2019
Air date: July 10, 2019
Geek rating: 1