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.
What will the Biden-Harris administration mean for America’s energy transition, its relationship with the rest of the world, and for global action on climate? Beyond everybody’s policy wish lists, what’s actually likely to happen, and what do this administration’s top priorities need to be to put the U.S. back on track with climate action?
In this episode, we look at the realpolitik of the current situation, and weigh up the challenges that face us in rebuilding America, as well as what it will take to restore our relationship with the rest of the world and show leadership on climate and energy transition once again. And we consider what the staffing of the new administration can tell us about what kind of character it will have, and what the Cabinet’s policy priorities are likely to be.
In this final episode of 2020, we turn the page and look forward to putting America back on track, and getting back to some semblance of normal life again.
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.