Thinking Citizen Blog — Does a Critical Minerals Shortage Put the Biden Energy Transition Plan at Risk?
Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day
Today’s Topic: Does a Critical Minerals Shortage Put the Biden Energy Transition Plan at Risk?
This is the question raised by a report of the International Energy Agency released this month. The short answer appears to be: yes. On the other hand, the IEA has been criticized in the past for underestimating the potential of renewables. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
ALTERNATIVE ENERGY REQUIRES FAR MORE MINERALS
1. ‘A typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car.” (third link)
2. “An onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired power plant.”
3. “Since 2010, the average amount of minerals needed for a new unit of power generation has increased by 50% as the share of renewables has risen.”
WE DON’T HAVE MINES TO PRODUCE THEM AND MINES TAKE 16 YEARS TO COME ON LINE — plus we have a water problem
1. “It has taken on average over 16 years to move mining projects from discovery to first production.”
2. This “means a shift away from liquids and gases whose extraction and transport leave a light footprint on the land and are transported easily, cheaply and efficiently, and toward big-print mines, the energy-intensive transport of massive amounts of rocks and other solid minerals, and subsequent chemical processing and refining.”
3. “Mining and mineral processing requires large volumes of water” and “post contamination risks through acid mind drainage, wastewater discharge, and the disposal of tailings.”
IMPORT DEPENDENCE — notably on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and China
1. “Over the last 60 years, the U.S. has doubled the number of these minerals it is 100% reliant on other countries to provide.” (first link)
2. “Of the 35 critical minerals identified by the U.S. in 2018, 28 are at least 50% imported.”
3. “China now controls 80% of the world’s lithium-ion battery material refining, 77% of the world’s battery cell capacity and 60% of the world’s battery component manufacturing.”
NB: “The DRC is responsible for producing more than 70% of the world’s cobalt, used in almost all rechargeable lithium ion batteries that power everything from cellphones and laptops to electric vehicles.”
“The IEA data show that, depending on the location and nature of future mines, the emissions from obtaining ETMs (Energy Transition Minerals) could wipe out much or most of the emissions saved by driving electric cars.” (second link)
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