Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Copper Becoming Scarce

Copper prices have surged in 2021. The base metal remains in high demand, much thanks to its need in green energy projects and electric cars. In May 2021, commodities analysts at Goldman Sachs called copper ‘the new oil.’ That’s because electric cars need several times more copper than their gas-powered counterparts. And power grids getting electricity from wind, solar and hydro sources also need copper—much more than the industry is currently producing. Here’s how copper became so important to the world economy and the green energy revolution.

The energy transition is not just about swapping fossil fuel for renewable electricity/hydrogen. As the Club of Rome predicted, several commodities will become scarce in the 21st century. The task ahead of us is not merely to decarbonize the economy, it also means do the same with less… or doing less altogether, using the last trump card we have, which the Club mentioned didn’t foresee: technology.

They never for instance anticipated in 1968-1972 that the world would be interconnected with an information system (“internet”), that enables society to cancel most offices and the corresponding daily commute. The Covid pandemic did the rest, to help change behavior patterns. They would also not have anticipated the possibility of autonomous driving car robots, eliminating the necessity of most private car ownership and outsource supply of public transport to companies, that own and maintain fleets of vans, the numbers of which can be a fraction of the current global fleet of sedans of 1 billion, with vastly smaller embedded and operation energy footprint and resource.

[] – Club of Rome
[] – The Limits to Growth
[] – The world risks ‘running out of copper’
[] – Goldman Sachs: Historic Copper Shortage Loom As Prices Rocket
[deepresource] – “By 2030 You Won’t Own a Car”

Pictures from the Netherlands in 1938. The future world could look a little like this again. Train trip through the province of North-Holland, to Alkmaar and from there to the island of Texel.

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