Lithium, cobalt, etc are the new oil…

…and just about as destructive


Great read, 85% of the worlds energy comes from coal, natural gas and oil. Oh, and I wonder what percent of the devices that will be green sources of energy or use green energy have been made with products from the petrochemical industry. Food for thought…doc

1 Like

Obviously this fella didn’t listen to Tesla’s March 1 investor Day presentation. According to Elon it will be easy-peasey transition.

I posted on that thread that such a “system would require massive amounts of mineral mining for the battery storage facilities. They indicated that it won’t be a problem accumulating the needed amount of raw minerals. I just don’t believe that. And no mention of environmental issues with all that mining.”

And if we utilize current mining practices done in third world nations the resulting pollution from that activity will accelerate global warming.
Now the benefit from a transition is worth doing. But it should be done with government involvement with corporations as corporations have nearly zero ethical standards and will rip the raw minerals from the earth in the most profitable method which will not be ecologically or environmentally based. Profit uber alles! Shareholder value! are the corporate mantras.

1 Like

The small difference is that oil is not recyclable, once burned it’s up in smoke.

The Captain


If we each go off in different direction we end up meeting in the middle.

1 Like

Strict environmentalists believe that damage is caused by human activity. Eliminate people and all will be natural.

Some compromise is required. Trying to minimize damage is good. None is not possible!!

1 Like

Within about 50 years this might prove false. We are racing to find materials that could be laid down as a road and enhance the soil underneath some 200 years later when the road finally disappears. Things like that might be materially possible.

I have tried to reach out to MIT to reuse the Sun Chip bag instead of plastics for its biodegradable properties. The problem was the bag’s decibel level was avoided by the public. Today with new manufacturing techniques MIT could use the material and build next to silent bags. I am being ignored.

I didn’t listen to it either, but I found the article in the original post to be pretty light weight, at times bordering on silliness. For example:

For Copper, 6,700 million tonnes are needed. In 2019, 20.4 million tonnes of Copper were produced. So it would take 328 years (using 2019 Copper production numbers as a baseline) to reach the required Copper amount needed to phase out fossil fuels

Why would we expect copper production to be frozen at 2019 levels? Copper production is up 50% over the last 10 years, and is expected to be up another 50% by 2030. The article seems to indicate production is increasing faster than demand.

The write-up on lithium was even sillier.

For Lithium, 1,386 million tonnes are needed. In 2019, 0.086 million tonnes of Lithium were produced. So it would take 16,121 years (using 2019 Lithium production numbers as a baseline) to reach the required Lithium amount needed to phase out fossil fuels.

In the last 10 years lithium production was quadrupled. Why would prompt someone to assume that trend has frozen and production will remain at current levels forever regardless of demand? That literally makes no sense. In order to meet demand, most analysts think lithium production needs to quadruple again in the next 10 or so years. This report by McKinsey suggests this target is reasonably achievable .

You’re correct that mineral extraction is energy intensive, but fossil fuel extraction is even more energy intensive because you burn the output.

Let’s look at some other trends. Since 2001:

  • The cost of solar PV has decreased by 95%

  • The cost of wind has decreased by about 70%

  • The cost of battery storage has decreased by about 90%

There is a saying (usually attributed to Neal Stephenson): The future is already here, it just isn’t well distributed. In some locations, wind and solar PV are already the lowest cost source of electricity. Those trends don’t have to continue very much longer before renewable sources are the lowest cost source in most places. For the record, I’m not suggesting these tends will progress in a nice, neat manner. They will continue to be lumpy, as they have been in the past.


For a little more weight, here is a 77-page report “The Future of Copper”.

"Copper—the ‘metal of electrification’—is essential to all energy transition plans. But the potential supply-demand gap is expected to be very large… …Substitution and recycling will not be enough to meet the demands of electric vehicles (EVs), power infrastructure, and renewable generation…

"The chronic gap between worldwide copper supply and demand projected to begin in the middle of this decade will have serious consequences across the global economy…

"In the 21st century, copper scarcity may emerge as a key destabilizing threat to international security. Projected annual shortfalls will place unprecedented strain on supply chains. The challenges this poses are reminiscent of the 20th-century scramble for oil but may be accentuated by an even higher geographic concentration for copper resources and the downstream industry to refine it into products [read China].

"In the United States, the nexus between a politicized regulatory process and the ubiquity of litigation makes it unlikely that efforts to expand copper output in the United States would yield significant increases in domestic supply within the decade…

“Multidimensional challenges make the development of mines a generational endeavor, spanning decades and requiring hundreds of billions of dollars. Projects under development today would likely not be sufficient to offset the projected shortfalls in copper supply, even if their permitting and construction were accelerated.”


1 Like

Thanks, that was much more reality-based.

1 Like

Meanwhile…the US could cut carbon emissions 25% by replacing current carbon fueled generation with non-carbon sources, vs cutting carbon emissions by 27%, by reinventing the entire transportation sector, and expanding generation and grid capacity to replace the carbon based energy.

Can’t help but wonder what the cost difference between the two strategies is.



Talking about copper, Tesla will be transitioning from 12 to 48 volts in their new generation vehicles. The higher the voltage the thinner the wires can be. Apparently that will reduce the copper wiring by 75%. If the car industry follows, and it should, 80 million cars per year should lower copper usage by a few tons. In addition, this copper can be recycled.

According to Wood Mackenzie, a fully electric vehicle can use up to a mile of copper wiring. Some other reports have Tesla cars using 180 pounds of copper per vehicle and depending on composition, could easily be in excess of a mile. Tesla’s Model S uses a mile of copper just in connecting the battery packs to all electronics.

BTW, Tesla plans to bring all the controllers in-house to further optimize the electronics reducing the required wiring.

BTW2, weight savings in EVs have a multiplying effect, smaller batteries for the same performance means even more weight reduction.

The Captain

180 pounds times 80 million cars = 7.2 million short tons, 6.43 million long tons


If memory serves; Elon on Investor’s day presentation says it would half the cost.

Changing the generation fleet is half, or reinventing the entire transportation sector, and building the additional generation and grid capacity to supply it is half the cost?


1 Like