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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • New Report Zeroes in on Geopolitics of Renewable Energy 

    While the geopolitics of fossil fuels are well established, we at ARPN have long lamented the lack of awareness regarding the geopolitical implications of non-fuel mineral resource supply and demand. For that reason, we were very pleased to see a recently released study co-authored by Meghan L. O’Sullivan of Harvard University’s Kennedy School, Indra Overland of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), and David Sandalow of the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy zero in on precisely this aspect of resource policy.  

    The working paper entitled “The Geopolitics of Renewable Energy” examines how a shift to renewable energy sources, which, while reducing dependencies on fossil fuels, will result in new dependencies on non-fuel metals and minerals ARPN followers are by now familiar with, and the “good and bad geopolitical karma” these new dependencies will bring – including new forms of the so-called “resource curse.” 

    Explains O’Sullivan in a piece introducing the working paper for Bloomberg: 

    “Among the most interesting of possible trends we highlight is the idea that a more renewable-heavy future will likely bring with it new forms of the “resource curse” — the phenomenon that political and economic development in many resource-wealthy countries seems stymied when compared to resource-poor ones. In many resource-rich nations, economic growth is actually slower and political institutions are more likely to be repressive and nondemocratic. 

    In the world of fossil fuels, this curse has generally applied to big producers of oil and gas. In a world heavier on renewables, the curse will probably not be so relevant for producers of power; solar, wind and geothermal energy are more likely to be generated and consumed within the borders of a country than to become profitable exports and generators of huge windfall cash flows. Rather, we may see this curse surface in countries rich in the materials required to produce the components that make renewable energy possible.”

     The paper discusses “seven renewable energy scenarios for the coming decades” and examines “seven mechanisms through which renewables could shape geopolitics” – which the authors associate with both opportunities and challenges. The authors also point out significant uncertainties as “[w]ith the current growth of renewable energy, we are instead dealing with the disruption of old markets and the creation of new ones, which are not known yet.” That, coupled with technological uncertainty – after all the renewables sector “involves several entirely separate types of energy sources, and energy generation, transportation and storage,” makes for big question marks that make predictions about our geopolitical future challenging.

    Concludes O’Sullivan in her Bloomberg piece:

    “This question of new dynamics around critical resources is just one of many examined in our new report. But none of the potential dark sides is a reason to halt or slow the momentum toward a more renewable energy future. The benefits will likely outweigh the costs. Yet, policy makers need to start thinking seriously and objectively about the geopolitical contours of a future more reliant on renewable energy, and how to prepare for it. It is coming, sooner or later.”

    Now would be a good time for policy makers to put on their thinking caps. Here’s hoping that this report has made it to the top of their offices’ post-Labor Day reading list. 

     

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  • Lithium – A Case In Point for Mining Policy Reform

    In a recent op-ed for the Reno Gazette Journal, professor emeritus of mining engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno, Jaak Daemen makes the case for comprehensive mining policy reform.  

    Citing the arrival of electric vehicles in which “battery technology is catching up with the hype,” he cautions that benefits benefits associated with the sought-after shift to said technology – i.e. environmental benefits and a reduction of U.S. dependence on foreign oil – might be delayed if we “aren’t serious about the supply of the minerals for EV adoption,” and that “sourcing the minerals and metals that are the building blocks to this electric future remains a stumbling block for the EV transition.” His case in point: Lithium. He argues:

    “Miners can’t open new mines fast enough. Lithium demand is expected to jump 100-fold by 2030.The U.S. is unprepared to meet this demand. We have just one lithium mine in the U.S. ( in Nevada!). The problem is not a lack of resources. It’s a regulatory approach that endlessly delays bringing mines in production.(…) 

    To meet the soaring demand for minerals and metals critical to our EV and high-tech future, we have to rethink our approach to mining regulation. The place to start is mine permitting.”

     As Daemen correctly points out, our reliance on foreign Lithium imports – which Daemen pegs at over 80 percent, is only “one example of a troubling trend,” as documented by the U.S. Geological Survey

    Concludes Daemen:   

    Gaining the necessary approvals to open a new mine in the U.S. takes seven to ten years. In Canada and Australia, with similar environmental standards, mine permitting takes two to three years. It’s past time to cut the red tape. Cell phones, computer chips and EV batteries are built with minerals. Let’s ensure a robust domestic supply for the materials that are the building blocks to our future.  Nevada already makes a major contribution to the EV revolution. Give the state a chance to make one more major contribution: accelerate mine permitting!”

     

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  • Why Cobalt Should be High on Your Radar

    In a recent article, the Financial Times zeroes in on one of the metals followers of ARPN will know is becoming increasingly indispensable to 21st Century clean energy technology: Cobalt.  Once an obscure metal you rarely heard about, this co-product of Nickel and Copper is increasingly afforded “critical mineral status” – primarily because of its [...]
  • AEMA Website Gets Fresh Look

    Our friends at the American Exploration and Mining Association (AEMA), headed up by Laura Skaer, have overhauled their website.  The “122-year old, 2,000 member, national association representing the minerals industry” and the “entire mining life cycle” shares news about its mission and advocacy efforts, and provides information about annual meetings as well as facts about [...]
  • Critical Materials Institute Meets “Stretch Goal” to Produce REE Magnet Domestically

    Meeting one of its “stretch goal[s] to demonstrate that rare-earth magnets could be produced from mine to manufacturer, here in the United States,” the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) a U.S. Department of Energy Innovation Hub, has announced that the has fabricated magnets made entirely of domestically sourced and refined REEs.  This success was achieved in [...]
  • Boron: Of “Slime,” Materials Science and Trade Balances

    If you have preschoolers or grade schoolers at home on summer break, chances are you’ve already had to make “slime.”   Researching the various recipes to make the latest kids’ craze, you will likely also have come across one often-used ingredient: Borax. While Borax has long been a traditional staple in American laundry rooms, borates are increasingly becoming [...]
  • Critical Materials Institute Head Puts Apple’s Goal to Stop Mining in Context

    Recently, tech giant Apple made a bit of a splash with the announcement of a lofty sustainability goal — one the company itself is not sure how to achieve yet. Kicking off its new Environmental Responsibility Report with the question “Can we one day stop mining the Earth altogether?,” Apple commits itself to working towards a “closed-loop supply chain, where [...]
  • As Resource Dependence Deepens, Miners Pivot Back to U.S. For Exploration

    Against the backdrop of market prices recovering and supply woes looming, mining companies are expected to increase spending on exploration for the first time in five years, reports news agency Reuters. In what may spell good news for the United States, analysts anticipate the biggest expenditure increases to occur in the United States, Canada and Australia, all [...]
  • Interview: AEMA’s Laura Skaer – The Mining Industry’s Challenges and a Look Ahead

    For the last few months, politics has sucked up much of the oxygen in Washington, DC and around the country.  With the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States behind us, many of us are hopeful that the time has come to finally shift the focus away from politics toward policy. Against the backdrop [...]
  • McGroarty on Critical Minerals: “It’s Not Your Grandfather’s Infrastructure”

    The New Year is now a little over a week old and the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States is just around the corner.  And while some are still dwelling on 2016 (we offered our post mortem at the end of the year), the time has come to look at what’s in store. One of [...]

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