[Marxism] A Different Environmental Threat: Peak Rare Minerals, China, and Green Technology

Michael Perelman michael at ecst.csuchico.edu
Sun Sep 6 14:50:26 MDT 2009

On Sun, Sep 06, 2009 at 08:39:16PM +0200, Jeff wrote:
> I think the discussion of such "shortages" has to do with the short-term
> price fluctuations that may concern industry and speculators, but the
> specter of any one country (or even a few countries) having long-term
> control of one essential resource doesn't seem like a real problem. They
> would find alternatives if and when they had to.

Yes, but to do so can require a decade or more.

> Note that the
> proportion you just gave of 1 ppm of gold in the ore they mine, is much
> lower than the 38 ppm of neodymium over the entire earth (not to mention
> its abundance where they actually mine it), and the yearly production
> (again according to Wikipedia) is only 7000 tons (but surely rising rapidly).
You learn something everyday.  Thanks.
> Also, there may be a semantic confusion involved. Neodymium is classified
> as a "rare earth" according to its position on the periodic chart, but that
> is just the name for elements of atomic number 57 to 71. It isn't nearly as
> rare as gold or platinum. Its production being dominated by China doesn't
> seem to be of long-term significance, as far as I can tell, and it
> certainly isn't facing any "peak" in production due to depletion.
As Sartesian noted, the peak can come at any point.  It cannot be known to 
have occurred unless the output in the last period exceed all the existing 
[not necessarily known] supply.  Even then, you can redefine the peak by 
measuring it in terms of output per second rather than output per year.  
But a peak will occur nonetheless.

I guess with all the baggage associated with peak, I could have used 
another term.

Michael Perelman
Economics Department
California State University
Chico, CA 95929

Tel. 530-898-5321
E-Mail michael at ecst.csuchico.edu

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