As OPEC’s Energy Influence Wanes, China’s Minerals Clout Rises – by Greg Ip (Wall Street Journal – September 13, 2023)

But geography and innovation mean cobalt, lithium and copper can never be weaponized as effectively as oil and gas

From OPEC’s oil embargo on the U.S. in the 1970s to Russia’s cutoff of gas to Western Europe last year, unsavory regimes have weaponized their control of oil and gas to pursue strategic goals. The transition to green energy has the potential to neuter the oil and gas weapon for good. Yet we might simply be swapping one form of commodity dependence and its geopolitical baggage for another.

Wind, sun and hydrogen are free. But the equipment that transforms them into energy, stores it in batteries and transmits it needs vast quantities of minerals whose supply is more concentrated than that of oil and gas.

Democratic Republic of Congo has 43% of the world’s cobalt deposits, Argentina 34% of lithium, Chile 30% of copper and Indonesia 19% of nickel, according to data from S&P Global. All exceed Saudi Arabia’s 12% share of global oil production and Russia’s 16% share of natural-gas output.

For all four minerals, the five largest countries have more than half of global deposits. With oil and gas, the top five control less than half, the S&P figures show.

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