Lithium is not oil: A critical minerals perspective on what makes a resilient energy transition – by David G. Victor (World Economic Forum – December 5, 2023)

After years in a wilderness of neglect, fears of energy security are back. Policy-makers and geopolitical strategists are worrying, again, about familiar problems – such as Europe’s excessive dependence on natural gas that’s no longer flowing from Russia and flakiness in global oil supplies.

Alongside those worries is a fresh fear: that the transition to a new, clean energy system will create a host of new dependencies and insecurities on the purveyors of critical materials such as lithium, copper, graphite, aluminum, nickel and rare earth minerals.

In going green, the warnings go, the world will trade dependence on insecure supplies of oil and gas for insecure supplies of these other critical materials. Most of those fears are overblown and are leading to policy responses that could make things worse. Markets, for the most part, are doing a good job in linking supply and demand.

There’s no question that the ‘energy transition’, as the shift to clean energy systems is oddly called, will create a surge in demand for critical materials. A huge number of studies have documented that shift from the big picture to particular materials, like copper, to particular countries, notably China.

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