Authors: Bengt Johansson & André Månberger, Lund University.
The availability of energy has always been a key factor in the development of society. In the 20th century, the usability and flexibility of oil played important roles in the development of the efficient and globalized production systems that characterize our society today. Dependence on energy and its great economic value give the sector geopolitical significance. The quest for energy security, which can be understood as having a well-functioning supply of energy at affordable prices, plays a central role in the policies of most countries. Economies with large energy resources – such as those of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Russia – depend on demand for their energy resources at prices that are stable and sufficiently high.
The fossil fuel-based energy system significantly contributes to environmental and climate problems. In many countries, this issue is emerging as the most important factor affecting energy policy. Ambitious, climate-driven energy policies will certainly affect the geopolitics of energy.
- Ongoing expansion of renewable energy increases the demand for metals such as lithium, cobalt and rare earths.
- At present, production of some of these metals is concentrated in a small number of countries.
- Expanding renewable energy systems will require continued mining of these metals for many years to come.
- However, over the long term, increased recycling can reduce producers’ market power, environmental impacts, and conflicts with other land uses.
- In terms of their economic value, these metals will represent a smaller portion of the economies in metal-rich countries than has been the case for the economic share of fossil fuels in countries where such resources dominate.