Reduced use of fossil fuels can reduce supply of critical resources
In this journal article, André Månberger from Lund University summarize key insights on how climate change mitigation policies could constrain supply of resources recovered from fossil fuels. Many of these are perceived to be critical.
This study assesses how reducing the extraction and use of fossil fuels could affect the supply of (i) elements jointly produced with fossil fuels and (ii) elements jointly produced with a host that is currently mainly used in fossil fuel supply chains. Several critical resources are identified for which supply potential from current sources is likely to decline.
Some of these, e.g. germanium and vanadium, are used in low-carbon energy systems. Renewable energy transitions can thus simultaneously increase demand and reduce supply of critical elements.
- Renewable energy technologies use critical resources (CRs)
- Some CRs are produced as part of the production and use of fossil fuels
- Mitigating climate change can simultaneously reduce supply and increase demand of CRs
- Potential flows, reserves, and recoverable resources require downward revision
The problem is greatest for technology groups in which by-products are more difficult to recycle than the host. Photovoltaic cell technology stands out as one such group. Phasing out fossil fuels has the potential to reduce both the supply potential (i.e. primary flow) and recoverable resources (i.e. stock) of materials involved in such technology groups.
Further studies could examine possibilities to increase recovery rates, extract jointly produced resources independently of hosts and how the geographical distribution of by-product supply sources might change if fossil fuel extraction is scaled back.
About the author
André Månberger is an Associate senior lecturer at the Environmental and Energy Systems Studies at Lund University and research lead of the “geopolitics of decarbonization” research theme of the Mistra Geopolitics research programme.
Cite this article: Månberger, A. Reduced Use of Fossil Fuels can Reduce Supply of Critical Resources. Biophys Econ Sust 6, 6 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41247-021-00088-5