Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Peak Aluminum


If you have been reading this column for any length of time you have heard of “Peak Oil”. Simply put we reach the point of Peak Oil when the peak of oil production occurs. There is some debate on when we will reach the peak of oil production, but no debate on if we are going to reach a peak in production. There is much debate on the effects associated with Peak Oil production but most economists predict some pretty rough times ahead.

Well… We are also going to reach peak production in a number of other materials we mine from the earth’s crust. Right now we have less than half of all known aluminum ore (bauxite) remaining, as well as copper, lead, tin and iron.

The floks over at Transtudio have a post on the peak supply of these important building materials.

Raw Material Time Horizons

Based on a recent United States Geological Study, Lester Brown informs us that we will exhaust known stores of several vital metals within the next two to three generations, based on a reasonable estimation of 2% growth in extraction.1 While recycling efforts have accelerated, virgin materials are still being harvested at an alarming rate.

What will the world be like when we have run out of copper or steel? The average building today relies upon a great quantity of these resources for its construction. Faced with these facts, we can easily imagine a future in which industry has completely re-engineered its handling of material resources. After all, there seems to be no other choice.

1Brown, Lester, Plan B 2.0, New York: W. W. Norton, 2006. p. 109

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