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Consumption and Use of Non-Renewable Mineral and Energy Raw Materials from an Economic Geology Point of View

Author

Listed:
  • Volker Steinbach

    () (Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe, Stilleweg 2, D-30655 Hannover, Germany)

  • Friedrich-W. Wellmer

    () (Neue Sachlichkeit 32, D-30655 Hannover, Germany)

Abstract

We outline a path to sustainable development that would give future generations the chance to be as well-off as their predecessors without running out of natural resources, especially metals. To this end, we have to consider three key resources: (1) the geosphere or primary resources, (2) the technosphere or secondary resources, which can be recycled and (3) human ingenuity and creativity. We have two resource extremes: natural resources which are completely consumed (fossil fuels) versus natural resources (metals) which are wholly recyclable and can be used again. Metals survive use and are merely transferred from the geosphere to the technosphere. There will, however, always be a need for contributions from the geosphere to offset inevitable metal losses in the technosphere. But we do have a choice. We do not need raw materials as such, only the intrinsic property of a material that enables it to fulfil a function. At the time when consumption starts to level off, chances improve of obtaining most of the material for our industrial requirements from the technosphere. Then a favorable supply equilibrium can emerge. Essential conditions for taking advantage of this opportunity: affordable energy and ingenuity to find new solutions for functions, to optimize processes and to minimize losses in the technosphere.

Suggested Citation

  • Volker Steinbach & Friedrich-W. Wellmer, 2010. "Consumption and Use of Non-Renewable Mineral and Energy Raw Materials from an Economic Geology Point of View," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(5), pages 1-23, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:2:y:2010:i:5:p:1408-1430:d:8390
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Afflerbach, Patrick & Fridgen, Gilbert & Keller, Robert & Rathgeber, Andreas W. & Strobel, Florian, 2014. "The by-product effect on metal markets – New insights to the price behavior of minor metals," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 35-44.
    2. Martin Stürmer & Gregor Schwerhoff, 2012. "Non-Renewable but Inexhaustible – Resources in an Endogenous Growth Model," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2012_09, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    3. Martin Stuermer & Gregor Schwerhoff, 2013. "Technological change in resource extraction and endogenous growth," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse12_2013, University of Bonn, Germany.
    4. Frenzel, Max & Tolosana-Delgado, Raimon & Gutzmer, Jens, 2015. "Assessing the supply potential of high-tech metals – A general method," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(P2), pages 45-58.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    non-renewable resources; metals; fulfillment of functions; technosphere; geosphere; ingenuity; renewable energy;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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