I’ll be at the State Library of Queensland tonight for Science Says!. I don’t know what I’ve let myself in for, but I’m assured it will be fun.

On Sunday, I’ll be talking at a Colloquium organized by a group called Sort, on The Wasteful Economics in Resource Recovery.

My last event for the year (I think!) will be a talk about the Economics Nobel award (yes, I know) at the Economics Society of Australia Christmas party. Free for members, probably not of much interest to others.

5 thoughts on “Appearances

  1. They sound interesting.

    In respect to the wasteful economics talk, this resource recovery and recycling issue is certainly an interesting one. So I hope you will provide a synopsis for us not resident in BrisVegas and in particular some thoughts on how much should we be preparing for the future and the needs of future generations? Should we be ignoring market driven economics and introducing high conservation policies in the near future?

    In regard to this I will never forget 50 years ago hearing the legendary Herman Kahn (on a visit to Australia I think) explaining there would never be a shortage of resources because even in bedrock there were vast quantities – I recall him saying 20 kilotonnes of gold in a cubic mile of the earth for example. The same argument has floated for Uranium and Lithium resources and there is even a discipline called phytomining. Of particular interest for Australia perhaps is that basalt/granite has something like 1000 ppm of phosphorus. Given the P in sewage is about 10 ppm you have to wonder how sensible proposals to mine sewage are?

    This all makes it sound rosy. However the reality is a little different when you consider the ore production logistics (I probably have put this story up before but no matter).

    While considering mining the crust is perhaps a little extreme it does provide an interesting opportunity to consider the issue of whether traditional high grade resource depletion makes more sense than energy intensive resource recycling and what would be the effect of not being able to find ores intermediate in concentration between current high grade material and bedrock?

    It turns out the downside of both resource recovery and traditional mining is that increased energy demands will hit us badly if we just let the market rule….a bit like perhaps the EROEI story.

    Which leads to an interesting question – how should we be costing conservation measures which reduce demand?

    The information on this problem was sparse when I looked a few years back. But there were some papers below:

    STEEN, B. & BORG, G. 2002. An estimation of the cost of sustainable production of metal concentrates from the earth’s crust. Ecological Economics, 42, 401-413.
    STEEN, B. A. 2006. Abiotic Resource Depletion: Different perceptions of the problem with mineral deposits. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 11, 49-54.
    BARDI, U. 2010. Extracting minerals from seawater: an energy analysis. Sustainability, 2, 980-992.

    The interface between the economics and environment can be assessed by combining the figures in these reference with current rates of use which can be found here : U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY 2011. Mineral commodity summaries 2011. U.S. Geological Survey.

    The bottom line of costs for creating artificial ores (sort of what SORT may wish for) is presented in the first of these references. In short the energy and material costs of mining many essential materials would explode. Steen shows the effect on cost but the energy figures are also interesting. In some instances if you combine yearly production / demand with bedrock mining figures you end up with mining demanding more energy than current global production. This is reminiscent of Bardi’s observation on EROEI of minerals dissolved in seawater… short the economics is nuts.

  2. Aren’t you taking the Nobel thing too seriously for the occasion? Take a little tour of the nutjobs (Giaever, Shockley), the Peace Prize to Kissinger, and the literature prize that failed to recognize half the key figures of 20th-century literature in favour of authors at the bottom of the remaindered pile (****

    My current beef is that the chemistry committee (who failed with Mendeleev when he was alive) keeps failing to recognize John Goodenough, the inventor of the world-changing lithium-ion battery. He’s still working at 94, but the Nobel committee are running out of time. My letter to them here: ****

  3. @James Wimberley

    You don’t know what’s to be in the talk and neither do I. However, my wild guess is that the talk will not be taking the Nobel Prize in economics too seriously. It’s a Christmas Party.

    Some winners of the Nobel Prize in economics make sense to me from my limited layperson reading. Stiglitz especially comes to mind. But where is Piketty?

  4. Yep, there is certainly a lot to consider with fracking, tar sands, strip mining, slurry ponds, water pollution, fisheries depletion and investment diverted from more productive areas as well as tax dodging, market rigging and corruption of the political, educational, informational and justice processes by TNC’s and their armies of acolytes.

    Socialisation of debt, privatisation of wealth, the manipulation of concept of wealth to dovetail with the deluded ideologies, mindset and objectives of financialised capitalists and their odd socio cultural system wilfully locked in the dark ages.. the entire panicked thrust of emotional midgets devoid of vision sense and sensibility.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s