Why Resources Aren’t ‘Natural’ and Will Never Run Out

By Steve Goreham

Republished with permission of The Washington Times.

Last week, the World Wildlife Fund proclaimed May 10 to be Europe’s “Overshoot Day,” the day that Europe consumed its portion of Earth’s resources for the year. The WWF, the United Nations, and universities continue to warn that modern society is rapidly depleting our natural resources. But instead, trends show that for all practical purposes, Earth’s resources will never run out.

The World Wildlife Fund proclaims August 1 this year as Earth Overshoot Day, where society will have used “more natural resources than the planet is able to produce in a 12-month period.” They estimate that Overshoot Day for the United States occurred already in March, warning that the US is using four times its share of sustainable global resources.

Overshoot Day is a continuation of the long-running ideology that humans are consuming too much of Earth’s resources. Environmentalist David Suzuki said, “We live in a world of finite resources. Although it may sometimes seem quite big, Earth is really very small―a tiny blue and green oasis of life in a cold universe.” Margaret Beckett, UK Environment Secretary pointed out in 2006, “It is a stark and arresting fact that, since the middle of the 20th century, humankind has consumed more natural resources than in all previous human history.”

Price trends are usually a good indicator of resource scarcity. The World Bank maintains a world commodity price database of 41 commodities from 1960 to present. Inflation-adjusted trends show that from 1960-2015, food prices have declined, agricultural raw material and industrial metal prices have been flat, and energy prices, dominated by the price of oil, have increased. Commodity prices fluctuate widely from decade to decade, but we don’t see a rising price trend indicating resource exhaustion.

The 1972 international best-selling book Limits to Growth predicted humanity would run out of aluminum by 2027, copper by 2020, gold by 2001, lead by 2036, mercury by 2013, silver by 2014, and zinc by 2022. But today, none of these metals is in historically short supply.

Global production of industrial metals soared from 1960-2014. Annual production levels were up: aluminum (996 percent), copper (417 percent), iron ore (531 percent), lead (343 percent), nickel (455 percent), tin (66 percent), and zinc (348 percent). At the same time, the World Bank industrial metal real price index of these seven metals was flat, down a little more than one percent by 2015. World reserves of copper, iron ore, lead, and zinc stand near all-time highs. Prices are not rising as predicted by resource-depletion pessimists.

“Natural resources” is a misleading label. The term “natural resources” conveys the naive idea that food, energy, or materials can merely be plucked from a tree or gathered from a field or stream. Raw materials are natural, but resources are created by humans from raw materials.

Consider the miracle of copper refining. Rock containing copper is fragmented by explosions and then loaded onto huge trucks with 240-ton capacity. Each ton of rock contains only 13 pounds of copper. The copper ore then goes through a series of milling machines that grind the rock down to a fine powder. Next the powder goes through a flotation cell, where the copper floats to the top of a solution and is skimmed off, producing 28 percent copper concentrate. Three different furnaces come next, smelting the metal into 98 percent copper. Finally, electrolysis is used in a half-mile-long factory to produce ingots that are 99.99 percent copper. Advancing human technology continues to produce high-quality copper from ores of declining copper concentration.

But aren’t we running out of raw materials to make copper metal and other resources? Most people don’t realize the vast quantity of raw materials available on our planet. Canadian geologist David Brooks estimated that a single average cubic mile of Earth’s crust contains a billion tons of aluminum (from bauxite), over 500 million tons of iron, a million tons of zinc and 600,000 tons of copper.

There are 57 million such square miles of Earth’s land surface and almost triple that area under the surface of the oceans. Of course, only a tiny fraction of metals in Earth’s crust is economically recoverable with today’s technology. Nevertheless, Earth’s supply of raw materials is finite, but vast.

But aren’t we running out of hydrocarbon energy? In 1977, President Jimmy Carter told the nation, “World consumption of oil is still going up. If it were possible to keep it rising during the 1970s and 1980s …we could use up all the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.”

President Carter and his advisors were wrong. Petroleum engineers changed the world with the technological advances of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. United States daily oil production more than doubled from 5 million barrels in 2008 over 12 million barrels today. US natural gas production also doubled over the last decade.

From 1980-2017 world petroleum production increased more than 50 percent. But world crude oil reserves increased 150 percent, from 27 years of supply to 46 years of supply at higher production rates. The same doomsayers that continue to forecast resource depletion were certain we had reached peak oil a decade ago.

Today, humanity has the greatest abundance of resources in history. Human ingenuity determines resource availability, not the amount of fruit on a tree or the number of rocks on the ground. Driven by advancing human technology, for all practical purposes, Earth’s resources will never run out.

Steve Goreham is a speaker on the environment, business, and public policy and author of the book Outside the Green Box: Rethinking Sustainable Development.


99 thoughts on “Why Resources Aren’t ‘Natural’ and Will Never Run Out

    • Driven by advancing human technology, for all practical purposes, Earth’s resources will never run out.

      Frackin’ A’ Bubba!

      Allen Gilmer, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman at DrillingInfo, Inc., is not a man who minces words, an attribute that has served him well during a long career in the oil and gas industry. When it comes to the Permian Basin and the amount of oil and gas resource contained in it, he becomes positively loquacious.

      “We should view the Permian Basin as a permanent resource,” he says, “The Permian is best viewed as a near infinite resource – we will never produce the last drop of economic oil from the Basin.”

      No one disputes that the resource in the Permian is huge, but ‘infinite’ is a big word. I asked him to expand on that concept. “That is the practical reality with the amount of resource that is in the ground,” he says, “The research we’ve done indicates that we have at least half a trillion barrels in the Permian at reasonable economics, and it could be as high as 2 trillion barrels. That is, as a practical matter, an infinite amount of resource, and it is something that has huge geopolitical consequence for the United States, in a very good way. It has a huge consequence in terms of GDP, and right now it is creating an American energy global ascendancy.”


      • The oil graph is misleading since it compares reserves to annual production. This is like plotting energy and power ( rate of consumption of energy ) on the same graph.

        A meaningful comparison would be the cumulative sum of production vs reserves.

        Equally, comparing a %age increase in reserves to %age increase in production is not informative since a linear increase in annual production requires an exponentially increasing amount of reserves to satisfy it.

        I don’t know how those figures would look if plotted that way but the current presentation is non informative and is misleading.

        • The way I look at it is, there is so much oil to be found, that even as we have used ever more, at ever increasing rates, the amount that we know about is higher than ever, not only in terms of volume, but in terms of years of supply on hand.
          And the total amount under the ground is far larger than reserves, and very likely far larger than current estimates of the amount under the ground. This can be gleaned by simple logic: At every point in time, we can look back and see than estimates of what is under the ground have been vastly underestimated, and the number has been steadily revised upwards over the years. Since this trend is not slowing, and if anything, accelerating, it stands to reason that in 10, 20, 50, or 100 years, the numbers will be higher still.
          The basic issue, the way I see it, is the notion that Earth is a small place. In terms of the vastness of the cosmos, this is true. But on a human scale, it is farcically wrong.

          • It’s also important to keep in mind the fact that “reserves” has a specific legal definition.

          • We aren’t taxed on reserves or resources… just income.

            Proved reserves are a tiny fraction of the resource.


            Proved reserves…

            Proved reserves are estimated volumes of hydrocarbon resources that analysis of geologic and engineering data demonstrates with reasonable certainty[1] are recoverable under existing economic and operating conditions. Reserves estimates change from year to year as new discoveries are made, as existing fields are thoroughly appraised, as existing reserves are produced, as prices and costs change, and technologies evolve.

            1. Reasonable certainty assumes a probability of recovery of 90% or greater.


            Here’s a very simplistic example of proved reserves (1P):

            Since the well was drilled up-dip to a dry hole with an oil show, the entire volume can be booked as proved because the down-dip well has an oil-water contact.

            Here’s a very simplistic example of proved plus probable reserves (2P):

            In this scenario, the down-dip well has no oil show, just a wet sandstone (highest known water, HKW). If there is geological or geophysical evidence (e.g. seismic hydrocarbon indicator “HCI”) demonstrating that the hydrocarbon column extends down-dip, the volume below the lowest known oil can be booked as probable reserves.  Otherwise, it would have to be categorized as possible reserves. In some cases, seismic HCI’s can be used to delineate proved reserves, if the seismic HCI has been demonstrated to be diagnostic in a particular play or field.

            Due to the fact that proved reserves are the minimum volume of oil reservoirs are expected to produce, production tends to increase proved reserves by moving probable & possible and contingent resources into proved reserves.

            Most reserve growth is due to extensions and revisions…

            Extensions are due to well performance and new wells which extend the proved reserves. Revisions are usually economic – higher oil prices and/or lower extraction costs increase proved reserves.

      • I think Cornucopianism is every bit as dangerous as Marxism.

        Resources are finite, No new matter/energy is being created in the Universe, and all the free energy there ever was, was contained/created in the big bang.

        We are surfing the wave of entropy that that started,.
        It will peter out eventually.,

        IIRC we already ran out of the proven reserves that existed in the 70s and 80s.
        Copper has become so valuable that thieves regularly steal cables.
        Kerosene home fuel is three times the price it was 20 years ago.

        Resources are finite. Bigger than we expected, but still finite.

        Every technological advance that improves reserves, also adds to costs. Fracking is more expensive than simple drilling. Solar panels are more expensive than growing crops to harvest sunlight.

        At any given point in history, what humanity uses is a mixture of what is reasonably readily available and the current state of technological advance. Horses and iron ploughs opened up the mid west to farming. Later, coal powered steam trains and steel rails transported the food back to the cities where the steel was made.

        Today it’s all diesel powered.

        Tomorrow may well be nuclear electric.

        That buys us around 10,000 years…

        Not forever, but its a handy chunk of time.

        We have seen massive changes in the last 500 years. I accept that in the USA, which has no (European) history that long, its easy to think that the world is some kind of steady state machine that will go on forever. Here in Europe surrounded by the tangible remains of hunter gatherers, herders, neolithic farmers’ neolithic monuments, bronze hoards discarded when iron became available, windmills that no longer grind corn, and museums full of steam technology that was running until 60 years ago…

        …It’s easy to understand that ‘forever, changes’.

        Greens are still trying to construct an ideology around freezing human development and creating a 1000 year Reich or somesuch.

        Please don’t copy them.

        Relatively, cheap access to many resources is gone for good. Do not confuse continued availability with viability.

        Phone companies lay optical fibres now, not copper wires. There is almost no economically viable coal left in the UK and only one or two mines are left operating. Same in France.

        Fracking and in fact many other marginal plays depend on oil at $60 a barrel or greater to be viable.

        Currently new nuclear power is cheaper than that. If gas prices rise much higher it will be cheaper than gas, too.

        Remember, forever, changes.

          • I don’t think we are surfing the wave of entropy, so much so as we are fighting it. Indeed, that is what life and some other processes do.

            Nevertheless, the world will end in 10,012 years. So, the progressive nature in us must sacrifice for the children, not that we care for the unborn in general.

        • Maybe it’s a so rare that realism just sounds like ‘cornucopianism’ to you. It’s not pie-in-the-sky to say “History suggests we always manage to innovate and forge ahead. Overall things are getting better for people according to any objective standard. No reason to think that won’t continue, despite foreseeable challenges.” That’s my perspective anyway. 🙂

        • Resources are finite“. True. But as the article states, they are vast too. And one more thing: be careful not to mix up minerals and energy. After we have used mineral resources, they are still somewhere on the planet – every ton of say copper ever produced still exists. Earth hasn’t lost any of those copper atoms. But every MWh of fossil fuel energy that we have used has gone for ever – well, not quite for ever, but it might not be usable again for several million years, and then only if certain fortuitous conditions occur over a very long period which allow solar energy to convert the remnants back into fuel.

          • Mike Jonas
            “….But every MWh of fossil fuel energy that we have used has gone for ever – well, not quite for ever, but it might not be usable again for several million years, and then only if certain fortuitous conditions occur over a very long period which allow solar energy to convert the remnants back into fuel.”

            Too right mate! Considering that all fossil fuel energy started as solar energy via photosynthesis, heat and pressure in an anaerobic subterranean environment over time ( a long time), it should be possible to shorten the process time to a matter of hours given a couple of good chemical engineers. This would solve the finite resource issues, the sustainability requirement, and qualify as 100% solar to the delight of the ‘Greenies’.
            A win-win if ever I saw one! semi-sarc!

        • Too much acid?
          “Resources are finite, No new matter/energy is being created in the Universe, and all the free energy there ever was, was contained/created in the big bang.”

          Are you serious? Or is this comment posted specifically to be provocative. Because is pushes the same buttons progressives do — its an intellectual rut they are in, a mind. I agree I am extrapolating..but…I smell a socialist, are you?
          1000 years?
          Stop pretending to be intelligent you are not — this whole comment is a brain fart.

          Bad me for feeding a troll…

        • Yes, resources are finite, but so are human lives. As a practical matter it makes not sense to talk about resource depletion time-frames that are greater than the time from now until your grandchildren die. Just as our great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers didn’t worry about how well we would manage, we shouldn’t either. I’m sure future generations will do just as we have done: innovate and solve problems as they surface.

    • Er.. no.
      The RAW MATERIALS are natural. They only becombecome resources once they have been processed by humans…

        • Once no longer of use resources become available again; lead water pipes replaced by copper then replaced by plastic, copper telephone wire replaced by fibre or radio and so on. The only resources lost are those sent into space that are not in earth orbit. Everything else is reusable.

          • “Once no longer of use resources become available again”

            So is a landfill that contains demolished homes a potential (copper/aluminum,?) resource or is it a reserve? My guess is a resource, with high quality “ore”.

  1. The actual supply of minerals is quite responsive to the price in the medium term, as the article points out. A fair amount of the cost is energy costs to mine, refine, and transport whatever, so the various green proposals would ensure shortages by restricting and increasing the cost of energy.

    • The real reason the Green Blob hates nuclear power. Not because of any radiation release risk. But because it means continued prosperity for the little guy.

  2. Would have been nice to see a mention of Julian Simon, who made all these points and more, in the 1970s…

    • The famous Julian – Ehrlich wager spanned the period 1980 – 1990 (e.g. see https://fee.org/articles/how-julian-simon-won-1-000-bet-with-population-bomb-author-paul-ehrlich/). And the lesson of the wager is NOT that “resources … will never run out” but that new technologies make once essential resources less needed or even obsolete. Or, to put it explicitly, humanity may never run out of essential resources because new technology makes it possible to replace them with other BEFORE they are exhausted.

      If one considers only the resources available at any given moment, and available technologies at the same time, human civilisation is always a few decades from collapse (from lack of essential resources). But so far the development of new technologies has repeatedly replaced once essential resources with new ones. It may not always be that way – but given the history, would you bet against it?

      • Remember that Julian said that the ultimate resource was “HUMAN INGENUITY” which can always adapt to shortages, thus we will never run out of anything.

  3. “…The WWF, the United Nations, and universities continue to warn that modern society is rapidly depleting our natural resources.
    The 1972 international best-selling book Limits to Growth predicted humanity would run out of aluminum by 2027, copper by 2020, gold by 2001, lead by 2036, mercury by 2013, silver by 2014, and zinc by 2022. But today, none of these metals is in historically short supply….”

    Reminiscent of the gloom and doom warnings from Ehrlich’s “Population Bomb” from 1968. Just keep doing it over and over and over again. Never let the faith die out as long as the world is still full of believers.

  4. Recycling anything other than metals is basically a scam.
    Bottles are made of sand, one of the most abundant materials on earth.
    Most rubbish could be burned to generate power.
    John Stossel – Recycling Stupidity:

    • There is also a question of energy and cost for production vs recycling, and, perhaps ironically, environmentally sound practices of the former and latter.

      • As was indicated in the video you must not neglect the additional transportation and handling costs. I suspect collecting bottles from around the city is more expensive than mining sand.
        All the attendant processing steps are very similar after that. Washing, sorting, crushing all about the same. It takes the same amount of heat to melt “batch” (raw stock from which glass products are made) regardless of the source. Actually, recycled glass introduces all sorts of impurities that effect material properties like strength and toughness.

        • Cullet (broken glass) does reduce the energy consumption because cullet has a lower melting energy requirement than the constituent raw materials.
          As you mention, there are other issues.

        • Whenever the subject of recycling comes up, people make all sorts of statements based on what they think, or just off the top of their heads, or based on something they might have read once decades ago.
          IOW, a whole lot of wrong and baseless BS being asserted as if the persons making the assertions know what they are talking about, as if one can simply intuit the facts of such things.
          There are a lot of very wealthy people in the scrap business, all over the world, because people like the ones commenting here just throw stuff away thinking it has no value.
          And as it has ever been, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
          This is literally true.
          People that think recycling is some sort of scam do not know anything at all about the waste disposal business, or the economics of disposing of solid wastes.
          All solid waste is “gathered”, and must be gotten rid of by some means.
          Placing different materials in separate containers to set out by the curb is hardly some huge effort.
          And stating that it is cheaper to dig up new ores, or new sand, is just so incredibly ignorant I can scarcely believe anyone would write it without even doing some quick checking, to see if they are talking out of their ass and making a fool of themselves, first.
          Nothing is more wasteful or expensive than landfilling, and many locales do not allow trash to be burned.
          And many materials do not combust.
          Every material in the trash stream has some value if it can be separated from the stream.
          All metals, all glass, all plastics, all paper products.
          The cash price of these materials can be looked up in a minute, and there is a multi-hundreds of billions of dollars international trade in these materials.
          The stupidest thing in the world is to believe you know things you are ignorant of.

          • Lots of naked assertions regarding how everyone else is wrong.
            On the other hand, not a single fact.

            Sounds to me like your gripe is with landfills. Recycling is just the hobby horse you decided to ride in order to justify getting rid of them.

    • OMG. She’s kinda cute (actually, really cute>), but the lights are off, and nobody’s home…

    • I still like the idea of recycling, because it makes my trash more tidy, and that’s basically why I do it. And I have a supply of fairly clean stuff to use for gardening purposes, if a need comes up.

      For example, I once used “recycled” plastic coffee containers from my sister’s garbage to make the walls of a raised garden bed. I typically fish out rinsed yogurt containers to cut down and use as cut-worm collars for my young vegetable plants. Sometimes I just need a container for, say a paint brush holder, when I’m doing some painting. Sometimes I need a container for grease residue from cooking. My recycling can is full of these sorts of goodies, when or if I ever need them. If I don’t, then I toss them into the big recycling can, and what happens to them after that is in the hands of those who deal with it.

  5. The materials thrown away in dumps doesn’t disappear.
    Were it to become economically viable, dumps could be mined for the resources stored there.

          • Petrochemicals only need a suitable feedstock. We have a vast planetary resource for coal-to-liquid transformations. Then a straight-forward step to full synthetic lubes and the liquid fuels and hydrocarbon cracking choices. The only reason this doesn’t happen now is there’s too much available economic mineral-oil and fuels flooding global supply.

            “… Synthetic oil
            Synthetic oil is a lubricant consisting of chemical compounds that are artificially made. Synthetic lubricants can be manufactured using chemically modified petroleum components rather than whole crude oil, but can also be synthesized from other raw materials. The base material, however, is still overwhelmingly crude oil that is distilled and then modified physically and chemically. The actual synthesis process and composition of additives is generally a commercial trade secret and will vary among producers[1]. …’


            It’s just a matter time until the base material is fully synthetic too.

            (The annoying part is the world ends in 12 years, regardless. /gawf )

          • To demonstrate how utterly ridiculous it is to describe the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) as an analog for modern climate change, we just have to look at the Miocene Epoch, which was much cooler than the PETM.

            High latitude SST (°C) From benthic foram δ18O (Zachos, et al., 2001) and HadSST3 ( Hadley Centre / UEA CRU via http://www.woodfortrees.org) plotted at same scale, tied at 1950 AD. Note: older is to the left.

            Bear in mind that the HadSST3 data are of much higher resolution than the δ18O time series. The amplitude of the proxy time series on multi-decadal to centennial time-scales should be considered to be the minimum of the true variability on those time-scales, due to the much lower resolution than the instrumental data (Ljungqvist, F.C. 2010). Despite this, the modern ~1 °C rise since pre-industrial times doesn’t even break out of the Pleistocene noise level… another 1 °C rise won’t even break out of the Pleistocene noise level.

          • The feedstocks for petrochemicals can be manufactured.
            Your desire to impoverish people today just in case the people 100’s of years from now might need something would be funny, if it weren’t so tragic.

          • We have no idea what the rate of carbon release was during the PETM. That estimate based on carbon isotope (δ13C) excursions. Even using δ13C we are nowhere near the PETM ballpark.

            The CO2 proxy data for the PETM put it anywhere from 400 to over 2,000 ppm. Even if we are relasing carbon at a PETM pace, atmospheric CO2 hasn’t broken out of the Neogene noise level…

            Temperatures have not even broken out of the Quaternary noise level, much less approached those of the PETM…

            Even another 1 °C rise won’t even break out of the Pleistocene noise level…

            And the big bogeyman, “Chicken Little of the Sea is nowhere in sight…

            The PETM was an actual example of lysoclinal shoaling (called ocean acidification since 2008.

            If we are releasing CO2 to the atmosphere at a PETM pace, it just demonstrates that the climate is incredibly insensitive to CO2… Which it is…

            A climate sensitivity of 1.28 °C per doubling of atmospheric CO2 is insignificant.

          • FORECASTING THE FUTURE. We can now try to decide if we are now in an interglacial stage, with other glacials to follow, or if the world has finally emerged from the Cenozoic Ice Age. According to the Milankovitch theory, fluctuations of radiation of the type shown in Fig. 16-18 must continue and therefore future glacial stages will continue. According to the theory just described, as long as the North and South Poles retain their present thermally isolated locations, the polar latitudes will be frigid; and as the Arctic Ocean keeps oscillating between ice-free and ice-covered states, glacial-interglacial climates will continue.

            Finally, regardless of which theory one subscribes to, as long as we see no fundamental change in the late Cenozoic climate trend, and the presence of ice on Greenland and Antarctica indicates that no change has occurred, we can expect that the fluctuations of the past million years will continue.

            Donn, William L. Meteorology. 4th Edition. McGraw-Hill 1975. pp 463-464

            The warmth of the PETM was mostly due to plate tectonics…

            At the transition from the Eocene to the Oligocene, Antarctica drifted over the south polar region initiating the Cenozoic ice age. Oceanic circulation was fundamentally reorganized during the Paleogene…



            Scotese, C. R., 2001. Atlas of Earth History, Volume 1, Paleogeography,
            PALEOMAP Project, Arlington, Texas, 52 pp.

          • Now you are not only claiming to be tell what people who are even born yet are thinking?
            Why do you assume that our descendents are going to be happy because we failed to do things that would have made them wealthy.

            BTW, if you follow your nonsensical advice, nobody would ever be able to any resource, ever.

        • Fossil fuels are SUPER-RENEWABLE. Once burned, they become food, wood, etc, which can be burned again and again forever.

          Fossil fuels and ONLY fossils–you can have your cake and eat it too.

          Fossils and ONLY fossils increase the carrying capacity of the ‘Earth for Life. I do not consider Life to be a loss.

        • Fossil fuels are recycled! The “Great Greening^тм” has increased forest cover of the planet by nearly 20% and “leafing out” even more, along with bumper crop doubling even with reduced land use. Hey, not only are we rapidly increasing habitat but we could burn this new wood over again.

          The greening is the only unequivocal palpable anthropo Climate Change event and the greens (ironically) are loathe to mention it. Why? Because doubled harvests and expanded habitat, particularly in arid areas, makes CO2 a hugely net positive in cost benefit terms. Oh yeah, you can cite a piddling few papers that say its really a disaster, but anyone who exercises reason can reject that notion out of hand. You know the greening is also an endothermic process- it may be a contributor to the Dreaded Pause.

        • Fossil fuels convert to carbon dioxide and water which return eventually to biomass. None of carbon, hydrogen, or oxygen is being “depleted”. It just cycles through different forms.

          Fossil fuels are useful especially for transportation fuels because they have a high energy density. But if we didn’t have this cheap source of fuel, we could produce all the hydrocarbons we need for transportation fuel from biomass. All we need is an energy source such as nuclear power.

  6. Resources? We’re running out of resources, are we? We’re just using it up at an abominably high rate?

    Then take all that electronics junk of the market, and see just how long that entire population group of silly people lasts without that stuff. Please do it quickly, too. Take away the electronic junk, the clothing, accessories and shoes made of synthetics derived from petroleum waste, take away the chemicals used to make soap and shampoo and other such things, take away the delivery systems that bring all those exotic foods they cotton to the markets, and see just how long these twigs and others like them last.

    Do it in the winter. Makes it a lot more interesting.

  7. Also metals are recycled. A quick internet search gave 35 pct of USA copper use is from recycled copper. As price goes up not only do uneconomical mines reopen but also industry starts looking for alternatives. As for oil it reminds me of the old saying “The cure for high oil prices is high oil prices”.

  8. “But world crude oil reserves increased 150 percent, from 27 years of supply to 46 years of supply at higher production rates.” does that not refute the headline?

        • The “46 year supply” consists of proved reserves. This is the volume of oil that will be economically produced (>90% probability) over a specific period of time under current economic and technological conditions. Proved reserves are less than probable reserves (>50% probability) and just a tiny fraction of technically recoverable resources.

          Proved reserves grow with production because we are converting probable reserves and constingent resources into proved reserves…

          Most reserve additions don’t come from new discoveries. They come from reservoir management and field development operations.

          • Reminds me of the Beaverdell Silver mine in British Columbia. 90 years of very high quality silver ore mining. The odd thing is that they never had more than 2 1/2 years of proven ore at any one time. One only explores until one has what he needs.

          • I never drilled a well for the sole purpose of booking reserves… Rate is what pays the bills.

        • Jack,
          Get a grip. These concepts have been explained.
          12:00 Midnight is a finite number. The world won’t end when the clock gets there.
          Somehow we will add another hour, and then another.
          Reading previous posts on this subject should help you out.
          Also try: Julian Simon’s book “The Ultimate Resource.”

        • There is a point that needs to be explained that has been missed. Probably because it is self-evident to people who work in industry. It is this:
          Converting resources into reserves is not free.

          It costs time and effort to find the resources. It costs time and effort to plan their extraction. It even costs time and effort to legally defend your rights to the resources.

          So having too much reserves is wasteful. That money could be spent investing in something is going to be used this year. Holding reserves is a cost – an opportunity cost.

          If you have reserves for the next 46 years you are definitely not going to prioritise looking for any more at this time. Thus the upper limit to reserves is not dependent on the available resources.

          And if the available resources do become limiting the price rises and more resources become viable to convert into reserves. Hence a discussion of prices tells you all you need to know about the availability of useful materials.

  9. I used to worry about saving some resources for my children … but upon learning we only have 12-1/2 years left before the planet incinerates itself … I no longer care. Eat, drink and be merry, for life is short. The CAGW eco-zombies have real difficulty with that “merry” part. They’ve all got a permanent vegan scowl on their emaciated faces

    • About half of those vegans probably sneak a hamburger when the girlfriend isn’t looking.

      It was a well-known ploy when I was young that if you wanted to get laid fairly easily with a dull but just bed-able girl, you could go to local greenie-eco blah-blahs and pretend to be another vacuous greenie knob. Mirror them, dress like them, speak like them, go to a couple of hippie ‘parties’ and you’d get laid plenty. This same rule of thumb will apply to about half the declared vegans also – they’ll be carnivores girrls! This is partly why the greens in Australia have become a hotbed of endless sexual ‘harassment’ complaints and accusations. The other part is that they deliberately invite all the deviates and sex addicts within the seedy parts of society to their smorgasbord of heart-felt hypocritical political ’causes’, to save the world.

      Bless ’em.

  10. I just read a report from the EIA that recently came out with the question How much natural gas does the United States have, and how long will it last?
    I really thought we had a lot more, like hundreds of years of it. This report says we have about 80 years.
    America has to stop converting coal power plants to natural gas! We have over 600 years of coal available.

    It’s time that the DOE and the EPA plans the best use of our fossil energies so that we can still turn on the lights in 100 years and later. Clean Coal is the solution. https://youtu.be/RQRQ7S92_lo
    WE also have to start using our natural gas as efficiently as possible. http://www.SidelSystems.com

    • Don’t worry. There are hardly-tapped new energy sources, such as described here working towards the goal of commercialization:

      “Oxygen and Silver Nanoparticle Aerosol Magnetohydrodynamic Power Cycle”

      Energy density: the kinetic energy of the fluid is converted to MHD power in proportion to the loading factor W at a power density of 23.1 MW/liter


      A related design (not MHD, but a heat source only) undergoing a calorimetry test in the lab this last January (2019):

  11. Why do we have so many Doom and Gloom people. Is it a faith based thing,
    that as with the major faiths Guilt is a essential thing, they the faith use
    Guilt as a lever to control those who believe.

    Look at history and consider just how a minor cult, the Jesus offshoot of the
    Hebrew faith, with a little help from the Emperor Constantine, developed
    into a political force strong enough that the Pope in Rome could order
    crowned heads of the different countries in Europe , under the threat of Ex-communication , to do what he wanted them to do, such as to go to war
    with countries who did not do what he wanted them to do.

    So are today’s Doom and Gloom people with their constant talk that we
    are living way beyond our means, now being used by the likes of the United
    Nations to create a levelling of the worlds countries so that the West will no
    longer be so much better off than the 3 rd world countries who are now the
    majority in the UN

    Just a thought.


    • I think you lump all in together whereas one actually stands out more than the others, and, although your early experience may have involved ‘guilt trips’, this is an easy trick most often used by those in lower authority (and teaching profession) positions rather than the use of techniques that reach higher in the human mind and heart. The founding premise of the one true does not need to lay a ‘guilt trip’ on you. Doubting Thomas even had the opportunity to examine “the evidence” prima facia up close and personal on top of what had been witnessed previously.

      Continued appearance of “apparitions” throughout history (accompanied by miracles which, upon close examination could have no other origin than divine) go to bear out the one, true as well.

      Mods, a little leeway merci as I approach uiolare et frangere morsu subiecti.

  12. So what if we deplete a resource? It’s still better than not using it at all. We’ll either find a replacement, get along without it, or die from its’ lack. In the meantime making use of our resources to search for viable replacements will be at least possible. I don’t get the logic producing all the anxiety.

    • What’s the difference between not using a resource at all, ever, and running out at some point in the distant future?

      The argument is that we have to impoverish ourselves now, otherwise our many times great grandchildren might face economic difficulties.

      The smart thing is to use the resources we have today in order to increase our net wealth. Then our descendants can use that wealth to solve their problems, using technology we haven’t even dreamed of yet.

  13. A second thought, as stated modern technology enables us to economically
    recover metals from very small amounts in the dug up ore.

    So will it be possible in the not too distant future to in effect “Mine” the

    As I understand it all of the worlds minerals exist in minor quantities in the
    Oceans. Could our present or near future technology economically
    “extract”” such wealth from the Oceans. Now that would truly be a
    ” Forever” thing.

    It would probably nee a lot of energy, which hopefully via nuclear, would be available.

    MJE VK5ell

  14. Even if we dig everything out of the ground, it’s not like it disappears. It gets made into things. And those things don’t go away. They’re still here. At some time in the future we’ll reach a point where it’s easier or more economical or both to simply recycle everything we make, reversing the energy intensive processes of making things like microchips or circuit boards.

    Or we’ll just go grab some space rocks and start building stuff up above.

  15. I’ve always been stumped by the enviro-left’s calls to “conserve resources” by not touching them. Something is a resource if and only if one has a use for it, and makes use of it for that purpose. So not touching “resources” is an oxymoron. Uranium was first discovered in 1789, and the metal was first isolated in 1841. But it had absolutely no use other than as a pigment to color glass – a real niche. From the late 1800s through the early 1930s, the power of nuclear reactions – which natural uranium is uniquely capable of sustaining – revealed a use that was world-changing. Uranium thus has a use, though as a country, we have almost completely abandoned using it for the purposes of generating the energy we need to sustain a civilization. Uranium is ubiquitous. But if we don’t use it, it isn’t a resource.

  16. Steve Goreman, well said, but its even rosier than you said. We don’t demand copper or zinc or any other specific resource. We demand corrosion proofing, impermiable rooves, comunications, energy…. and the resource of human ingenuity supplies ever-expanding and cheaper choices. I’m pleased and proud to have spent 60 years in mining, processing and metallurgical fields. I vigorously excoriated the club of Rome when their naive zero sum petri dish world book came out.

    Other dimensions of the bounty include miniaturization – my first computer was an airconditioned room bigger than my first apartment and today, my cell phone in my shirt pocket dwarfs the first ones computing power. I touched on substitution and of course the stock of mined , manufactured, in use and scrapped metals in particular and a growing number of non metals. There is a good chance some atoms of gold in your wedding ring came from the Gold Coast crossed the Sahara in a caravan un the Middle Ages. Lithium was a rare commodity when there was little demand for it a half a dozen mines produced all we needed up until the 1990s. Today there are 400 lithium projects under development and counting.

    Scandium mines in Australia and by product Sc is expanding in use. It sells for ~$2000/kg -used in special alloys- sports equipment…you will likely have held it in your hands (alloy in aluminum baseball bats!). 17 rare earth metals (I hold a patent for separating these metals – along with hydrometallurgy ones for lithium Gary Pearse patents) give us lasers, supermagnets, catalysts, phosphors for color TV, computer displays, etc.

  17. Our national news papers feature a columnist by the name of Gwyn Dyer based over seas who has been syndicated to our national news papers .
    This clown has been preaching for at least 30 years that the world will run out of resources such as oil and most minerals, and has been spouting about Peak oil and peak most other commodities for a very long as time .
    As far as I am aware not one of his predictions have ever eventuated.
    I can not understand why the news papers keep paying him to rave on as he does.
    The simple reason is that they want to fill their paper up and they don’t want to print real news if it does not fit their left leaning agenda.
    For example Peter Ridd and his victory in Australia against the James Cook University did not get even a mention in any news paper or TV news here in New Zealand .
    The sooner climate change is relegated back to its rightful place and scientists and governments prioritize what really matters for the welfare of the worlds population the better every one will be now and far into the future .

  18. Well I certainly don’t want to live next to an open pit copper mine, nor next to a strip mine, anymore than I want to live next to Wind turbine farm. Hell you couldn’t get me to live in Manhattan or LA or Houston for that matter.

    That said, it is amazing the Greens hate nuclear. I mean everything they say they want to do, ultimately their policies will lead to the very thing they say they want to avoid.

    They say they want to lower birth rates, which I also think is generally a good thing too.
    But then when you look at humanity, the highest birthrates are in the poorest countries. The lowest birthrates today are in places like France, Sweden, Japan, Russia — places with good energy security today.

    So why do the Green’s policies ensure that energy poverty, and thus poverty in total, will be the predominate feature of 22nd Century humanity? if we follow their energy prescriptions for the next 80 years, poverty and thus high birthrates will likely be the global human condition in the hear 2100.
    And the richest countries are the countries most able to afford clean technology, like good waste water treatment, waste disposal.
    A country gets rich by having an industrious population. The industrial revolution was late coming to Japan, but the industry of the Japanese allowed them to quickly become a rich first world nation, once they outgrew their imperialistic tendencies.
    A rich properous country doesn’t happen by hand-outs such as the UN Climate Aid Fund. If one were to actually want the 3rd World to remain poor, then the Climate Aid Fund is exactly the prescription to employ.

  19. My favourite lunacy is when I start talking about LFTR nuclear technology and I am met with “It’s not renewable”. Neither are the rare earth minerals for the windmills and I’ll bet we run out of a lot of things before we run out of Thorium.

  20. Er.. no.
    The RAW MATERIALS are natural. They only become resources once they have been processed by humans…

    • Raw materials are the resources… it’s the definition of resources.


      Their Importance:

      · Essential for industrial and economic development of nations.

      · Copper, tin & iron ore were essential to the ancient metal-using cultures of the Bronze & Iron Ages.

      · Used in construction, engineering and chemical industries.

      · Railways, computers, cars, skyscrapers etc in modern society depends upon the exploitation of mineral resources.

      What are minerals?

      · A naturally occurring inorganic substance.

      · Created by (natural) geological processes but transformed into mineral resources by cultural processes.

      Types of Minerals:

      FUEL (coal, oil and natural gas) and…

      NON-FUEL minerals resources.

      NON-FUEL minerals are sub-divided into:

      · METALLIFEROUS (i.e. gold, silver iron) &

      · NON-METALLIFEROUS (i.e limestone, potashhttp://web.ccsu.edu/faculty/kyem/GEOG473/7thWeek/Mineral_resources.htm

      When we drill wells and dig mines, we convert resources into reserves and then to useful products.

  21. A simply excellent posting which should serve as a useful antidote to the endless mind-numbing drivel of death by lack of “whatever” we keep being shovelled by WWF/Greedpeace and their Borg clone supporters.
    Of course, the point that has often been made on this website is that the most valuable resource of all is the endless ability of human beings to invent and innovate. Probably why the extremists leading at the bottom of the Green movement swamp hate humanity so much.

  22. And the Earth, and Darwin, has a convenient mechanism for purging the species ranging from calling down the occasional asteroid to volcanoes to the current round of glaciations. Then those that aren’t out hugging trees will adapt to the new conditions and thrive; those that do not adapt simple go extinct/fail to pass their DNA along. That includes the list of nations that can’t feed themselves (for example, see David Archibald’s book Twilight of Abundance).
    The Greens and the Left with their pursuit of “renewable” energy are assuring their extinction.

  23. I think mentioning Overshoot day here is misplaced.
    “Overshoot day”, a questionable calculation, is not about oil or minerals (deemed as finite resources) but about biological “renewable” resources that we use. It’s the day of the year when arguably we have consumed more than what the earth can renew in the whole year.

  24. In a related nod to recycling, the famed Rio Tinto Kennecott Copper mine (Bingham Canyon) produces silver, gold, lead, molybdenum, platinum and palladium as by-products of the copper mining process. The scale of the operation is astounding and the process extracts everything it can from the 400k long tons of material removed daily.

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