The Copper Conundrum

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how the scarcity of “rare-earth” minerals like lithium and cobalt will short-circuit the “green revolution”. In that regard, I came across an interesting 2022 Standard & Poors Global (SP Global) study on the amount of plain old everyday copper needed for a Net-Zero 2050 scenario. The study is entitled “The Future of Copper: Will the looming supply gap short-circuit the energy transition?“, and the answer is … yep. It will.

In my post “Bright Green Impossibilities” I listed a number of physical, political, and economic reasons why we can’t get to “Net-Zero” CO2 emissions by 2050. This post is about one reason that I didn’t mention in that post.

The problem is that copper is the material most suitable in most conditions for conducting electricity … and in addition, it’s used in building construction, appliances, electrical equipment, brass hardware, and cell phones, as well as expanding applications in communications, data processing, and storage.

[UPDATE: As several commenters have mentioned, aluminum is replacing copper for the transmission of electricity at high voltages (generally over 480V.) However, copper is still used for to-the-home and in-home wiring, as well as all the other uses listed above. And the numbers in the linked study and in the graphic below are unchanged.]

So if we’re going to go to an all-electric world, we’re going to need a truly massive amount of copper.

How much? Well, according to “The Future of Copper” linked above, here’s the bad news:

Figure 1. Estimates of the amount of copper needed to achieve Net-Zero 2050.

No bueno.

And as they say on the TV, “But wait, there’s more!” The USGS estimates that there are 880 million tonnes of recoverable copper in the ground. And here’s how that compares to the cumulative copper needs shown in Figure 1.

Figure 2. Cumulative amount of copper required for Net-Zero 2050 per Figure 1, and known recoverable copper reserves using current technology.

So … by 2040 we’ll need about all the proven reserves of copper we’ve currently located in the ground, and we’re still nowhere near Net-Zero 2050. We’re likely to find more in the ground, which will allow for further recoverable reserves. But it will generally be very poor ore and expensive to mine. “Back in the day”, as they say, ores which were 4% or even 6% copper were not uncommon. But newly discovered ores are on the order of 0.1% copper. Of course, as it becomes more scarce it will become more expensive, allowing poorer ores to be economically viable … but that leads to another problem.

The current London Metal Exchange price for copper is about ten thousand dollars per tonne. So the copper necessary for Net-Zero will cost a minimum of fourteen trillion dollars at current prices. However, as noted immediately above, as copper becomes more scarce the prices will inevitably rise. So the likely total cost will be at least fifty percent higher or even more, call it a minimum of twenty trillion dollars …

And that’s just for the smelted copper. It doesn’t include turning the copper into electrical wiring with insulation, transporting the wire and other copper products to where they’re going to be used, installing the new transmission lines, substations, switching gear, generators, and all the other costs to get the global electrical grid up to what would be required for an all-electrical world. Top consulting firm McKinsey says:

Our analysis of the industry-standard scenario for net zero by 2050 suggests that about $275 trillion in cumulative spending on physical assets, or approximately $9.2 trillion per year, would be needed between 2021 and 2050.

That means we’d have to spend $25 billion each and every day, including weekends, until 2050. Starting tomorrow. Riiight … full McKinsey article here.

And expanding any kind of mining faces a host of political, environmental, and regulatory problems. It can easily take ten years and billions of dollars before the first shovel goes into the ground. Opposition from “greens” has stopped almost all new mining in the US … while at the same time, those geniuses clamor for an end to fossil fuels.

A final difficulty factor. Much of the copper ore, and the majority of the refining and smelting facilities, are in … yep … China. From the linked study:

The challenge will be compounded by increasingly complex global geopolitical, trade, and country-level risk environments. There are several dynamics that will have a particular bearing on copper access. China holds a preeminent position in copper smelting (47%), refining (42%), and usage (54%), in addition to its sizable position in production, making it the epicenter of world copper. Continued trade tensions and other forms of competition between the United States and China could affect the copper market going forward. Supply chain resilience has emerged as a strategic imperative, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The study finds that by 2035 the United States will be importing between 57% and 67%—that is up to two-thirds—of its copper needs. An intensifying competition for critical metals is very likely to have geopolitical implications.

And if you think the Chines won’t play those “geopolitical implications” to their advantage, you don’t understand our Eastern friends.

So can we please stop this Net-Zero nonsense? It’s an impossible goal that will not solve an imaginary problem, and it will bankrupt us all, cause widespread energy poverty, and shaft the poor in the process.

Best to everyone on a lovely winter day,


As Is My Wont: I can defend my words. I can’t defend others’ interpretations of my words. So when you comment, please quote the exact words you are discussing.

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Tom Halla
January 24, 2023 10:10 am

There were proposed mines in Minnesota and Alaska. I do believe the greens oppose mining, period.

Reply to  Tom Halla
January 24, 2023 1:36 pm

Biden canceled the lease for the Twin Metals mine in North Eastern Minnesota in January of 22 after the company spent millions on environmental impact statements and getting the green light from the Trump Administration. It was to be a copper nickel mine with trace platinum and cobalt recoverable. The people who live on the range wanted it, greens who do not live there did not.

Bryan A
Reply to  J2NH
January 24, 2023 2:10 pm

And then there is that miniscule insignificant issue of REPLACING the FF transportation fleet with Electric Engined Batty-ry powered autos and the 20 times current global copper production needed to replace the current UK vehicles or the nearly 50 times global production increase needed to replace the U.S. fleet or the additional VAST copper mining increase necessary to replace the 2.2B global transportation fleet

Last edited 13 days ago by Bryan A
Reply to  Tom Halla
January 24, 2023 5:49 pm

think canada, chile, mexico. peru

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Steven Mosher
January 25, 2023 6:16 am

Because it’s perfectly OK for economically strategic metals to be under the control of foreign powers, none of whom will ever consider using them to leverage better trade terms or whatever.

Last edited 12 days ago by D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Steven Mosher
January 25, 2023 1:30 pm

All woke as well, good luck getting huge numbers of mines approved.

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  Steven Mosher
January 25, 2023 3:30 pm


Have you met our Prime Moron Trudeau.

What a great comment

January 24, 2023 10:11 am

Thanks Willis.

Clearly, or perhaps not so clearly, the bigger problem in all of this is IGNORANCE. A well informed society would already know by now that NET ZERO and the other pie-in-the-sky dreams, are not needed, and are, in any case, unachievable.

Reply to  cuddywhiffer
January 24, 2023 2:14 pm

Those who visit WUWT are able to tamp down their ignorance. Any chance the articles here will make it to the High Schools and U’s.?

Richard Greene
Reply to  cuddywhiffer
January 24, 2023 2:15 pm

Ignorance is not the problem at all.
Nor is incompetence
You and Willis have to learn to think like a leftist.
Start as a conservative, and delete reason and accountability

If you start by thinking about the leftist goal, every leftist decision is easily explained. Not just some decisions — every decision

Leftists hate capitalism
Capitalism has disappeared
Socialism has taken its place
The US is now a socialist nation. In 2022, 34.5% of GDP was government spending at all levels. That’s enough to meet my personal definition of socialism (over 33%).

There was a fundamental transformation from capitalism to socialism in 2020, 2021 and 2022 though massive government spending and unprecedented federal deficits in peacetime.

But the fundamental transformation continues — socialism was not the ultimate goal.

The next stop is fascism, and we are partially there with government/private censorship, persecution and prosecution of Trump and his supporters, Covid lockdowns, experimental vaccine mandates, and political prisoners in Washington DC since January 6, 2021.

Unfortunately, fascism is just the next stop of leftism — the final leftist destination is Marxism, which includes indoctrination in schools, the Marxist Critical Racist Theory, and the destruction of traditional Chrisian values in schools.

How does a nation move from socialism to fascism and Marxism?
Socialism must fail. Every leftist plan and decision is designed to make the current economic system fail. Not some decisions — all decisions. All leftist decisions with the same goal is not incompetence, or ignorance — it is a deliberate plan.

Now let’s jump to Nut Zero. We all should know here there is no climate crisis. I claim the current climate is the best climate in 5,000 years, based on climate proxy reconstructions.

There is no logical reason to justify Nut Zero. We immediately know Nut Zero will not stop the rise of atmospheric CO2 levels because over 7 billion of the world’s 8 billion people live in nations that could not care less about Nut Zero, including China and India.

Intelligent people like Willie E, and the comment by Rud Istvan, can easily prove Nut Zero is an impossible dream. Let’s not jump to the conclusion that every leftist does not know that. Nut Zero continues, without a real plan, cost unknown, feasibility unknown, and no successful pilot projects. There are long winded vision statements and an arbitrary completion date. So why is Nut Zero continuing?

Nut Zero is intended to fail.
The failed project has two goals:
(1) Long-term: Disrupt socialism and make people want a new economic system, and
(2) Short term: In a few years the obviously failing Nut Zero project will be spun as a new climate change emergency. And we all know leftists have only ONE solution for any emergency (whether a real or fake emergency) and that’s more government power.

The failing Nut Zero project will be the next “Climate Emergency” … and the only way to save the planet will be the usual leftist “solution”: MORE GOVERNMENT POWER.

I have been saying the same thing for a few years. I hope others will start seeing that Nut Zero is all about political power, unrelated to climate science and grid engineering. The leftists are not incompetent or ignorant. They are power hungry and devious in getting what they want. And making great progress in the past few years.

Leftists want the world to be ruled by leftist “experts”. And they have to destroy the current economic system (socialism) to get the power they want.

Every leftist decision has that goal. From open borders with Mexico, to Critical Racist Theory, to Climate Change scaremongering, to Nut Zero. They all have the same goal — ruin what works in the US to promote the leftist fundamental transformation goal — last stop, Marxism

If you want to do further reading, look up the:

Cloward–Piven strategy – Wikipedia

Richard Greene
Bingham farms, Michigan
Election Circus

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Richard Greene
January 24, 2023 2:32 pm

I would suggest that you have substituted socialism for welfare. The old definitions of Marxism I was taught long ago are as follows:

Fascism – govt control of business and capital
Socialism – govt ownership of business and capital
Communism – collective ownership of business and capital.

The welfare state is a precursor to it all. Make people dependent on government and then the move through the phases of Fascism, Socialism, and Communism is smoothed.

Authoritarianism is possible under both Marxism and capitalism. Again, the welfare state is a precursor to authoritarianism, make the people dependent on government and exerting government authority over them is facilitated.

The US is well down the road to being a welfare state. That has facilitated the move in the US to both fascism and authoritarianism. You can gauge the move to authoritarianism by looking at the growth of the Bureaucratic Hegemony we live under. Our elected representatives are no longer in charge of what happens in the US, the unelected BH is, at least federally.

Richard Greene
Reply to  Tim Gorman
January 24, 2023 5:52 pm

I was the writer of a for-profit economics newsletter — ECONOMIC LOGIC — for 43 years. I based my economic system definitions on nations of the world — reality — rather than the traditional textbook definitions of economic systems.

For example

= government spending under 33% of GDP

= Capitalism plus a significant welfare state
— Government spending above 33% of GDP (government spending is mainly transfer payments)

= Socialism plus election fraud and significant government control of private business, such as
— Nut Zero to control electric utilities
— EPS 49mpg CAFE for 2026 model to control auto industry
— Promoting censorship by social media and mass media
— Covid shot mandates to control medical care industry

Marxism (Communism) = No elections, or massive election fraud, and significant ownership of industry
— Not necessarily government ownership of every industry

Fascism can lead to Marxism because government experts can ruin the industries they try to micro-manage. The ultimate goal is for government “experts” to run all businesses. Unfortunately, “run” often becomes “ruin”, under government control.

Reply to  Richard Greene
January 31, 2023 9:41 am

Actually, in reality Tim Gorman is correct about Fascism, and Socialism by your definition is more like Economic Fascism by political policies that are picking winners over losers to generate greater revenue through all forms of taxation (a graduated Individual Income Taxes, stamps, fees, duties, licenses, excise taxes, estate & gift taxes, capital gains taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, inheritance taxes, etc.) and uses regulations and standards to achieve it. It is a myth that Fascism is “Right-wing” and that a dictator is needed whenever a president or other named leaders are given the power to dictate policies, and when a multi-party system of Congresses or Parliments can create the same goals under different policies. Many well-known economists say that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s era of congressional policies brought Economic Fascism to America where precedence’s were created and have been built upon ever since.

January 24, 2023 10:17 am

Aluminum is a passable conductor of electricity and is used in at least some applications. I suspect it won’t come close to solving the problem but it might be an idea worthy of study since it appears we are royally screwed when it comes to copper.

Reply to  honestyrus
January 24, 2023 10:34 am

Silver is the best conductor.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  doonman
January 24, 2023 10:39 am

Sure. Now price out your new house wiring in Silver vs. Copper…

Last edited 13 days ago by AGW is Not Science
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
January 24, 2023 3:43 pm

When we run out of copper, silver and aluminum, use gold.

I’m sure the “elite” will be happy to donate all their gold in order to save the planet.

Peter K
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
January 25, 2023 2:23 am

I used around 20kg of copper wires for my whole house. Price of Copper is around 10,000$/t, that means I spent around 200$ for Copper.
Silver is around 23$/oz, that means it is around 759$/kg. So my 20kg of wires would cost 15,000$.
For somebody it would be possible for sure, but not me…
Aluminum is around 2-3 times cheaper than Copper, it is possible to make home installation with Aluminum without bigger problems. I saw Aluminum home installation around 50 years old which are working. Biggest problem with Aluminum is contacts oxidation.
But Aluminum can replace Copper home installations instantaneously.
Although I really can not imagine using Aluminum inside of electric motors and transformers…

Reply to  Peter K
January 25, 2023 11:40 am

A “rule of thumb” (that I’ve always been told) that you want to observe with Aluminum is that if you are using a 14AWG or 12AWG copper conductor you will need to scale up your aluminum conduct to be 12AWG or 10AWG. Also, you need to be careful at junctions where the copper and aluminum (if there is a blended system) connect.

Mark Bahner
Reply to  Peter K
January 25, 2023 11:46 am

Although I really can not imagine using Aluminum inside of electric motors and transformers…

I can imagine it. But then, I see farther than most people, because I stand on the shoulders of giants…

…or at least I’m aware of current research in this area.

Reply to  Peter K
January 25, 2023 1:36 pm

It’s 2-3 times cheaper (half to 1/3 the cost?) now, but eco watermelons have driven up the cost of electricity which is a big factor in aluminum production.

So expect it to close the gap, unless aluminum producers can work with free electricity from wind turbines spinning when they aren’t needed by the rest of society.

Reply to  Peter K
January 31, 2023 9:49 am

If silver were used the wire gauge would be much smaller to carry the same current but the weight between copper and silver would be different too.

Loren Wilson
Reply to  doonman
January 24, 2023 12:04 pm

Where is the room temperature superconductors we read about in sci-fi novels? They would be so useful.

Krishna Gans
Reply to  Loren Wilson
January 24, 2023 1:43 pm

We have to follow Tesla and use wireless transmission 😀

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Loren Wilson
January 24, 2023 2:30 pm

RTS is unlikely to ever come about give current physics theories of how superconductivity arises. Temperature causes by definition an increase in molecular agitation, very bad for Cooper pairs of electrons. That is why RTS remains in the domain of sci-fi.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 25, 2023 4:30 pm

We still have “high” temperature superconductors that operate at 77 K, the temperature of liquid nitrogen. As copper cost increases, high Tc superconducting transmission lines nay become competitive. It isn’t sci-fi, either.
Reply to  Loren Wilson
January 26, 2023 7:24 am

I think you’ll find room temperature superconductors in the same aisle as cold fusion.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  doonman
January 24, 2023 2:27 pm

Small correction. Gold is as good as silver, and doesn’t corrode/tarnish. The A/V cables in my high end system all have gold plated terminals for that reason. (I live directly on the ocean and corrosion is an issue when we have the ocean balcony doors open all winter.) The only problem is that gold is MUCH more expensive than silver, which is MUCH more expensive than copper.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 24, 2023 5:36 pm

Gold is actually the 3rd best. The 10 best metals (equal gauge), in order of best conduction are silver, copper, gold, aluminum, zinc, nickel, brass, bronze, platinum, steel, lead, stainless steel. Gold does not tarnish as you point out which makes it more reliable at junctions.

Reply to  doonman
January 25, 2023 5:24 am

Because of the need for copper to produce brass, during WWII, power lines at Oak Ridge were made of silver. It was quickly reclaimed after the war ended.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  honestyrus
January 24, 2023 10:44 am

Aluminum wire has to be bigger and bulkier to conduct the same amount of electricity as copper, so not a good substitute for a lot of applications.

It also has a significant issue with expansion and contraction that causes arcing and fires.

Mix that up with lithium batteries and Tesla might as well call their resulting ev the “Cherry Bomb.”

Reply to  AGW is Not Science
January 24, 2023 12:40 pm

Aluminum is useful for long distance, high voltage transmission lines. It’s bulkier, but it’s also a lot lighter so you can make lighter weight support towers.
The other problem is that long distance high voltage lines are a fairly small percentage of all the transmission lines out there.

Reply to  honestyrus
January 24, 2023 11:04 am

It was tried in home building in the 70’s and 80’s when copper was more scarce. It works, but not particularly well. It flows when under pressure, like attempts to make a good connection, leading to arcing etc.

Reply to  terry
January 24, 2023 5:27 pm

Yes, aluminum is clearly inferior to copper in most applications.

Many years ago, British Telecom tried using aluminum for telephone wiring in order to save money. It did not work out well at all and cost them a great deal of money in repair and ultimately replacement costs.

Loren Wilson
Reply to  honestyrus
January 24, 2023 12:03 pm

High voltage transmission lines are aluminum with a steel core. Aluminum used to be used for low voltage wiring (480 and below) but caused too many house fires.

Reply to  Loren Wilson
January 24, 2023 1:30 pm

I have attached a photo of typical steel reinforced aluminium bare conductor used for overhead transmission.

More details on this link:

These cables are commonly used for overhead lines. They have been around for a long time; certainly the 1960s and maybe before that.

Screen Shot 2023-01-25 at 8.26.41 am.png
Reply to  RickWill
January 26, 2023 7:39 am

I worked in the distribution engineering department the summers of 1956 and 1957 while an engineering student. Nearly all the distribution cable (from substations to the home entrance box) was “ACSR,” Aluminum Cable Steel Reinforced. And when I replaced the original oven in my home built in 1981, the cable from the fuse box to the oven was aluminum.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  honestyrus
January 24, 2023 2:43 pm

Much of the wire for net-zero will be used in motors and transformers. Aluminum is not the best choice for these uses. Aluminum is more brittle and doesn’t have the turn radius capability of copper (i.e you can’t wind it as tight). Copper wire for the same current capacity is smaller than aluminum wire so makes motors and transformers smaller.

Aluminum is a good choice for transmission lines because of lower weight but those will not be the biggest use for net-zero.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  honestyrus
January 24, 2023 8:51 pm

People have shied away from using aluminum since the ’70s because of a tendency to oxidize to a high-resistance coating. The high-resistance film generates resistive heat and caused a lot of fires. There are applications where it is safe to use, but it has less flexibility than copper.

Reply to  honestyrus
January 25, 2023 5:50 am

Where is all the electricity to smelt the aluminum going to come from?

David Kamakaris
January 24, 2023 10:23 am

I’ve often thought that someday we will be mining our landfills for valuable materials that at one time were considered to be trash. I wonder how many electrical devices have been tossed into the dump in the past 100 years, just loaded with copper and other valuable elements.

Yeah, I know. This is all pretty far fetched. But not as far fetched as this Nut Zero crap.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 24, 2023 9:00 pm

On the other hand, the Keweenaw Peninsula has a lot of abandoned native copper mines. In recent years, the dumps have been crushed for road metal (literally). While I understand that larger pieces of copper are screened out, I’m certain that a lot of copper is ending up in roads, rather than being extracted for smelting. It seems that the left-hand often doesn’t know what the right-hand is doing.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 25, 2023 5:54 am

The copper deposit in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan extends westward under Lake Superior all the way to Isle Royale.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 27, 2023 5:52 am

Copper is a highly recycled material. Since the start of the last century, 95% of the copper produced is still in use but there still won’t be enough for NutZero.

Reply to  David Kamakaris
January 24, 2023 12:42 pm

I suspect most of the stuff that is thrown out, that has copper in it, are household appliances with relatively small motors. High cost and minimum return.
The most part, the big stuff is already being recycled.

Reply to  MarkW
January 24, 2023 1:46 pm

Ore is defined as a mineral that contains material of economic value. Hence a resource estimation is based on the value of the contained material and the cost to extract it. The only difference between rock and ore is the cost to treat it in combination with the extractable value.

Land fill is probably easier to treat than hard rock in terms of the energy involved. Most mineral rock has to be ground to very fine powered. The last project I was involved in was grinding rock to 80% passing 7 micron. Way finer than bug dust. A huge amount of energy goes into grinding the rock.

So land fill has some advantage to start with. Separating the various materials of value will be an issue.

Most recycle now occurs ahead of landfill. USA has a very good record for recycling materials in vehicles and appliances.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  RickWill
January 24, 2023 2:47 pm

And in construction. Where I live, we have an enormous amount of old beach house tear down/mansion rebuild. They inevitably have a recycling truck come for the copper wiring and plumbing. They even hand sort the refuse, because it is that valuable now.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  David Kamakaris
January 24, 2023 2:42 pm

Fun story from back when I was global strategy offices head at Motorola. We had a fairly big and expensive Schaumburg campus program on how to recycle cell phones and such for the valuable (gold, silver, high purity silicon, copper) materials. We would shred them fine, dissolve the shreds in a nitric/sulfuric acid mix, then refine out the metals. Only problem was, the cost was about a thousand times the value of the recovered metals. I finally shut it down over considerable green research lab protests.

Reply to  David Kamakaris
January 24, 2023 3:49 pm

Dump the landfill material into a big hopper and heat with fusion reactor energy until it’s a plasma. Use magnetic separation to direct different atomic weight elements to collection bins. Easy-peasy … in a thousand years.

Joe Shaw
Reply to  JamesB_684
January 24, 2023 5:03 pm

If you can figure out how to make that work you may want to whip up some weapons grade U235 as as a side hustle. I am sure there is a market.

John Hultquist
Reply to  David Kamakaris
January 24, 2023 7:09 pm

Recently, in Washington State, the cables at EV charging stations have attracted attention of thieves. Catalytic converters have also been targeted. The converters can be replaced rather quickly but the complete cable for the chargers is more difficult and costly. Also, of course, the charge isn’t available for months and complicates the whole EV business.
Using similar techniques, there is a lot of recyclable Copper to be had.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  John Hultquist
January 24, 2023 9:32 pm

I wondered how long that would take. The lighting poles in some of our public parks have stickers at the access ports that say, “Aluminum wires inside. No copper.”
Reply to  John Hultquist
January 26, 2023 7:47 am

Copper and brass have been popular with thieves in Arizona for at least the last 20 years. They’ve stolen statutes, yard art, plaques, electrical cable and anything they can sell. In the Philippines in the early 1960s, the local thieves would cut buried cable and pull it out of the ground with carabao.

Tim Spence
January 24, 2023 10:24 am

Transmission lines are normally made of Aluminium wrapped on a steel core. As for Copper and how much there remains to be mined depends on who is providing that data. Regardless, it’s a fact that there will be a shortfall and price adjustment.

Reply to  Tim Spence
January 24, 2023 10:42 am

Aluminum requires bauxite mining which requires heavy diesel equipment and then huge amperage of electricity to refine. So it’s a non starter in the environmental world.

Tim Spence
Reply to  doonman
January 24, 2023 10:46 am

Maybe, but I was replying to the statement “copper is the only material suitable for transmitting electricity”

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Tim Spence
January 24, 2023 11:59 am

Correct. Transmission of electricity, 69kV and up, predominantly uses aluminum wiring, as the lower conductivity is easily offset by larger cables that are much cheaper and stronger than copper. Not sure what the extent of use is on the distribution side, but I’ll bet that if most people look inside their service panels in their homes, they’ll see that the ‘drop’ from the street is most likely aluminum, as well.

Last edited 13 days ago by Frank from NoVA
Nick Stokes
Reply to  doonman
January 24, 2023 11:11 am

Aluminum requires bauxite mining”
Yes, and we do plenty of that. There is no shortage of bauxite. As Tim Spence says, aluminium, rather than copper, is the staple material for overhead transmission.

old cocky
Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 1:22 pm

Unfortunately, metallic Aluminium is solidified electricity.

Bauxite reserves probably aren’t sufficient, either, but that’ just because of the way that reserves are accounted for.

Geoff should be able to provide a good run-down, if he takes notice of this article.

As for copper, apparently the old Mt Lyell tailings are now being “mined” for copper.

Reply to  old cocky
January 25, 2023 3:39 pm

Love that!
“Solidified Electricity”
Sounds like an album title.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 2:00 pm

Okay, name some “abundant” bauxite production/deposits in North America or Europe or Japan.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  ResourceGuy
January 24, 2023 5:47 pm

Well, the name comes from Les Baux, in France. And then there is Bauxite, Arkansas.

But the big accumulations are in tropical regions.

John Hultquist
Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 7:18 pm

Replace “big” with “better” or big & better! 🧑‍🎄
List of countries by bauxite production – Wikipedia
Note Australia.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2023 8:16 am

Either you’re a bot or congrats on your internet search. Bauxite Arkansas has not produced aluminum from ore since WW2 and Alcoa has been spending on bauxite land reclamation for a generation. Also, go tell west Africans that their bauxite reserves and water/electricity capacity are unlimited. Might want to tell ISIS also. Then add bauxite digging to the two-faced approach of Australia in the great green debate, along with coal iron uranium natural gas and copper exports.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 3:25 pm

Aluminum is also the staple material for beer cans, hence the stewardship of this valuable resource is an existential imperative!

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  doonman
January 24, 2023 9:36 pm

Most aluminum smelters are located next to hydroelectric dams (or geothermal steam in Iceland) where there is that huge amperage of cheap reliable electricity you need for the smelting. The ore is mined in developing countries who don’t care too much about CO2 emissions from diesel equipment and transported long distances in ships whose emissions aren’t charged to any one country. So winners all round.

Robert Watt
January 24, 2023 10:24 am

The leaders of European car manufacturers are already telling their governments that the targets (2030/2035) for the elimination of ICE engined cars are unachievable and unrealistic.

Reply to  Robert Watt
January 24, 2023 12:39 pm

Yeah, but governments are really good at ignoring what they don’t want to hear.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  spetzer86
January 24, 2023 9:38 pm

So is industry if they hear what they can’t possibly do.

January 24, 2023 10:30 am

I knew hoarding all those pennies in coffee cans would pay off someday.

Reply to  doonman
January 24, 2023 10:53 am

My kids laugh at me for doing that very thing 1982 and older are real copper pennies, not the current copper washed zinc.

Reply to  doonman
January 24, 2023 12:43 pm

You do know that pennies haven’t been copper for a long time, no?
From the U.S. Mint

Copper coins, such as the penny, started as pure copper, but rising copper prices led to changes in composition. In 1857, the Mint added nickel to the copper, but switched to tin and zinc in 1864. For the year 1943, pennies became zinc-coated steel because copper was essential to the war effort during World War II. But the Mint also struck a limited number of copper pennies. In 1962 tin was eliminated, and in 1982 the penny became primarily zinc with only 2.5% copper

Gunga Din
Reply to  AndyHce
January 24, 2023 2:08 pm

I remember the 60’s. A Silver Dollar had the buying power of an ounce of silver.
A dime had the buying power of 1/10 of an ounce of silver.
(In the early 60’s my parents got us all into coin collecting. I’m missing 2 (maybe 3) dimes, Mercury and Roosevelt, from my collection up till the mid or later 60’s. All silver and the filled by dimes that were in circulation back then.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Gunga Din
January 24, 2023 9:40 pm

I like the way the old silver coins ring if you spin them on a hard table and let them gradually tip over as they slow down. I’ve got a few Canadian quarters and dimes from ?1960s that had some silver at least.

Reply to  AndyHce
January 24, 2023 8:54 pm

Of course. Intrinsic metals in coins has been systematically eliminated since 1932.

January 24, 2023 10:36 am

Well, those of us who happen to have copper pots and pans will have to give them up when the induction cooktops become mandatory. So we can all add them to the pile of copper that will be needed to make the windmills and solar panels and batteries work well. I think that the Chinese did something like this back in the 60s, to make iron and steel in back yards, and it turned out really well – look at them now!

Or, we could figure out some way to use aluminum instead. It has been done before, and I think that a LOT of transmission lines use it, so why not? Maybe this time we will figure out how to do it so that houses don’t burn down.

January 24, 2023 11:08 am

The Chines as Willis describes them are business people and act like capitalists. I’m having a real problem understanding all our local activity in mining these metals. China will always undersell our production, making it uneconomic. We used to have rare metal mines in N.A. but they couldn’t survive at our costs. What has changed?

Gunga Din
Reply to  terry
January 24, 2023 11:32 am

Nothing has changed. Their goal is the power, authority, to spread their ideology, by force if necessary, but they prefer to buy it by underselling The West. (Do they have a minimum wage?)

Gunga Din
January 24, 2023 11:11 am

I think that the rank and file that have bought into CAGW and its “solutions” have a mind set similar to what happens when they turn their faucet for water or flush their toilet.
They assume water will come out and the other will be gone.
No need to think about what it takes to get the water there or the other “not there”.
Dams and/or wells are usually required. Wastewater plants and/or septic systems are usually required.
The Green energy dream requires LOTS of mining for copper, lithium, cobalt … and, yes, coal or drilling for other fossil fuel. Even nuclear requires mining.
The Green Dream is ugly and it is not sustainable.

Last edited 13 days ago by Gunga Din
Reply to  Gunga Din
January 24, 2023 12:47 pm

I wonder what the ratio of copper in a 100MW coal power plant versus a 100MW of wind mills or 100MWs of solar panels? (Don’t forget the copper necessary to wire the mills or panels together, as well as the copper needed by the electronics necessary to connect those fields to the grid.

Reply to  MarkW
January 24, 2023 1:06 pm

Mark, I have summarised some of the issues at Cliscep:

Gunga Din
Reply to  MarkW
January 24, 2023 1:53 pm

Good question.
For the resources used, what actually delivers reliable power?

Reply to  MarkW
January 25, 2023 3:49 pm

At least the coal plant will generate power all the time, especially when you need it.

So 100MW of coal is worth at least 3x 100MW of wind, and that’s pretending there’s free magical batteries in the mix to hide the times no wind blows.

Mr Ed
January 24, 2023 11:13 am

Good article, My dad worked in the main office at the Anaconda Copper
Wire mill in Great Falls MT when I was a kid. There’s a proposed mine
near White Sulphur MT, The Black Butte project and another up in the
Cabinet’s that has been tied up by the enviros for a long time. A geologist
neighbor showed me a photo of a stack of boxes that were full of legal papers
regarding the court fight over the Cabinet Mtn mine. The stack was taller
than the guy standing next to it.. Last summer there was a helicopter flying around
the Boulder Batholith area doing some obvious mineral exploration work judging
by his flight paths. Phelps Dodge was up here back in the ’80’s when the Hunt
bros got into the silver market and flew the area heavily and did a huge bunch of
core drilling. I knew some of the old timers from that time and one of the core
drillers. There’s lots of minerals left but the greens won’t let it happen.

January 24, 2023 11:14 am

Yes, but Al Gore said the oceans are boiling and a billion climate refugees are coming …so anything goes to stop it….forward….into the abyss.

January 24, 2023 11:49 am

“Recoverable reserves” is a moving target; the higher the price of copper, the more “recoverable” reserves there are. (Just like oil)

Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 11:49 am

“The USGS estimates that there are 880 million tonnes of recoverable copper in the ground. And here’s how that compares to the cumulative copper needs shown in Figure 1.”

The S&P report cited here says something different:

“The total amount of copper on Earth is vast. The US Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that, as of 2015, identified resources contained 2.1 billion metric tons of copper, and undiscovered resources contained an estimated 3.5 billion metric tons. However, only a fraction of this geologic resource is economically viable at present-day prices and using current technologies. As noted above, copper by-products from manufacturing and obsolete products are readily recycled. This so-called “aboveground mine” contributes to supply.”
To put the growth in demand in perspective, S&P give this graph:

comment image

The grey is the requirement for the energy transition, green is growth of other markets. We’re going to need a lot more copper regardless of transition. By 2050, the need for transition will have doubled, from 8 to 16 MT/year. But the need for other purposes will have gone from 17 to 37 MT/year. So there is a problem to be solved, but energy transition is only a small part of it.

Dave Yaussy
Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 12:16 pm

“So there is a problem to be solved, but energy transition is only a small part of it.”

But the point, Nick, is that there won’t be enough copper to go around. Willis wasn’t blaming electrification for causing a copper shortage – yet. He was merely observing that there won’t be enough copper to carry out Net Zero. Regardless of how it is being used.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Dave Yaussy
January 24, 2023 12:23 pm

there won’t be enough copper to carry out Net Zero”

Then there won’t be enough copper for plumbing, roofing, phones etc either. The fact is that in 2050, as in 2023, there will be a supply of copper, and all users will compete for it. According to S&P, in 2021 we used about 1/3 of our copper for energy transition, and in 2050 we’ll do the same.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 12:50 pm

I love they way you ignore the point others are making.
Without the renewable power nonsense, the demand for copper is a lot lower.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  MarkW
January 24, 2023 12:58 pm

Without plumbing and roofing, the demand for copper is a lot lower too.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 1:57 pm

Plumbing & roofing are necessary.

Renewables are not.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Mr.
January 24, 2023 2:35 pm

So do you want a government authority telling you what you can use copper for?

The fact is, markets allocate use.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 4:01 pm

When Nick isn’t ignoring the point other people are making, he’s mis-characterizing it.
The only one using government to allocate resources are the renewable energy guys.
They also like to lie and claim that renewable energy is just the result of market forces, completely ignoring the fact that none of it would exist if it weren’t for government subsidies and mandates.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 5:22 pm

About 6 billion people around the world haven’t got a roof over their head or plumbing Nick.

They need the available copper for proper electricity (and plumbing).

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 6:10 pm

“The fact is, markets allocate use.”

To date, the market has driven us to a state where copper is not a primary need for either roofing or plumbing. (It does explain a lot if you really do have a concern as to whether or not you will be able to have a copper roof.)

And, it would be very nice if people like you would stay out of the way and allow the markets to allocate use.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 9:49 pm

What market allocates use of uranium in Australia?
Government policy does. Geoff S

Nick Stokes
Reply to  sherro01
January 25, 2023 12:44 pm

Would you want a free market in uranium?

This article is about copper.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2023 2:14 pm

My comment invalidated your evidence-free assertion that markets allocate use. They do not for uranium in Australia. More, they do not for fracked gas in Victoria. Geoff S

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 3:58 pm

And when in a hole, Nick’s first instinct is to dig faster.

Homes are needed. Renewable power isn’t.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 12:54 pm

A while back there was a geology oriented article that made calculations based on what we supposedly know about the composition of the earth’s crust, which obviously varies considerably in any given location so i guess this was about that mythical average. Anyway, the story was, take any general square mile and go down one mile, i.e. one cubic mile of the crust. The claim was that in that (average) cubic mile exist all the minerals the human race would need well into the future. This was well before the current political insanity but regardless, the idea is that, if the need is there and the technology is developed and the will is there, the minerals are there.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  AndyHce
January 24, 2023 9:10 pm

But, at what price? And, with what environmental side-effects?

old cocky
Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 1:37 pm

there won’t be enough copper for plumbing, roofing, phones etc either

Most plumbing seems to us high pressure poly-pipe now.

What copper is used for roofing? That’s not a smart-arse question, I just don’t know the area to any extent.

Phone don’t use much of any metals, but there are a lot of phones.

The bottom line, though, is that the price increases as demand increases, so it’s worthwhile mining lower grade ores. There is also a switch to substitutes, as noted above.

The “we’ll run out of X” argument is rarely convincing. “We don’t have the capability to do it in the stated time frame” is far more valid.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  old cocky
January 24, 2023 2:32 pm

According to
“Building construction accounts for nearly half of all copper use”

old cocky
Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 2:57 pm

Thanks for the link.

Plumbing must vary between countries/states. When our current house was built 20-odd years ago, the external and internal pipes were high pressure (blue line) poly pipe. The only copper was in the brass fittings. It’s not negligible, but far less than if the pipes had been copper as well. Quite a lot of what was formerly copper (eg cistern float) is now plastic, and there is scope for more use of other alloys or plastic.

There didn’t seem to be any mention of roofing, so that’s probably not much of a factor now. I think guttering and down pipes might have been copper in the past.

Reply to  old cocky
January 24, 2023 4:50 pm

not plastic! regardless of temperature, plastic will kill everything. Maybe hand bored rock pipes?

Reply to  old cocky
January 24, 2023 5:25 pm

How are you going to have plastic after the “Just Stop Oil” ratbags (or ‘Teals’) take over the government front benches?

old cocky
Reply to  Mr.
January 24, 2023 5:48 pm

You and Andy are indulging in scope creep. If copper becomes more expensive, substitution will take place where possible. That’s just how it works.
Possibly anodised Aluminium instead of brass for water fittings, to pluck something out of thin air.

Copper is probably still the most practical material for low voltage wiring, but some additional efficiencies may be possible. Increasing voltage lowers amperage for the same power. Automotive application switched from 6V to 12V in the 1950s, which allowed lighter wiring. LED lights draw much less power than incandescent. Fibre optics for tail lights?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  old cocky
January 24, 2023 9:13 pm

… so it’s worthwhile mining lower grade ores.

That means bigger holes in the ground, greater consumption of energy to mine and crush the ore, and a bigger waste disposal problem. The increases are geometric, not linearl

old cocky
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 24, 2023 9:52 pm

For the same output, yes.

Apparently it’s now economic to process the tailings of the closed Mt Lyell copper mine in Tasmania.

Ahh, that info about processing the tailings came from a friend who must have misheard it. It appears they plan to re-open the underground mine.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 24, 2023 9:48 pm

While there is enough copper in the ground to meet various forecast needs, the big uncertainty is the availablity of resources, such as competent, trained people and energy resources like gas and electricity for remote locations and infrastructure such as roads and abundance of the massive machines like haul trucks and more, more.
These are not off-the-shelf items. Can’t slip into Bunnings and buy them ready for use tomorrow.
The is a lag, often about 10 to 20 years, between exploration starting and product coming on the market. The duration of the lag is near as hard to predict as herding cats. The fundamental lag is always there and with copper mining we cope with it. Newer products like lithium are even harder to plan.
But the big effect that you are missing is sudden acceleration. The mining industry cannot simply dial in double the present production and have it start tomorrow.. It takes years and years to double production.
If net zero was possible by 2050, the accelerated production might, just might, be achieved by 2050. But it has to build up.
So what are we going to use during this huge and very costly acceleration from now to 2050? Dream on.
Net zero carbon by 2050 is a deadly concept that cannot succeed. Many people will be murdered in its early stages before sanity prevails. How can you, in good conscience, support this push that will be labelled mass murder Pot Pol style unless wisdom dominates over dogma and stops it dead? Geoff S

Dave Andrews
Reply to  sherro01
January 25, 2023 8:26 am

The IEA Global EV Outlook 2022, published in May 22, estimated the number of new mines needed to meet the ‘Stated Policies Scenario’ of 200m EVs by 2030 and the ‘Announced Pledges Scenario’ of over 250m EVs by that date.

For the SPS scenario there will need to be 30 new lithium mines, 41 new nickel mines and 11 new cobalt mines. Total 82 new mines.

For the APS scenario it’s 50 new lithium mines, 60 new nickel mines and 17 new cobalt mines. Total 127 new mines.

They acknowledge it can take 16 years or more to bring a new mine to full production and that the APS scenario fell somewhat short of where EV production needed to be to meet Net Zero by 2050 which would require production of over 350m EVs by 2030.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  sherro01
January 25, 2023 5:32 pm

“But the big effect that you are missing is sudden acceleration. The mining industry cannot simply dial in double the present production and have it start tomorrow.. It takes years and years to double production.”

Well, I’ll shows another plot from Willis’ S&P report on future needs:

comment image

This is mine capacity; IOW, how much could we get from existing mines. As you see, it nearly trebled since 1995. So doubling to 2050 is not such a stretch. In fact, the increase is more like linear.

“So what are we going to use during this huge and very costly acceleration from now to 2050? Dream on.”

That is how it goes here. Double coal? Gas? Humans can do anything. But find an extra 8 MT of copper for energy transition, when non-energy needs are increasing from 17 to 38 MT/year? Dream on! What about regulation? Environmental restrictions? Training staff? Pollution? Child labor! You’ll have blood on your hands.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
January 25, 2023 12:12 pm

Then there won’t be enough copper for plumbing, roofing, phones etc either.

So unnecessarily increase significantly the demand for an already scarce resource? Great solution.

John Hultquist
Reply to  Dave Yaussy
January 24, 2023 7:25 pm

From Wiki — “Peak Copper”
Concern about the copper supply is not new. In 1924 geologist and copper-mining expert Ira Joralemon warned:

“… the age of electricity and of copper will be short. At the intense rate of production that must come, the copper supply of the world will last hardly a score of years. … Our civilization based on electrical power will dwindle and die.”[4]

Ron Long
January 24, 2023 11:50 am

As a life-long mining exploration geologist, who drilled his first copper discovery hole in 1976, I can assure Willis and everyone else that there always will be a resource of copper available. If the price doubled and the environmentalists and their associates (corrupt politicians) got out of the way I could produce a tremendous amount of copper. Willis correctly illuminates the problem: to process lower-and-lower grades (or metallurgically more complex, or more isolated, etc) the price has to go up. Trillions and Trillions, Oh My! Pretty soon Gazillions?

Reply to  Ron Long
January 24, 2023 2:00 pm

Willis correctly illuminates the problem: to process lower-and-lower grades

What soon emerges is that the energy required cannot be produced from weather dependent energy extractors to treat ever lower grades.

The difference between mineable ore and rock is that ore can liberate economic value. As the cost of treatment goes up due to rising energy prices, the amount of ore diminishes. Estimated resource drops to zero.

Any country relying on weather dependent energy extractors has no ore reserves. The cost of liberating the copper is more than its economic value. In different words, the liberated copper placed into a wind turbine will not liberate its share of energy in the life of the turbine. Likewise when it comes to recycling after the end of life.

As the cost of energy goes up, ore resources diminish. You may be able to find mineral deposits but none of it is economic to treat.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  RickWill
January 24, 2023 2:54 pm

The ROEI argument is near impossible to refute without resorting to fairy dust and unicorns.

Reply to  RickWill
January 24, 2023 4:52 pm

obviously, more subsidies are required.

Reply to  AndyHce
January 24, 2023 4:53 pm

Its like feeding some of your chickens to the other chickens when the chicken feed runs out.

Reply to  Ron Long
January 24, 2023 4:58 pm

Yes, Ron,
Ditto for me on Uranium.
Change the policy tomorrow to one of unlocking government restrictions and I could maybe double Australia’s capacity to produce uranium.
Not so sure about copper. It was tedious work to add what my colleagues and I have done.
There are perhaps 20 porphyry copper deposits, too low grade to mine so far, that need a look at, down the East coast of Australia.
Roxby Downs, that huge deposit of Cu and U, discovered by Western Mining Corporation in the 1980s, has potential more more of its type. We found that type of mineralization a hundred km away, but it was very deep and too risky to drill a lot more 1,500 m diamond holes to test grade and extent, when Roxby was alread doing production. Geoff S

Mark Bahner
Reply to  Ron Long
January 24, 2023 10:06 pm

Trillions and Trillions, Oh My! Pretty soon Gazillions?

“Gazillions” means plenty of incentive for substitution.

CD in Wisconsin
January 24, 2023 11:51 am


Current melt value for the 95% copper Lincoln cents is about 2.8 cents. Would not surprise me at all if it hits 3 cents sometime in the not-too-distant future. I believe I recall reading though that it is currently illegal to melt down the copper cents because the U.S. Mint is worried it will create a shortage of them.

1909-1982 Lincoln Copper Penny Melt Value – Coinflation

Sort of reminds me of when the Mint took the silver out of the dime and quarter in 1965. The pre-1965 silver dimes and quarters probably disappeared from circulation pretty quickly. Current bullion value of a pre-1965 silver dime: about $1.71. Quarter: about $4.28.

Good luck trying to find a pre-1965 silver dime or quarter still in circulation today.

CD in Wisconsin
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
January 24, 2023 12:09 pm

Oops. This comment was meant to be a reply to Doonman at 10:30 am above.

Caleb Shaw
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
January 24, 2023 1:01 pm

The copper in a nickle is currently worth roughly a nickle. If the price of copper goes up people will start hoarding their nickles.

One odd place to look for thin silver dimes is under the baseboards of old houses. When change fell to the floor a dime was just thin enough to slide under the baseboard, where it would be unseen.

My mother collected old coins, and on his way home from work my father would stop to talk to men ripping down old houses. Silver was still in circulation back then, but in the old days it was deemed good luck, when building a house, to put a silver coin under the front door threshold. Then when the house was torn down the men would grab the coins. The coins could be old ones, so my Dad would buy them off the workers and hand them to my Mom.

January 24, 2023 11:58 am

“”So can we please stop this Net-Zero nonsense””?

Apparently not.

“”Everything from the funding for net zero schemes to the need for regulation, parliamentary scrutiny, data, and research and development is examined, along with sectors of the economy from energy and transport to housing and farming.””

It isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. They haven’t a clue

Henry Pool
January 24, 2023 12:02 pm

Ja. Ja. We need more copper. Just for the transport of electricity….

January 24, 2023 12:12 pm

Green energy is not clean or affordable. Get over it.

Dave Yaussy
January 24, 2023 12:12 pm

My first thoughts were that copper recycling in future years might cover a significant part of the deficit, or that alternatives will be developed to cover the shortage. Looks like that was considered and ruled out. From the first bullet point in the Key Findings:

• Copper—the “metal of electrification”—is essential to all energy transition plans. But the potential supply-demand gap is expected to be very large as the transition proceeds. Substitution and recycling will not be enough to meet the demands of electric vehicles (EVs), power infrastructure, and renewable generation. Unless massive new supply comes online in a timely way, the goal of Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 will be short-circuited and remain out of reach. (Emphasis added)

Reply to  Dave Yaussy
January 24, 2023 12:57 pm

But stealing copper cables from everywhere will rival the drug wars.

Reply to  AndyHce
January 24, 2023 3:43 pm

It’s already big business in many parts of the world.

Rud Istvan
January 24, 2023 12:12 pm

Add one more to the large pile of reasons net zero is impossible, let alone by 2050.

  1. Not enough lithium, cobalt, copper.
  2. Not enough grid.
  3. No scalable grid storage against renewable intermittency.
  4. Not enough world GDP to afford the transition.

It is a good thing the world has no real need to get to net zero, because it could never get there from here.
But the net zero concept does show the abject innumeracy of its advocates.
Ernest Hemingway’s comment about going bankrupt perhaps also applies to the bankrupt idea of net zero:
”slowly at first, then suddenly”.

Richard Greene
Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 24, 2023 2:23 pm

Every Istvan statement is correct ONLY if you assume Nut Zero was intended to succeed. the innumeracy is deliberate. Nut Zero is designed to fail for political reasons detailed in my prior long winded comment.

You are too smart to think like a leftist.
You also love America and want to improve the nation.
Leftists don’t — they want a fundamental transformation of the current economic system.

Nut Zero is intended to help take down the current economic system. Leftists ruin everything they touch — there have a reason for doing that. They should never be allowed to redesign the electric grids. See my prior comment.

Last edited 13 days ago by Richard Greene
January 24, 2023 12:23 pm

The problem is that copper is the only material suitable for transmitting electricity”

Not arguing with the overall premise that we’ll run out of mineable minerals long before we can reach clean energy utopia, but I’m pretty sure the above statement is…um…less than accurate.

Tony Sullivan
January 24, 2023 12:24 pm

The only logical answer to all this green madness is nuclear energy, period. In parallel, we’ll continue to use oil/gas as needed, even if that’s decades/centuries in the future.

I find myself getting more and more aggressive with people around me who make any mention of climate change, green energy, etc. as I’m simply tired of the blindness to it all. I’ve encouraged many to visit this site and just do some simple reading of the volume of good information share here. I can only hope they take me up on it.

Reply to  Tony Sullivan
January 24, 2023 1:01 pm

I think you are whistling in the dark. My experience is “deniers” “conspiracy theorists” “oil company propaganda”, therefore a grave sin to even look at.

Reply to  Tony Sullivan
January 24, 2023 10:01 pm

While agreeing with you in overall principle that nuclear is the way to go, there are further details to be sorted. We are talking about new copper mines needed. Typically, some will be found in remote places far from grids. Solutions? Small scale portable nuclear? New, sometimes very long grid supply? Continue with trucking diesel to on-site generators?
The alternatives are easy to invent and evaluate, but only when people stop making sweeping rules about what is allowed and what is not. Geoff S

Peta of Newark
January 24, 2023 12:38 pm

Timing is everything – random off/on topic.

Just today i came upon a UK website where homeowners, those brave pioneers who have one, can record the performance of their heat pumps.

OK, bookmark for later although I did do some sums on one ##

Anyway, seeing the headline here ‘Copper’ it dawned, Holy Cow that’s what refrigeration systems are made of – Copper has immense thermal conductivity as well as electrical

Bless the interwebs, I does search for “copper content home heat pump

In the UK it tells me:”Up to 21 kg/46 lbs of copper can be found in air source heat pump evaporators, condensers, compressors, piping, connection, control and sensor cabling

For 30 million houses in the UK, I get (using 20kg) 660,000 Tonnes
But every house in The Whole World will need one – either as a ‘heating’ heat pump or as a ‘cooling’ heat pump aka Air Conditioning
<over to you>

## The heat pump calc was sweet – from my spreadsheet here’s what I got.
It was for a heat pump installed in an oldish house in Fife, Scotland.

Over the 501 days since installation:

  • it used 4087 kWh of electric
  • it made 16,311 kWh of heat
  • at present prices that elec (inc standing charges) cost £1,569
  • same heat from Kerosene (75p per litre) costs £1,142
  • same heat from natural gas would cost £1,044
  • direct from electric would cost £5,383 (plus £220 standing charge)

All before/after:

  • you’ve blown £10,000++ on the beast itself
  • and same again redoing your house with new (Copper haha) plumbing
  • and same again on extra insulation

But work out the elec consumption = 8kW per day
Ain’t that sooo neat as it’s exactly what UK Gov says is a UK home’s ‘typical consumption’
So the heat pump doubles elec consumption
And as my electric car rule of thumb says, a 10,000 mile per year ‘habit’ will cost you 10kWh per day of electric

It really is True Insanity going on out there…

PS Today/tonite was a serious try out of getting folks to switch everything off between certain evening hours (16:30 thro 19:00 I think) in return for megabucks against the elec they would have used those hours.

UK grid slowed to (and is still at) 49.9Hz although voltage held up really well – I’m seeing 243Volts right now.
(The French were really mean tonite, hardly anything from their quarter)

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 24, 2023 1:40 pm

In AC power engineering, voltage sag and frequency sag are two sides of the same coin (power demand/supply imbalance), necessarily calculated using complex numbers of the form a+bi. The closer to a generating source, the more you will see frequency sag; the further away, voltage sag (brownout). You are probably fairly close to a generating station.

John Hultquist
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 24, 2023 7:44 pm

Heat pumps work in a house designed for such a system. My house is 100% electric. I have a modern wood stove for emergency winter heat, or all winter. I have trees and cut and season the wood.
Many (most?) older houses without ducts and good insulation are a poor choice. Then there are apartments and high-rise condos. What will happen in those places when the electricity goes off?
This coming Monday evening, the NWS thinks the temperature here will be 6°F.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 25, 2023 8:55 am

About 80% of the UKs 450,000km of low voltage networks is built for ‘lighting plus’ c. 1.2kW loads and not a 2050 load of 7kw EV and 9kW heat pump. This 80% will need replacing. Estimated cost £60 billion and involve digging up almost all the non motorway roads in the UK

See this discussion between a employee of V2G and a Doctor of Engineering at Southampton University

January 24, 2023 12:58 pm

It’s much easier to understand this problem after you set aside common sense, professional knowledge, and experience. At that point you can reconcile it as short-term political grandstanding (at your expense) and targeted spending programs for firms and labor groups (also at your expense). The rewards of holding political power are vast compared to a few hundred billion dollars in failed programs nationally and a few trillion dollars internationally. Some of the cost is actually zero net new funding when they re-label development funds as green.

January 24, 2023 1:01 pm

New copper mine projects have at least as long an approval process (stall tactics) as pipelines in the U.S. and Canada is on par with this also.

B Zipperer
Reply to  ResourceGuy
January 24, 2023 10:13 pm

IIRC the mentioned the average mine in the US takes ~ 16 yrs from concept
to start of digging.
Recent example was the Pebble Mine project in Alaska. It died a slow death Dec 2022
after > 10 years of wrangling with the government & courts (lawsuits).

January 24, 2023 1:07 pm

Thirty-five years ago a length of 3/0 copper wire sold for about the same price as an equal length of US Pennies. That was when a US penny had 95% copper. Today, that same length of 3/0 copper wire is over $5.00. Prices are for better quality insulated wire suitable for Powerplant, commercial buildings, High-rise buildings or homes. If you have underground service you want the BEST wire, closer to $9.00/ft, 3/0 Gauge (AWG) wire has an amperage capacity of 300 amps for a length of 15 feet, enclosed. Recommended for a 200 amp service drop or underground service feed to a home, and needed for any high-speed EV Charger.  About $500 for just the wire. You will then need a larger conduit, etc. etc, You say you have a solar Pannel? That will probably be of little use as the inverters will not handle that current. That means you will be hit with a high demand charge every time you use your charger. I would be lying if I said your electric bill would double. It will at least triple or quadrupple.

January 24, 2023 1:09 pm

In a related vein.

The (Government) Plan… Where ENERGY is concerned

In the beginning was The Plan (NET ZERO).
And then came the assumptions (WIND, SOLAR)
And the assumptions were without form. (NOT RATIONAL)
And the plan was without substance. (AS IS ALWAYS THE CASE)
And darkness came upon the face of the workers (NO ELECTRICITY).
And they spoke amongst themselves saying:
“It is a crock, and it stinketh mightily.” (BUT WE WILL BE OUT OF A JOB IF WE TELL THEM THE TRUTH ABOUT IT).

And the workers went unto their Supervisors and said,
“It is a pail of dung, and none may abide the odor therefore.”

And the Supervisors went unto their Managers saying,
“It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong,

And the Managers went unto their Directors saying,
“It is a vessel for fertilizer, and none can abide by its strength.”
And the Directors spoke amongst themselves, saying to one another,
“It contains that which aids plant growth, and is very strong.”
And the Directors went unto the Vice Presidents saying,
“It promotes growth, and it is very powerful.”

And the Vice Presidents went unto the President saying unto him,
“This new plan will actively promote the growth and vigor
of the company, with very powerful effects.”

And JUSTIN looked upon The Plan and saw that it was good.
And the Plan became Policy (even though it was crazy and could not work).


Reply to  cuddywhiffer
January 24, 2023 2:04 pm

And JUSTIN looked upon The Plan and saw that it was good asked his minders what he was supposed to say about it.

Reply to  cuddywhiffer
January 24, 2023 3:51 pm

The original joke had the president saying that it was a crock of shit! (pardon my French). But we all know that none of the current world presidents are that smart, or honest.

January 24, 2023 1:10 pm

That means we’d have to spend $25 billion each and every day, including weekends,

This is why all the big global mining companies had representatives at Davos. NutZero is a gift that will never end for the big miners as long as it remains any government policy. Ferrous and base metals will underpin any effort toward NutZero. As well as coal being burnt in China of course.

UK debt denominated in other currencies will end UK NutZero effort. Unwillingness of China and Japan to accept USD denominated debt will end USA NutZero effort. I think Russia has already put a spoke in the works for Europe’s Nut Zero.

Canada and Australia can continue toward NutZero as they have enough accessible mineral wealth to trade with China for the NutZero stuff.

January 24, 2023 1:47 pm

Climate science is having us accelerating the desiccation of the landscape. This due to their contrived moral imperative and deeply uncertain logic.

Evidently, something has gone awry at the science-policy interface, with a net-damaging reciprocity.


What is the equation for surface temperature Ts?

Ts= [S-1a/4εσ]^1/4

S = solar input, say 1365 W m-2
a = albedo
ε = emissivity
σ = stefan-boltzmann constant 5.6704×10−8 W-m2·K^4

Scenario 1: Blackbody System

ε = 1
a = 0

Ts = 278K

Scenario 2: Blackbody System with Cloud

ε = 1
a = 0.3

Ts = 255K

Scenario 3: Earth-like System no Cloud

ε = 0.87
a = 0

Ts = 288K

Scenario 4: Earth-like System

ε = 0.6
a = 0.3

Ts = 288K

So, the common greenhouse effect 33K supposed on Earth is simply a consequence of the blackbody assumption ε = 1 with also 0.3 albedo. A deeply unphysical set of assumptions not possible in nature.

This results in a virtual imagined temperature of 255K.

The rest is imaginary physics to arrive at a 33K greenhouse enhancement 288K-255K

A more appropriate starting point if one insists on using a blackbody assumption is evidently 278K; Scenario 1

This leads to a greenhouse enhancement only about 10K, or less than 1/3rd that of 33K. This may be closer to something empirical, but still deeply unphysical.

One must consider that as cloud albedo is introduced the emissivity of the Earth-Atmosphere system must decline.

There are no clouds even remotely resembling blackbody radiators.

Conversely, as clouds are reduced, emissivity will rise. It is a useful relationship to understand. This is illustrated in Scenarios 3 and 4.

Curious George
Reply to  JCM
January 24, 2023 3:02 pm

Does your Earth rotate?

Reply to  JCM
January 24, 2023 3:04 pm

correcture: Ts= [S(1-a)/4εσ]^1/4

To understand the Earth energy balance it is most appropriate to consider the net upward emission from the planet.

There is no use confusing matters with back radiation.

The net upward emission to space is the combination of energy transmitted through the atmosphere, T, and energy emitted from the the atmosphere, E.

Outgoing Radiation at top of atmosphere = T + E.

We know, always, in a thermodynamically equilibrated system, Δemission = Δabsorption.

In the case of Earth, the atmosphere is in local thermodynamic equilibrium up to several kms in height. It has had billions of years to spin up its internal dynamic processes, including both radiative and non radiative flux equilibrium constraints.

We know also, that as transmittance decreases, absorption increases. This is logical, more energy is absorbed rather than flowing directly to space. Addition of more IR active gases, for example, conceivably reduces transmittance.

(-) transmittance = (+) absorption.

And, Δabsorption = Δemission in the full thermodynamic system.

Subsequently. T + E remains unchanged. This is an expression of Kirchhoff’s law. The reduced transmittance is compensated by increased emission.

This increased atmospheric emission can be achieved through various means internally, including non radiative flux energy re-distribution. It must be so.

Last edited 13 days ago by JCM
Curious George
Reply to  JCM
January 24, 2023 4:25 pm

I’ll try again: Does the Sun shine at night?

Reply to  Curious George
January 24, 2023 4:31 pm

I’m not trying to make a climate model. I’m trying to illustrate some issues with consensus logic in energy balance climatology. You are engaging in process modelling. If you wish to share your ideas please do so.

John Hultquist
Reply to  Curious George
January 24, 2023 7:48 pm

I intend to visit the Sun at night. Want to come along?

Dodgy Geezer
January 24, 2023 1:48 pm

Julian Simon pointed out long ago that there is NEVER a failure due to a shortage of raw materials – new discoveries and recycling ALWAYS provide enough.

I would be more impressed with your graph showing demand and available reserves if you showed those reserves going up with the passage of time – as they do…..

Mark Bahner
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 25, 2023 2:19 pm

Back in the day”, as they say, ores which were 4% or even 6% copper were not uncommon. 

What day was that? 🙂

And what *place* was that, that “ores which were 4% or even 6% copper were not uncommon”?

The reason I ask is that the Bingham Canyon Mine’s original surface mining in 1906 was slightly below 2% copper (at 39 pounds per ton).

When I visited every operating primary copper smelter in the U.S. in the early 1990s –there were at least 8 that I can recall…but my memory of “back in the day” is fuzzy–I don’t think anyone was even close to 4%, let alone 6%. (My memory…which may easily be faulty…was that the Copper Range underground mine was by far the highest, at a bit less than 2 percent. I think the rest were all a bit below 1 percent.)

P.S. I’m just bustin’ your chops, Willis. (And showing off a bit. ;-).) If one considers traditional surface mines, copper concentrations have definitely declined from “back in the day.”

Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
January 24, 2023 5:00 pm

if you showed those reserves going up with the passage of time – as they do…..

A really important fact of resource estimation is the cost of extraction. By definition, there is no ore if its value is lower than its cost of recovery. It is just a worthless mineral deposit.

The cost of mining in the USA is rising and ore reserves will fall as a result of higher cost. To offset that, the value of the contained metal must rise to maintain the reserves, which has occurred. However this cannot go on indefinitely because if the apparent valuable item does return beneficial utility then the whole economy crashes. Using copper in any stuff needed to pursue NutZero is a waste of the copper.

Right now, the NutZero illusion is kept alive by China’s willingness to make stuff using vast quantities of low cost domestic coal. Crunch time comes when they are no longer willing to hold USD denominated debt.

Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
January 25, 2023 2:23 pm

Would you class the present EU gas shortage as a failure of a mineral supply? Geoff S

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
January 25, 2023 7:34 pm

Dodgy, I was only allowed one to reduce abuse by one. From a long time mining man (geologist and engineer) you are right on the money!

January 24, 2023 1:57 pm

Not sure which will come first, new copper projects in Arizona or new NG pipelines in the Northeast.

January 24, 2023 2:06 pm

All those Trillions! Is Gore the 10%-guy this time?

January 24, 2023 2:23 pm

Aluminium cannot be used in residential or commercial past the fusebox according to my sparky (currently building) – it’s not approved in the regs.

You can feed Aluminium to the house – as we removed some old supplies and there was a 50m run, I was thinking ooh will weigh that in, but it was Aluminium. They replaced that with a 70mm copper 3 phase.

Will be interesting to see how the reality of Net Zero pans out. It’s an absolute travesty of modern dogma with very little thought or fact.

Dan Hughes
January 24, 2023 2:42 pm

Has it been established that the end-product requirements can all be produced in a timely manner within the assumed time-scale: 2035, 2050, etc., whatever

For example, is it possible that discovery, development, transporting, refining, and production and installation of the final form(s) of all the various materials cannot be accomplished within the assumed time scale? Especially those for which the downstream objective(s) require a significant upstream investment; specific copper wire designed for wind-turbine electric generators, for example. Present-day production capacity has been set, more-or-less, by supply and demand. The additional capacity requirements have so far been sent down by dictate. I think, because electrical energy is the subject, future capacity is the sum of the present demand, plus growth in that demand, plus the additional demand as we move toward an all-electric economy.

Establishment of almost any new production facility, or even increasing the capacity of an existing facility, will be challenged. Can the required capital equipment, especially those of a highly specialized nature, be produced in the time-scale of their requirement? Huge mining and refining stuff, for example. How about can even the necessary skilled-labor requirements be met? 

In addition, given the current status of our energy systems, all this work will be done with fossil fuels, including the growth in electrical-energy consumption needed to produce the fossil-fuel-free end objectives.

Reply to  Dan Hughes
January 24, 2023 5:08 pm

This is about a major investigation of metal supplies vs demands
There are mentions of 7000 years of current supply rates need in the next decade.(for net-zero) for some

This gets you an 8 page summary of the report.

There is a much larger full report but I recall some comments about three links in one post causing problems.

B Zipperer
Reply to  AndyHce
January 24, 2023 10:33 pm

Thx for the links!
The 8 page summary was quite good. Excerpt:
“In conclusion, this report suggests that replacing the existing fossil fuel powered system (oil, gas, and coal), using renewable technologies, such as solar panels or wind turbines, will not be possible for the entire global human population. There is simply just not enough time, nor resources to do this by the current target set by the
World’s most influential nations. What may be required, therefore, is a significant reduction of societal demand for all resources, of all kinds. This implies a very different social contract and a radically different system of governance to what is in place today. Inevitably, this leads to the conclusion that the existing renewable energy sectors and the EV technology systems are merely steppingstones to something else, rather than the final solution. It is recommended that some thought be given to this and what that something else might be.”
This assessment dovetails with Richard Greene’s post above.
And here is a link to the full 2021 report:

January 24, 2023 3:33 pm

There is a lot of undiscovered copper ore deposits out there, or discovered copper at grades too low to mine now, but $7 a pound is very viable for new green field and expanding existing copper mines. I suppose the same argument for fossil fuel availability. At $140 oil, the reserves double. It’s a similar argument for copper…just replace oil for copper where people say we are running out of oil.

Whether it makes economic sense to build an electric car with $10 a pound copper probably isn’t a deal breaker either, since there is180 pounds of copper in a Tesla, compared to an ICE car with 50 pounds. But there probably isn’t enough copper on the planet to electrify everything at any price, especially by 2050. Which is the subject of the article, but a higher price for copper means there will be more copper found. I am all for new copper mines.

A good way to get even with the copper companies, and the fossil fuel companies, is to buy their shares, especially the ones that pay a healthy dividend. Buying into good quality mining companies that have many years of copper reserves and in ‘safe’ political jurisdictions, and getting in while a recession is ongoing at the bottom will pay a good reward. Have done very well just buying and selling a small group of copper miners based upon the economic cycle of Dr. Copper. Buy low, sell high. Rinse and repeat.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Earthling2
January 24, 2023 9:27 pm

These days it isn’t just an issue of economics. Mines are opposed based on ‘religious’ principles, and the environmental regulations work against any rapid ramp-up.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 26, 2023 7:54 am


Jim Gorman
January 24, 2023 3:52 pm

Copper ingots are just the start of problems. Who is ordering all the equipment needed? Who is going to make the cable, connectors, insulators, poles, cross-arms, transformers, switching gear, conduit? Who is beginning to hire the labor force to install the equipment? You don’t go fiddling with high voltages without oodles of training. Just making connections on high voltage lines takes specialized training and hardware. How many pole transformers are going to need replacing? The list goes on and on. I’m glad I’m not a project manager who is going to be responsible for doing this in a decade!

Reply to  Jim Gorman
January 24, 2023 5:06 pm

Who is beginning to hire the labor force to install the equipment?

There is an important question that should be answered before any of this.


The answer is NO ONE. Because there is a no viable plan. It is all bunkum with the certain outcome of going nowhere.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  RickWill
January 24, 2023 9:29 pm

Yes, the person responsible for dictating our future isn’t even smart enough to start his fireplace with paper in boxes sitting in the garage.

Reply to  Jim Gorman
January 24, 2023 5:10 pm

leave out cookies for the elves

January 24, 2023 4:02 pm

Willis: ““Back in the day”, as they say, ores which were 4% or even 6% copper were not uncommon”; you might want to check the 4-6% copper content comment as being “not uncommon”; in an online story at only two mines in the top ten in the world were 5% or more in copper content. Just a suggestion….

January 24, 2023 4:48 pm

Hi Willis,
If it helps, here are some comments from a scientist whose team, Geopeko, found several new copper mines near Parkes in central New South Wales and several at Tennant Creek in Central Northern Territory, Australia.
It is very difficult to find a large, new copper mine. I’ll talk about the Parkes project that started about 1973. Some of our geologists (total about 20 in number then) examined the whole of Australia’s known geology and past mining in detail and concluded that the area within about 100 km of Parkes might have suitable rock types for base metals such as Lead, Zinc, Copper and exotics like Gold, Silver and Molybdenum. We commenced a programme of detailed Geology, Geophysics and Geochemistry. The countryside was quite flat with extensive wheat farms. Outcrops of any rock was rare. There had been small mines for gold in the past, but they were tiny in size compared to our targets, which were in terminology of the times, mainly VMS for Volcanogenic Massive Sulphides style.
To discover the geology under the wheat fields, we started shallow drilling through the soil, about 10 m deep, then into the start of rock. We started along public roads to avoid farming operations. At the same time, we started airborne geophysical analysis of mainly magnetic data and ordered further, more detailed surveys. The bottom-of-hole drill samples were analysed (from memory) mainly for Cu, Pb, Zn. Gold analysis was too expensive and not sensitive enough for low levels then. It was not long after the start of the Australian invention of Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry, AAS.
In the middle of 1976, one roadside drill sample showed quite a lot of Copper. After some speculation, we settled on the rock type being consistent with the Porphyry Copper type of deposit. We had already examined dozens of these down the extent of Eastern Australia, which helped. They were often large, but the Copper grades were usually low –  below 0.1% Cu in our limited overall estimates, so we passed them by.
One version of what followed at Parkes is here, from 2005, so sometimes outdated.-

Quote, “Abstract Porphyry copper-gold mineralisation was discovered in the Northparkes area in 1976 when one kilometre spaced roadside traverse drilling by Geopeko intersected the E22 deposit. Grid based RAB drilling discovered the E27 and E26 deposits in 1978 and 1980 respectively. Testing of a discrete magnetic target with co-incident copper geochemistry in 1992 led to the discovery of the E48 deposit. Sub-vertical quartz monzonite porphyries intrude the host volcanic sequence, with mineralisation and alteration zoned around these porphyries”.
More data –
Geopeko, the discoverers in 1976, followed the usual course of handing over to mining engineers and we ceased our exploration there by 1993 or so. Four porphyry copper mines have resulted so far, at locations named Endeavour 22, 26, 27 and 48. Exploration continues. More mining is planned until at least 2038 with recent forward reserve estimates at 31.5 million tonnes of ore at 0.48% Cu and 0.28 grams per tonne of Gold.
The whole exercise is a beautiful example of integration of the disciplines of Geology, Geophysics and Geochemistry, supported by a parent Board of Directors with the vision to fund mineral exploration while being aware of its high risks.
Thank you, Willis, for this WUWT article about planning from a distance. With my comments about planning a discovery I hope to add a little feel about the vast space between on-paper and actual mining. It is very, very hard to face a few hundred square miles of wheat farms and then pinpoint a future mine less than a mile wide. One cannot plan on this happening anywhere, or by any time. Typically the process takes a decade or two from concept to the first ore processing.
Here is an aerial photo collection of some of the bigger mines from Geopeko discoveries 1970 to 1990. Total revenues from product sales now exceed 70 billion Aust dollars in 2020 dollars. Total exploration expenditure exceeded $160 million in days when a million bucks was a lot.

Top to bottom, Lake Cowal Au, Kanowna Belle Au, Northparkes Cu Au, Ranger One U.
Geoff S  E & OE, doing this from memory.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 24, 2023 8:58 pm

I did not know quite what to write. There are very few people in the world with first hand experience of discovering a new copper mine from scratch, let alone also being WUWT bloggers, so I more or less advertised availablity of first hand comment to WUWT readers.
Also, I emphasise the big difference between hands on with rocks and writing about experiences of others.
Therefore, WUWT readers are cordially invited to send questions relevant to the topic Willis has chosen for a further perspective. Geoff S

Gary Pearse
January 24, 2023 4:57 pm

There’s lots of copper

Reserves of copper in the ground is the actual measured amount in existing deposits determined by drilling adequately spaced holes to be statistically certain of their
existence. These tons should be understood as inventory for mine planning only.

It costs money to drill and assay mineralization. Before the present inflationary period it was ~ $100/meter and drill programs in the large low grade deposits are commonly 100,000m or more with follow-up infill drilling as required. They drill off only enough for there planning horizon.

They also have so-called Probable resources that require infill drilling before they can be upgraded to Reserves, and Inferred Resources which are a combination of drilling and geological knowledge of the deposit. Theses tonnages generally are similar in size to Reserve tonnage. So it’s fairly safe to say that the ultimate tonnage before abandoning the deposit is double or triple reported reserves.

Since you “find other elephants in elephant country” chances are pretty good that the favorable regional geology contains others yet unknown. A recent study by the USGS estimates copper to be found is 3.5 billion metric tons.

Also, 40% of copper demand comes from recycling. I’ve been musing about writing a detailed article for WUWT about this little understood topic of the abundance of resources.

Resource shortages are the bread and butter of Malthusians and, unfortunately, their flawed understanding seems to resonate with their readers. The real resource is human ingenuity. There is no shortage of anything! My favorite example, by way of explanation, is – we do not demand zinc (a Club of Rome example for which I coined the example to refute their premise back in the day), we demand non-corroding barn roofs and culverts, batteries, car door handles, onguent creams, …

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Gary Pearse
January 24, 2023 4:58 pm
Reply to  Gary Pearse
January 25, 2023 2:32 pm

Our Tennant Creek mines were for decades the biggest global supply of the metal Bismuth.
At times, the biggest use was for indigestion powders for eaters of French food.
We just produced the Bi as a by product. The French ordered as much as they needed. Supply/demand.
Statistics can be fascinating. Geoff S

Gary Pearse
Reply to  sherro01
January 25, 2023 7:26 pm

Yeah Geoff, I’m a geologist and engineer (mining and metallurgy) and have done regional exploration, mineral deposit drill programs for tonnage and ore processing research for plant design.

The trouble with reporting reserves is they get misinterpreted by the lay public, added together and divided by the annual demand to reveal that were headed for trouble. This why we have so much Malthusian BS over the last
couple of centuries about the the end of the world.

Counterintuitively (for the layman), copper reserves and resources are larger today than they they were 20years ago and even the costs to produce per lb are lower in 20year old dollars! It is safe to predict that if demand picks up, copper reserves and resources will increase, despite the reduction in deposits from mining!

Many of the smart people here that have speculated on resource availability in articles have fallen into the Malthusian failing in their analyses. I criticize their offerings, but rarely see a sign that they bothered to read it.

Dodgy Geezer’s comment above was right on the money, but he has been down-voted several times, excoriated by Willis and others. I gave him my upvote to lighten the abuse.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Gary Pearse
January 25, 2023 7:28 pm
old cocky
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 25, 2023 9:36 pm

You rarely have a cross word.

Cabin fever?

old cocky
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 25, 2023 11:30 pm

I have an idea that somebody has already done this for oil, but an article on reserves and resources, and how they change over time would be quite useful.
I don’t know the area well enough or write well enough, so perhaps one of the resource people will rise to the challenge.

Perhaps dodgy geezer’s wording was unfortunate, but the idea of a chart showing reserve growth over time wasn’t unreasonable. Of course, it’s always easier to suggest things after the fact.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  old cocky
January 27, 2023 1:58 pm

Hi Willis. Here is what I have on world copper reserves over time as a sampler from USGS:

1994 (in the 1996 issue) Reserves 310,000kt (metric). They also give in these earlier years, ‘Reserves base’ which is Measured Reserves + Probable Resources (needs infill drilling to qualify legally as ‘Reserves’), the latter combined is usually ~double ‘Reserves’ reported.

2021 Reserves 870,000kt
They dont give the ‘Reserve Base’ figure for some reason, but I suggest that it’s highly likely that 1.5 billion t of copper can be recovered from the present batch of global mines.

Interestingly there are a few Copper geologists that think Mount St. Hellens is a major porphyry copper deposit in the making! Nice to take some samples from the ejecta that blasted out the side of the volcano during the last eruption.

Mining types are a stoic lot that don’t say much about their business, so they are not very forthcoming with info to help the public understand the nature of mineral resources. They’ve had a lot of if hassles and bad press. Folks don’t get it with oil and gas. With minerals and metals (without which we would likely have gone extinct) they they get it even less! Why, I wonder, would they name the stages of human development : The Stone Age, The Bronze Age, The Iron Age.😉⚒

old cocky
Reply to  Gary Pearse
January 27, 2023 3:36 pm

The Stone Age, The Bronze Age, The Iron Age

Apropos of nothing, I watched a youtube clip the other day of a presentation by an archeologist who proposed that the collapse of the eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age civilisations was initiated by a natural disaster which removed their supply of tin.

This led on to more use of iron, which at the time was both harder to produce than bronze and had less desirable properties. Improvements followed, leading to the Iron Age

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 27, 2023 10:25 am

Willis, I have nothing but admiration for all the very fine work you have done, most on the cutting edge of climate science and always eminently readable. A great gift. Yes, you did invite geezer to supply a graph of his own. My ‘excoriated’ was carelessly flung.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
January 25, 2023 10:40 pm

Like you, I agree with Dodgy.
Here is part of a comment I made earlier:
But the big effect that you are missing is sudden acceleration. The mining industry cannot simply dial in double the present production and have it start tomorrow.. It takes years and years to double production.
If net zero was possible by 2050, the accelerated production might, just might, be achieved by 2050. But it has to build up.
So what are we going to use during this huge and very costly acceleration from now to 2050? Dream on.
Net zero carbon by 2050 is a deadly concept that cannot succeed. Many people will be murdered in its early stages before sanity prevails. How can you, in good conscience, support this push that will be labelled mass murder Pot Pol style unless wisdom dominates over dogma and stops it dead? Geoff S
Nick responded with an academic graph of projected production. Another example of my point also above that there is a difference between hands-on knowledge and paper knowledge. Geoff S

January 24, 2023 5:41 pm

Aluminum wires are possible, but aluminum requires thicker wires for the same amount of resistance over the distance and I have yet to find a durable aluminum wire in any of my electronic devices, so I would imagine that aluminum wires will increase maintenance costs dramatically.

January 24, 2023 5:49 pm

the need for copper will force us to rediscover the monroe doctrine and integrate more deeply with south america.

copper is not a problem its an opportunity.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
January 25, 2023 2:38 pm

China has long since beat us to the punch.

John Oliver
January 24, 2023 7:22 pm

Nut Zero at any cost. Let the next generation know they better plan to live in their car because they won’t be able to afford a house. The car will cost as much.

Mark Bahner
January 24, 2023 7:58 pm

When I digitize the Global Refined Copper Usage graph, it doesn’t seem completely compatible with the Cumulative Sum Refined Copper graph.

Specifically, I get a cumulative sum of refined copper of about 1100 million tonnes from the bar graph, versus about 1400 million tonnes in their cumulative graph.

Further, I get a cumulative demand from “nonenergy transition demand” of 818 million tonnes…which is almost at the “known reserves” value of 880 million tonnes. So we would presumably be toast even without the energy transition.

January 24, 2023 8:36 pm

As someone who used to own a house built in the late 60’s with aluminium wiring I don’t think that aluminum is a reasonable alternative.

Maybe if you re-spec the wiring from scratch and go with 10 gauge, rather than just patch in 12 gauge aluminum for 14gauge copper, then it might work. But you need to.reengineer everything from.the ground up, not switch the middle of the stream.

January 24, 2023 9:40 pm

Years ago there was a large cross border flow of coins between Canada and the US. While it was illegal to melt down coins in your own country, melting down foreign coins was not a problem.

January 24, 2023 9:48 pm

We will never run out of copper. We will run out of cheap copper. Really, really expensive copper will not run out.

Reply to  ferdberple
January 25, 2023 2:34 pm

But what if the max world grows a pressure group demanding net zero copper by 2050? Geoff S

Reply to  sherro01
January 26, 2023 8:28 am

We are more likely to see max size dwellings and no new cars and trucks of any type (mass transit required) by that point.

Mark Bahner
January 24, 2023 10:12 pm

Valuable advice from the past, via wonderful Wikipedia:

Concern about the copper supply is not new. In 1924 geologist and copper-mining expert Ira Joralemon warned:

“… the age of electricity and of copper will be short. At the intense rate of production that must come, the copper supply of the world will last hardly a score of years. … Our civilization based on electrical power will dwindle and die.”[4]

Rod Evans
January 24, 2023 11:27 pm

When you have an imaginary problem to solve, any imaginary solution is possible.
It actually gets even more profound than that.
To solve an imaginary problem, you can ask anybody, even someone with zero experience about anything, say a school drop out character for instance for the answer.
” More soup on your Picasso sir?”

January 24, 2023 11:35 pm

The feed to my house from the pole was just replaced. It was 1952 all-Copper. The new feed wires are all aluminum.

Leo Smith
January 25, 2023 1:17 am

Once again as others have pointed out, problems that have no other solution have been confused with problems that do, but at a price.

Every metal is a conductor. The dominance of copper is a trade off between price, size weight and usability.

Aluminium was never widely available until advanced electrochemical means of refining it were introduced.

It is perfectly adequate for most electrical applications, and is in fact per unit weight a better conductor than copper.

Its downsides are that it’s bulkier, more inflammable, and more prone to corrosion problems.
Certainly in terms of e.g. electric aircraft, cars etc is is probably the superior metal to wind a motor with. HiFi loudspeakers have been wound with it for that reason. And you can increase the packing density by going to e.g square section wire, or a flat tape. And it’s a bitch to solder. I have done it, with highly corrosive lung crippling fluxes, but in production one would rather use spot welding, and a coating to prevent ingress of atmospheric oxygen into the join. The rise of massively integrated chips has to an extent reduced the need for copper connecting wires anyway..

Aluminium is one of the most abundant elements in the Earth’s crust. I will defer to where it’s most widely available and most abundant, but here in the UK we had a smelter bang next door to a nuclear power station. The new crop of SMRs – small modular reactors – are ideal to run a bauxite smelter and push the surplus energy onto a grid.

In this sense Aluminium is more ‘green’ than copper, because that uses coal to smelt, currently.

Outside of electrical engineering, its use in electronics is small, because of the size of the components.

In plumbing, the spiralling cost has already led to its replacement with various polymers for pipework, and the ease and speed of connecting plumbing with the use of O-ring seals and compression fittings has made it the de facto standard for new builds. Plumbing of course has the etymology of lead – plumbum in Latin – and that’s what the Romans used. Copper was a more Victorian adoption, and lead was also – and still is – the go-to material for e.g roofing. Copper looks wonderful, has some herbicidal qualities, but it is frightfully expensive. Zinc is being used as an alternative, as are specialised polymers.

Ah, I hear you say, but plastics come from oil, don’t they? Well yes, these days they do, but they are increasingly coming from organic sources. Ultimately most plastics are carbon and hydrogen, with a smattering of other elements thrown in to adjust their properties and almost any carbon feedstock – even things like milk! – can be used as a starting point. We used to use wood and coal to make plastics before oil got so cheap.

So there too, copper is not an issue, we can substitute other materials provided we have access to cheap abundant reliable energy.

Which is not the case with ‘renewables’.

I am a fully qualified engineer, with a specialisation in matters electrical, and a good knowledge of the rest of the field, and unlike many here I am NOT a Cornucopian. Whilst I have no confidence whatsoever that climate change analysis is being done by people with broad understanding or accurate models, I do understand that ultimately, until we can mine off planet, we are accessing a limited resource base in this planet of ours. Carbon emissions are not the crisis. Material and energy availability is. Britain was first in the game, and blew out its economic coal reserves in about 200 years. Iron and steel are the natural result of exploiting a massively common pair of elements – carbon and iron. When either runs short other materials take over. The USA is still resource rich, but that won’t last forever. Peak conventional oil has come and gone in the USA, its only the more expensive fracking technology that keeps the pumps rolling. At some point oil will become more expensive than uranium…and US dwellers will have noticed the price inflation at te gas pump forecourt.

So we have to look at what works and how costly it is and how we can utilise it as materials we used to use become cost ineffective. You have no idea how expensive it is to thatch a roof with straw these days 🙂

Ultimately plenty of alternatives exist, but the resultant materials are always representative of manufacturing cost. Many, like aluminium and titanium, are extremely energy intensive, and expensive energy makes them unaffordable.

So the key to having the ability to transition to new materials and technologies as existing materials run out is access to massive quantities of cheap reliable energy.

Windmills and solar panels ain’t it. As an engineer this is fundamentally unquestionable fact. And I am not the only engineer.

So people at the top know all this is is simple climateBollocks. The question is why they persist with it.

In the end, the Western world will end up with almost 100% nuclear power, after, as Churchill put it, they have exhausted every other alternative.

Nuclear power gives us access to enormous quantities of cheap energy and is the key to unlocking otherwise expensive metals and other minerals and ultimately to the synthesis of almost any hydrocarbon we want from any carbon rich feedstock we can lay our hands on. Up to and including atmospheric carbon dioxide, if we needed to.

There are other more urgent shortages than copper – the first is energy, but the solution exists. We just have to use it. The rare earths – whilst not actually rare – are still in short supply and China has monopolised the market by undercutting. Given Russia’s antics, this would seem to be something the West should address, and China will also have noted how Russia cannot gain access to high complexity digitral chips, any more than China can. The chip foundries are in Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, S Korea…

No, if I survey the industrial needs of civilisation from an engineering management perspective, I see two glaring issues. The first is cheap energy, and renewable energy stands in the way of widespread nuclear deployment. and the first nation to fully embrace nuclear and ditch renewables will rule the world. It may well be China.

The second is off grid energy. Nuclear power can feed all the electricity grids of civilisation, but batteries to store it in are simply not really available at the needed energy densities, nor is there any prospect of breaching the funadmental limits of their theoretical energy density.

Hydrocarbon fuels that combine with atmospheric oxygen that is abundant everywhere, are still and will remain top banana on energy density. Nothing else beats them. If we want to retain off grid land and air transport, we need hydrocarbons, and if we cant pump them we will have to synthesise them.

Obviously nuclear ships work, and electric trains running on pre-laid tracks. But cars trucks and airliners need hydrocarbons, as to tanks and armoured vehicles.. you can’t run a war off windmills and solar panels. Though you might run one off portable small reactors.

So those are the real issues. Not copper.

Mark Bahner
Reply to  Leo Smith
January 25, 2023 10:40 am

In this sense Aluminium is more ‘green’ than copper, because that uses coal to smelt, currently.

Primary copper smelting “uses coal to smelt, currently”? Not in my country, that I know of! 🙂

See site visit reports from M. Bahner

And in fact, in my country, coal is actually one of the ingredients for making the electrodes at primary aluminum smelters. (In my country, we call it “aluminum.”)


Reply to  Mark Bahner
January 25, 2023 1:26 pm

You’ve been doing that for a while! Funny seeing the Phelps Dodge brand name, I haven’t heard that in years.

Mark Bahner
Reply to  roaddog
January 25, 2023 6:46 pm

No, I haven’t been doing it for almost 30 years. I only did it for a couple years in the early 1990s, and then briefly in the mid-1990s. I was the project leader at Research Triangle Institute (now RTI, International) supporting the U.S. EPA Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) in their development of the Primary Copper Smelting National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). 

Back then, there were seven primary copper smelters in the U.S.:

1) Copper Range Company Smelter in White Pine, MI (the Upper Pennisula). 

2) ASARCO (American Smelting and Refining Company) smelter in El Paso, TX. .

3) Kennecott (later RTZ…and then I guess Rio Tinto) smelter outside Salt Lake City, UT.

4) Magma Copper in San Manuel, AZ.

5) Cyprus Miami in Claypool, AZ.

5) ASARCO in Hayden, AZ.

6) Phelps Dodge – Chino Mines in Hurley, NM, and 

7) Phelps Dodge – Hidalgo at Playas, NM.

Unfortunately, I think only Cyprus Miami in AZ and Rio Tinto Kennecott in UT are still in business. But speaking of Phelps Dodge…the Phelps Dodge Hidalgo Smelter was the epitome of “in the middle of nowhere.”

Mark Bahner
Reply to  Leo Smith
January 25, 2023 12:14 pm

So the key to having the ability to transition to new materials and technologies as existing materials run out is access to massive quantities of cheap reliable energy.

I’m an engineer. I disagree.

Windmills and solar panels ain’t it. As an engineer this is fundamentally unquestionable fact.

“Ain’t it” compared to what?

Compared to nuclear plants that have already been constructed and have been running for decades?

Compared to fantasies of what nuclear power could cost, if only the pesky public and pesky regulators were removed from the equation?

Compared to what electricity from nuclear debacles like Virgil Summer Units 2 and 3 (which will likely produce not one kilowatt, and therefore will represent an infinite cost of electricity, given the approximately $10 billion spent on them)? Or perhaps Vogtle nuclear Units 3 and 4, which now are expected to cost more than $30 billion? Or perhaps you prefer the Hinkley Point nuclear plant, also with a cost over $30 billion?

Leo Smith
Reply to  Mark Bahner
January 25, 2023 10:43 pm

So if you think that nuclear can’t cut the mustard, and I know that renewables cannot, what is your solution?

When people realise that bureaucracy is killing them because nuclear works and renewables do not, what will they do with the bureaucrats?

As I said I really AM an engineer. Human issues like regulations and what people believe I left out. I concentrated on what was technically and economically possible. A grid that does not supply enoough energy to reproduce itself when it wears out is not sustainable.

It is a fantasy.
Ukraine has shown Germany at least that Energiewende meant reliance on Russian oil and gas. And East German brown coal.

You know that those nuclear plants have been deliberately sabotaged by regulation.

But even at $30bn – which is a shade high – Hinkley point C still represents better value than windfarms

Mark Bahner
Reply to  Leo Smith
January 26, 2023 9:53 am

So if you think that nuclear can’t cut the mustard, and I know that renewables cannot, what is your solution?

Here was my prediction, compared to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) prediction in 2019, for electrical energy production in the United States. All values are in billions of gigawatt-hours annually:

Mark Bahner vs U.S. EIA (Dave Middleton and Dave Fair not reporting)

If you look at that, the EIA predicts photovoltaics will increase from 81 to 409 from 2017 to 2050. I predict the value in 2050 will be 1200.

The EIA predicts nuclear will decrease from 805 to 672 from 2017 to 2050. I predict the value in 2050 will be 140. Nuclear power will be almost dead in the U.S. by 2050. The EIA apparently doesn’t know it, but anyone who simply looks at the numbers for when the nuclear fleet was built will understand the incredible odds against a large majority of them still operating in 2050.

The EIA (hilariously! what a bunch of absolutely incompetent clowns!) predicts coal will decrease from 1209 to 938 from 2017 to 2050. I predict the value in 2050 will be 200. It is absolutely disgraceful that a whole team of people spending an entire year on something, *year after year*, can’t come up with better predictions than I can in under 20 hours of work.

The EIA predicts offshore wind will go from 0 to 0.2 from 2017 to 2050. Of all the absolutely mindless bullshit in the EIA’s projections, this is probably the most ridiculously inexcusable value. I predict *200* in 2050. So they predict 0 to 0.2, and I predict 0 to 200!

You can see the other predictions for natural gas, onshore wind, etc.

However, it’s important for you to understand that my predictions aren’t some “solution” to something. The are simply my guesses based on literally decades spent studying energy systems and their development paths. In 2050, solar will be a fairly distant second only to natural gas, in millions of gigawatt-hours generated in the U.S. On-shore wind will be third. Off-shore wind will be fourth. Coal will be fifth, and nuclear sixth.

old cocky
Reply to  Mark Bahner
January 26, 2023 12:52 pm

So if you think that nuclear can’t cut the mustard, and I know that renewables cannot, what is your solution?

Didn’t you tell me the other day that Australia should be using wind and solar and yet to be developed storage technology instead of even considering nuclear?

Mark Bahner
Reply to  old cocky
January 26, 2023 2:58 pm

Sorry, that first sentence was a quote from you that I forgot to put in quotation marks. These are your words, not mine:

So if you think that nuclear can’t cut the mustard, and I know that renewables cannot, what is your solution?

I responded with the way I see the electrical generation breakdown in the U.S. from 2017 to 2050. In 2019, the U.S. EIA predicted that nuclear would decline from 805 thousand GWh generated in 2017 to 672 thousand GWh in 2050. I predict U.S. nuclear will decline to 140 thousand GWh in 2050. I don’t see any way that plants built in the 1970s will still be running 70-80 years later.

You’re right, I told you that Australia should not even consider nuclear. There’s too much solar and natural gas in Australia to even consider nuclear.

The U.S. probably *should* consider nuclear–as opposed to onshore and offshore wind–but it won’t. Note that even for the U.S., the place to consider nuclear is in the northeast and northcentral portions of the country. But again, I don’t think the U.S. will go with nuclear at a rate to make up even for the nuclear plants that will be shuttered by 2050. I predict that, to 2050, nuclear power in the U.S. is a sinking industry…not even an industry that’s treading water.

old cocky
Reply to  Mark Bahner
January 26, 2023 3:14 pm

Sorry, that first sentence was a quote from you that I forgot to put in quotation marks. These are your words, not mine:

That was Leo, not me. I didn’t notice you were quoting him, and thought that was yours.

That explains it.

Mark Bahner
Reply to  old cocky
January 29, 2023 10:46 am


Sorry, I should have paid more attention to who was writing what. (I wondered why you didn’t seem to recognize what I thought were your own words. 😉 )

Again, sorry, my mistake.

old cocky
Reply to  Mark Bahner
January 29, 2023 11:59 am

There are lots of things written in lots of threads, so it’s easy to miss something, as we both did in this case.

old cocky
Reply to  Mark Bahner
January 26, 2023 3:48 pm

You’re right, I told you that Australia should not even consider nuclear. There’s too much solar and natural gas in Australia to even consider nuclear.

I think it was storage rather than natural gas.
Agreed, some mixture of solar, wind, pumped hydro and natural gas should give the largest reduction in CO2 emissions until or unless some viable means of multi-day storage becomes available.

Mark Bahner
Reply to  old cocky
January 29, 2023 11:26 am

“I think it was storage rather than natural gas.”

Well, things are getting complicated here. I don’t think Australia, or the U.S., or Germany, or France, is going to get to 100% reliance on carbon-free electricity by 2050.

My point regarding Australia was not that Australia would be able to use just solar (and wind) and storage on their electrical grid by 2050. My point was that Australia would likely be better off choosing solar and attempting to develop long-term storage (e.g., iron-air batteries) than attempting to either develop it’s own nuclear power plant technology, or importing some nuclear technology from some other country.

I’m a really big fan of storage technology related to the grid. That’s because storage technologies can instantly go from being suppliers to the grid to being loads on the grid. That’s a real key in the development of photovoltaics in particular. In Australia and in the U.S. Southwest, photovoltaics provide a very inexpensive source of electricity, which is almost certainly going to get less and less expensive in the future. So a good strategy for Australia and the U.S. Southwest is to produce *more* electricity than is from noon to say 4 PM on hot summer days, and then try to store that electricity for a few hours to get to where loads are later in the night. Or even to store some overnight.

The demand provided by storage devices during the peak solar generation hours of circa noon to 3 PM avoids the “duck curve” that otherwise would occur if there is no “artificial” demand occurring:

Storage avoids the “duck curve” situation resulting from photovoltaic power

But, as I wrote, I don’t think any of those four countries is going to have a carbon-free electrical generation system by 2050. In fact, in the U.S., I expect more electricity from natural gas in 2050 than in 2023 (because coal is going to be nearly eliminated, and EVs are going to greatly increase electricity demand).

I don’t know enough about Australia other than to say I’d be surprised if the percentage of electricity from natural gas goes down from 2023 to 2050. My reasoning for Australia is basically the same…I think their generation from coal is going to go down significantly, and their EVs are going to increase electrical demand.

old cocky
Reply to  Mark Bahner
January 29, 2023 12:16 pm

That seems quite likely.
A while ago, Nick Stokes pointed out the storage capacity of the Snowy Hydro 2 system. That’s equivalent to around 10 hours of demand, but the generating capacity probably isn’t sufficient to provide that amount of output.

Running down the pumped hydro overnight and refilling during the day, in conjunction with CCGT is probably the optimum mix.

Unless there is some great breakthrough in battery chemistry, multi-day battery storage seems to be coming about the same time as commercial fusion, though. There do seem to be some candidates, but they have a way to go.

Mark Bahner
Reply to  old cocky
February 2, 2023 10:10 am

Unless there is some great breakthrough in battery chemistry, multi-day battery storage seems to be coming about the same time as commercial fusion, though. There do seem to be some candidates, but they have a way to go.

I expect iron-air batteries with 100 hours of storage to be commercial within the next 3 years. I would be extremely surprised if fusion is commercial in the next 30 years.

Mark Bahner
Reply to  Mark Bahner
February 2, 2023 10:12 am

Oops, I meant to include a link supporting the idea that iron-air batteries with multiday storage would be commercial within 3 years.

Reply to  Mark Bahner
January 26, 2023 3:56 pm

Would you like to comment on the case study of France nuclear?
Seems to many of us that political will, used to overcome obstacles, can produce a national system that is world best practice.
I do not do country forecasts of energy any more. They commonly lack realism because they do not include the major factor of political/bureaucratic interference in the path to common sense.
Geoff S

Mark Bahner
Reply to  sherro01
January 28, 2023 9:05 am

Would you like to comment on the case study of France nuclear?

Yes, I’m very happy to do that. 🙂

First, a tiny bit of background about me. I worked for 3.5 years for the Babcock and Wilcox Nuclear Power Division in Lynchburg, VA, from 1982 to 1985. B&W designed the reactor “island” (that’s the reactor, steam generators, emergency core cooling systems, and some other things) at Three Mile Island (TMI). So when I came to work, B&W and others were working on modifications resulting from lessons learned from the meltdown at TMI (which was a B&W reactor…and more importantly, B&W steam generators). In fact, much of my work was for Crystal River 3 in Florida…another B&W plant with an unhappy ending. I tell all this, because my experience at B&W I think gives me insights that people who have never worked on nuclear power lack.

So…France and nuclear power…it’s a very different situation from the U.S. I’m not intimately familiar with their situation the way I am with the U.S. situation. But it appears that the French government–and presumably the people, since it’s a democracy–saw after the 1973 oil crisis that France doesn’t have a lot of options for power generation. No real resources of hydro, coal, or natural gas. So they decided to go “all in” on nuclear power. Very importantly, the nuclear plants were built by a single state-owned entity (EDF), rather than a variety of private companies, like in the U.S. If a country has the commitment of the government and the people, it’s possible to build inexpensive nuclear plants.

In the U.S. we do NOT have the commitment of the government or the people to nuclear power. And in my experienced and considered opinion, we NEVER WILL in my lifetime (which at this point I’m hoping will be at least another 30 years).

So to all the U.S. people who say, “Oh, look at France! We could do something like they did! It would be so wonderful!”…I say, “Nonsense. Live your life in the real world, not in a fantasy land.” (And I’m looking at you, Dave Middleton. ;-)) The U.S. is not France, and will never be France. There will never be widespread support for nuclear power in the U.S. (at least in the next 30+ years) because we have too many other options (natural gas, solar, wind).

I do not do country forecasts of energy any more. They commonly lack realism because they do not include the major factor of political/bureaucratic interference in the path to common sense.

I do country–and global–forecasts of energy all the time. And my forecasts don’t “lack realism” because I include “the major factor of political/bureaucratic interference in the path to common sense.”

For example, Dave Middleton looked at the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIAs) Annual Energy Outlooks for 2018 and 2019 and saw *no* U.S. offshore wind power all the way through 2050. He seemed to think that meant there actually would be no U.S. offshore wind power to 2050. That’s nonsense. There is going to be a tremendous amount of offshore windpower in the U.S. in 2050, because nearly all the state governments on the eastern seaboard support it…and the federal government doesn’t mind it either.

Look at all the U.S. offshore wind power that’s planned

Now, you might say, “Oh, we could get the same amount of electricity as from offshore wind power using small modular reactors (SMRs). That would be significantly less expensive. So we should forecast SMRs for the U.S. east coast.” That’s insane. That’s not forecasting. That’s dreaming.

January 25, 2023 1:42 am

Hi Willis:

known recoverable copper reserves using current technology.

It is a common misunderstanding that “reserves” is all there is; when we’ve used up the reserves we’re done. However “Reserves” is only the known amount that can be extracted legally and at a profit with current technology (the quote above even says about the current technology).

Tim Worstall (who was at one time “Mr Scandium” for the entire world) can explain this: “Reserves” is the bacon that you have in the refrigerator, ready for making breckfast. You won’t “run out” of bacon by the end of the week, even though you only have one pack, because you can go to the store and buy more. And the store won’t run out because farmers are busy breeding more hogs.

I’d thoroughly reccomend looking up “The No Breakfast Fallacy: Why the Club of Rome was wrong about us running out of resources” as an informative read and a great explainer.

As well as the “reserves” issue, there is also the ecconomics 101 concept of substitution. As copper becomes more scarce and expensive, other materials will be used instead (e.g. Aluminium as already mentioned), or the thing that needed copper will tend to be replaced by a thing that dosn’t (like zoom has reduced travel).

So, yes Net-Zero is a nonsense – just not realy for this reason.

But do keep up the good work 🙂

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 25, 2023 9:39 am

I’d thoroughly recommend actually thinking about what I wrote before simply repeating what I said in a most arrogant manner.

Sorry you took offence. I guess arrogance is in the eye of the reader. And I did read what you wrote, and thought about it.

You posted an article with a graph showing Copper Required and Known Copper Reserves, the lines crossing at about 2040. You wrote “by 2040 we’ll need about all the copper we’ve currently located in the ground”.

Although you do acknowledge “We’re likely to find more in the ground … it will generally be very poor ore and expensive to mine” your entire thesis is a variation on “we’re running out of stuff”. Then you get upset when I politely point out the flaws (the reserves fallacy and substitution effect). No hand waving was involved either.

I would still reccomend reading the Tim Worstall paper (available free as pdf download). He’s on the same side and there might be something in there you don’t already know – and even if there isn’t, it’s still an amusing read 🙂

All the best,


PS: the 240V, 100A feed to my house is in coaxial aluminium, steel wire armored underground cable – installed about 10 years ago. As other commentards have pointed out, overhead HT lines have been aly for ages (steel cored for strength, aly outer layers).

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 25, 2023 12:55 pm

Well, what can I say? I’ve followed Anthony’s blog for years (and commented sometimes) and would hate to add any commment that might lower the high level of debate.

That said, I recall some years ago I posted a critical comment on an article of yours (I think where you had conducted some clandestine experiment on unsuspecting commentators). And the reaction that I got was similar to that above.

Which was a pity, because a lot of what you have written (the stories about Samoa especially) have been very good. And I think that we are both on the right side of the narative.

I’m an engineer (electrical & electronics) and have seen and heard so much BS in my career. I generally try to point this out politely, as I did with your article. But, with alies such as your good self, who needs enemies? If I were to suggest to St. Gretta that she was wrong in any way, would there be much difference in the tone of the reply?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 26, 2023 8:37 am

Willis – I stand corrected; you did of course write about Fiji, not Samoa, e.g.

I’ve been to neither place so maybe an understandable confusion about scribbles from 10+ years ago?

So lets’s quote some of your exact words then:

Waving your hands and claiming “Ain’t I smart, I took Econ 101” doesn’t cut it.”

a most arrogant manner”

just you pathetically trying and failing to score points”

“Your accusation that I don’t understand the concept of “proven reserves” is a sick joke and a measure of both your ignorance and your ugliness.”

“I can’t tell you how impressed I am with your lovely anecdote that your house has an aluminum feed-in wire. Gosh, that’s amazing”

I know you’re hard of reading. You’ve proven that in this very thread”

link to whatever it is you’re babbling about”

 since you can read people’s minds and foretell their actions, I guess you gotta do you. And since she has obvious mental problems, it looks like you have a leg up on me when it comes to guessing what she might do.”

“you’ve found the courage and the time to make further uncited ugly accusations.”

Once again, you’re listening to the voices in your head.”

In what way are these words of yours not just ad homenem type BS? Methinks thou dust protest too much – and hast become a bit grumpy and rude in old age 😉

Face it mate – you wrote an article on a “running out of stuff” theme with several errors in it (including the one about “copper is the only material suitable for transmitting electricity”).

You posted a graph showing Copper Required and Known Copper Reserves, the lines crossing at about 2040. You wrote “by 2040 we’ll need about all the copper we’ve currently located in the ground”.

And when I politely pointed this out, instead of engaging in a civilized debate (or just ignoring me), you go all shouty and abusive.

Why am I wasting my time replying? Well I have mostly liked your work over the years and feel it’s a pity that you’ve ended up like this. Anyway, we’re probably in territory so I’ll just leave it and let you have any last word.

Kind regards,


Leo Smith
Reply to  SomeBlokeFromCambridge
January 25, 2023 10:51 pm

Seriously? There are no resource limits?
A real live Cornucopian!
The Earth is infinite, there is no end to the resources it can provide, and no limit on how much energy or money it takes to extract them.

Here is my image for you, a man sitting in an office 13 floors up yells ‘How’s it going?’

Of course resources will run out of at least economically viable extraction. Anybody who thinks they wont just because they haven’t yet, is simply ignorant.