Re: ECON: Simon vs Ehrlich

Michael Lorrey (
Sat, 26 Apr 1997 23:37:33 -0400

Laws, David wrote:
> I am no geologist. I am no economist. To say we are running out of any
> mineral (except oil) just basically seems silly. The earth's crust should
> be strewn with every mineral known to man (and then some....wood and air is
> a far more known limiter). It may take a little bit more searching and
> deeper digging to find them but we have only scratched the resources. Oil
> may be an exception, but we may still have vast resources we haven't found.
> Oil may also be in it's last gasps. Shale oil is another matter. But
> chromium? Copper? Tin? Nickel? The 'mother lodes' of these minerals are
> probably just the tip of the iceberg of resources hiding in the crust (the
> deepest mine is only a mile or two down, correct? Anyone attempted mining
> Greenland?) Prices may rise, because the monopolies can do it, but we
> won't run out of these metals.

Remember, if it takes more searching and digging to get it, the recovery
costs are going to be greater, thus the price will go up. However, two
factors countered this basic rule:

1) the Soviet Union collapsed. Now that communism is on the outs and
Russia and its client republics are now nominally free markets, they've
flooded the worlds markets with metals, gas and oil, commodities which
are in greatest abundance and purity in ores only in that area
previously off limits to western development and exploitation. So in
effect, in 1990, the free worlds natural resources effectively doubled
overnight, which would obviously lead to lower prices...

2) Recycling. Once a commodity reaches a certain price level, and
remaining natural sources become that much less pure, thus raising their
cost of recovery, then recycling of those exiting supplies of
commodities becomes an economically cost effective proposition. The big
stubling block is that the cost of entry into a recycling supply engine
is steep to begin with due to the political capital needed to be
expended to change people's operating habits. Once this is attained
however, the unitary cost of recycling drops as people's new habits make
supplies of recycled commodities so abundant that demand for new
commodity resources drops.

Additional factors include all sorts of technological changes that
reduce demands for various commodities. Fiber optics have reduced demand
for copper, for example. The place to look for commodity price rises is
in materials that have very little use today, but could become very
useful with new technologies. Just look at the need for high purity
silicon and gallium arsenide that the computer industry has spawned. 30
years ago silicon, also known as sand, was among the most useless items
around, except for nice beaches, traps on golf courses, and for use on
winter roads...
> The popular belief we ARE running out of basic minerals may spawn a new
> interest in space travel/space engineering as we can get these from the
> moon and/or asteroids, a good thing.

			Michael Lorrey
------------------------------------------------------------		Inventor of the Lorrey Drive

Mikey's Animatronic Factory My Own Nuclear Espionage Agency (MONEA) MIKEYMAS(tm): The New Internet Holiday Transhumans of New Hampshire (>HNH) ------------------------------------------------------------ #!/usr/local/bin/perl-0777---export-a-crypto-system-sig-RC4-3-lines-PERL @k=unpack('C*',pack('H*',shift));for(@t=@s=0..255){$y=($k[$_%@k]+$s[$x=$_ ]+$y)%256;&S}$x=$y=0;for(unpack('C*',<>)){$x++;$y=($s[$x%=256]+$y)%256; &S;print pack(C,$_^=$s[($s[$x]+$s[$y])%256])}sub S{@s[$x,$y]=@s[$y,$x]}