When we hear someone talking of “the cost of copper” we should immediately recognize there are two components: an energy cost and then “everything else.” While the “everything else” may go up or down depending on finance or technology or efficiency, the energy cost has been increasing and will likely always continue to increase until we arrive at some future steady-state economy using only solar flows. This is the case not just for copper, but for every mined element on this planet . So when you consider the 50-odd elements (mostly metals) in that cell phone in your pocket, or the tungsten that tips just about all of the worlds power tools so they don’t need to be constantly replaced, or the lithium that goes into electric car batteries, you are seeing the end result of a long and complex supply chain of extraction of non-renewable resources (on human time scales) which required energy. TaaL: A species like mine can only shake its head when watching your societies heedlessly dispersing a billion years’ worth of incredibly precious resources in a few centuries; things like copper, phosphorus, helium and many other elements. The rich, accessible concentrations laid down or trapped by geology over billions of years of tectonics and meteor bombardment will not replenish themselves while humans exist. Resources are already far more costly than they were only 50 years ago. At this rate, in a few hundred years these materials will be the stuff of legend, unavailable in industrial quantities. Some far sooner than that. Mammal species last a couple million years on average between speciation and extinction.
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