The International Energy Agency published a report this week on the role of "critical minerals" and clean energy. https://www.iea.org/reports/the-role-of-critical-minerals-in-clean-energy-transitions
While the IEA concludes that any problems can be overcome, the IEA highlights the following:
1. "Today’s supply and investment plans for many critical minerals fall well short of what is needed to support an accelerated deployment of solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles."
2. "Many minerals come from a small number of producers. For example, in the cases of lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements, the world’s top three producers control well over three-quarters of global output."
3. "This high geographical concentration, the long lead times to bring new mineral production on stream, the declining resource quality in some areas, and various environmental and social impacts all raise concerns around reliable and sustainable supplies of minerals to support the energy transition."
It would appear that the electric future may require the world to become a "mineral based economy" rather than a "liquid/gas based economy".
Interestingly, in addition to the above, natural gas and nuclear have a smaller land footprint than any other form of energy production (not to mention higher utilization).
Further, unless the US and the EU are willing to accomodate mineral mining and extraction within their respective borders, the electrification game is China's to lose.
Technology may go some way to mediating the supply chain issues associated with these critical minerals. However, it is not enough to "export" EU/USA demand for critical minerals to China or to the DRC (in the case of cobalt). It is not clear that the environmental movement (of which I generally support) has fully assessed the implications of the above. This may be a brake on the green transition ... or at least create a mismatch between expectations and reality.
Any transition to clean energy, given the strategic importance of the minerals above, should be hugely supportive of the circular economy - i.e., recycling. Perhaps not as glamorous as sustainable mining and zero carbon electricity production, but it may be the missing link to support any proposed build out.