Lithium Economics

Baby 7 Billion, Electric Cars and Lithium

Nov 01, 2011

Following The United Nations’ announcement that the world’s 7 billion baby was born yesterday, Hans Rosling’s great talk on TED in July 2010 couldn’t be more relevant today. Here I find a sgnificant consistency between Rosling’s arguments and those advanced by myself in my previous blog entitled “Lithium and the New Techno-Economic Paradigm”.

Hans Rosling’s great talk on TED in July 2010 couldn’t be more relevant today. In fact, more than a year ago he already talked about 7 billion people in the world. But his discussion went far beyond the meaningless celebration of the birth of the world’s 7 billionth baby, following the United Nations’ announcement yesterday.

Rosling argued that the population tripled in the developing world since1960, from 2 to 6 billion, while the population in the developed world essentially remained in 1 billion. People in the West started to use more plains than cars, while the most succesful developing countries (amounting to about 1 billion people) became emerging economies and are now buying cars.

The good news is that 3 billion people more are becoming emerging economies and are acquiring bicycles and, eventually, motor bikes. The bad news is that there are still 2 billion poor people incapable of purchasing anything more than food and shoes. As a result, the gap between the richest and the poorest countries in the world is wider than ever.

In this context, he projected things into 2050. First, he contended that 1 billion more will be part of the developed world, and if but only if they invest in the right green technology so that they can avoid severe climate change and energy can still be relatively cheap, then 3 additional billion people will add on to move in the right direction and start buying electric cars.

Second, the world’s poorest population will double in about 40 years from now to 4 billion and if but only if they get out of poverty, they get education, they get improved child survival, they can buy a bicycle and a cell phone, then they will move on to a next step in the progress ladder and the kind of population growth rates we have been accustomed to in the last five decades or so will simply stop.

Lastly, he envisaged a juster world with green investments and investments to alleviate poverty so that one billion people more can move on to be part of the developed world so that the West no longer is the leading group of countries in the world but only the foundation of a new order, 3 billion end up being the emerging economies, and 3 billion people are part of a group of low-income economies without extreme poverty.

There is a great deal of consistency between Rosling’s arguments and those I advanced in my second EVWorld blog published almost four years ago. True he does not talk about a new techno-economic paradigm nor does he say anything about lithium or lithium batteries to power the electric cars he portrays as the right green technology. Nevertheless, those aspects of the ‘new way of doing things’ in the next two decades or so are implicit and only reinforce his original arguments.

One last thing I would like to comment on is his view that energy should be relatively cheap in order to make the new world viable. As is well known, I have long argued that the new techno-economic paradigm requires both cheap lithium and cheap lithium batteries. On the one hand, cheap lithium will only be possible when Bolivia enters the lithium market. On the other, cheap batteries depend not only on technological development, competition, and demand for electric cars but also a firm commitment particularly on the part of governments and people in the new emerging economies to fight against poverty and climate change.

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