Rapid changes in energy availability lead to the question of whether the sustainable availability of energy implies the sustainable availability of materials and vice versa. In particular, many researchers assume that materials can be produced from any resource type, irrespective of scarcity, by providing enough energy. We revisit this issue here for two reasons: (1) To avoid significant disruptions in daily life, no more than a few percent of total energy production and materials usage can be diverted to support a transition to new energy sources. (2) Such a transition could also be problematic if it requires large quantities of materials that are byproducts of other large-scale production cycles, as any increase in the production of a byproduct typically requires an almost proportional increase in the production of the primary product. In turn, increased production of the primary product could require materials and energy expenditures that are too large to be practical. Both limitations have to be taken into account in future energy planning.
- Energy generation
- Sustainability/sustainable development
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry