Pressure on oil and metals resources have long been known, but impending lesser-known supply issues for other key materials that have gone largely unnoticed outside of the extraction industry could lead to price spikes, massive backward shifts in technology, and even global conflict in the coming decades.
Here RT.com takes a look at the near future of ‘hidden’ resource supply shocks.
While the element helium is incredibly abundant in the universe (second only to hydrogen) it is not abundant here on Earth, so we can’t just ramp up production when people realize we’ve almost run out.
There are also no comparable substitutes for helium, an element which allows humanity to maintain temperatures near absolute zero (-273.15 C, −459.67 F), and which is essential for scientific, industrial, and medical research.
MRI scans, superconductor research, silicon wafers for consumer electronics, fibre optics, guided missiles, and even the Large Hadron Collider all need helium. In short; we need helium and yet few, if any, steps have been taken to avert a global helium shortage.
Helium is formed through the decay of radioactive materials such as uranium and thorium and can often be found in natural gas reservoirs, but separating it from the natural gas is prohibitively expensive in many cases. As a result, the cost of helium has increased by 250 percent in recent years.
It is so important that it features on the US Department of the Interior’s list of elements critical to national security.
Sand is the primary component in concrete, asphalt, and glass, as well as other building materials, while also an integral part of the silicon used in the electronics industry. Thanks to the fracking revolution, the oil and gas industry has also ramped up demand for sand.
It is the second most-used resource on the planet behind water.