Re: possible future shortages of other resources

From: Darryl Maddox (
Date: Thu Aug 02 2001 - 07:25:48 EDT

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    Good morning Chuck

    Well at least it is morning as I write this and any other greeting seems odd to me at this time of day.

      It probably all comes down to economics. As I mentioned in my previous post, if the materials we need is valuable enough, we will make sure we don't scatter it around, e.g., diamonds, gold. The point "where trouble will start" is not really a "point" but more of a time period. When the stuff gets to be scarce, only the wealthy can afford it and the rest does without.

      I agree, periods, not points. Also I expect several rolling shortages and problems rather than one big one.

        I think that there is relatively little Sc in the earth's crust and it is chemically similar to other elements, which makes separation difficult.

        The Spectrum Labs article I referenced said it was the 50th most abundant element on earth but widely scatterd and occurin in minute amounts in over 800 different minerals. That would make recovery expensive.

         I was not aware that is was used in baseball bats but there can't be much Sc in each bat, otherwise baseball bats would be priced so that only professional baseball players could afford them.

        That has to be the truth. When I first ran across that tid-bit of information I figured there was just enough scandium in the aluminum in those bats to keep the manufacturer from getting a law suite filed against them for false advertising. Also, while I appreciate the fact that sometimes small additives can make a large difference in physical properties, my guess is that the increase in sales due to the advertising value of saying a bat has scandium in it is more than the increase due to any verifiable improvement in batting performance. Perhaps some of the folks on this list have children who play baseball and they can tell us a bit more about this.

        Some years ago, Cr was in short supply and the only major suppliers, I believe, were the Soviet Union and Rhodesia.

        Right again. And if memory serves me, where did we get all the titanium metal to build those SR-71 spy planes? from the Russians who were good at refining titanium into a metallic form that could be machined, had no need for the metal but sure did need the cash.

        When Ian Smith's regime in Rhodesia passed the UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence), the West banned the import of Cr from Rhodesia. One result: a lot less chrome on cars.

        Ah, I didn't know that part.

         And so it goes: supplies dry up and we find alternatives. A lot of things, like chrome trims on cars, we can do without. Elements such as Ta and Se are used in semiconductor industry and one would think that the semiconductor industry would be hard up if the supplies of these elements dried up (not likely for Ta; there is a large deposit less than 100 km from here). But, think of all the motherboards that have outlived their usefulness. A convenient source of precious elements if we wanted to go through the bother to separate it.

        I may do a bit of work to help a friend of mine who is the consulting geologist on the new waste pit the city is digging but I am not going to go to the old ones that have already been covered over and mine through them for old computer boards or anything else to recover some trace elements. This is what I was referring to as "scattered around" to the point of not being recoverable again.

         Again, energy prices come into play. If it is cheaper in the short run to mine tantalite, purify it, and ship it to Silicon Valley, we're not likely to recycle old motherboards.

        Oh, I agree, that's why we are such a trow away society.

        On weather and water,

        < Snip> .

        Yes, and we don't know what causes these calamities. Even if it could be shown with 95% certainty that these calamities are caused by CO2 emissions, we'd all collectively point our fingers at our neighbours.

        The atmosphere in southern Ontario has been distinctly foul the last couple of weeks, according to the media. Yet, do you think that people drive less and use their air conditioners less?



        My comment about Amarillo being 1000 km (not miles) (oops, my fault) from the Gulf of Mexico was a bit tongue in cheek. I am aware of the Ogallalla reservoir and that it is being depleted: another example of a non-renewable (on a certain time scale) resource. How much water is being recycled in Amarillo?

        So little I hadn't even thought to ask. As far as I know all the excess rain water and lawn runoff goes into the storm drains. On the north side of town these drains empty into creeks that (assuming they don't dry up before the water gets there) empty into the Canadian River. On the south side of town the runoff goes into somewhere and eventually winds up going down through Palo Duro Canyon. I think I will contact the city water dept and see what I can learn about this. It is an interesting question and probably something I should address in my geology classes.

        Thanks for the info on water rights. I can't imagine how somebody can "own" this stuff, especially considering how mobile it is, laterally.

        We are pretty big on people owning stuff around here. It wasn't that long ago that survival depended on more than runnning to the grocery store or the local well-fare office. It depended on taking care of your cattle, your water, your grain, your car or truck, your house, your oil or gas wells etc. If you wanted it you had to figure out a way to get it and to keep it against the vagaries of nature. People were, and still are, very helpful when a neighbor, or just someone they see, is in trouble but it wasn't that long ago (30 years?) that I went to a movie, came home late and since I had forgotten to take my house keys with me was climbing in through my bedroom window and was challenged by a neighor with a shotgun. Crime rate was amazing low in those days. But back to the water - it is so dry around here that not much water flows on the surface and in the early days the irrigation and farm wells were so far apart and used so little water that lateral migration wasn't a problem. But of course now that we are trying to support a town of close to 175,000 people with maybe 50 water wells and the farmers are pumping water through 8-12 inch pipes (I am guessing based on what I have seen lying around in the fields - that is something else I can check on in the next few days - what size engines are they using, at what rates do they lift the water and how much do they use in a year) things are a bit different. And even worse than that, I still water my lawn. The shear stupidity of using drinkable water to grow grass in the summer time in this climate amazes me. But peer pressure and habits being what they are I keep a green lawn (though I do have a type of grass that does best in high temperatures and a moderately dry climate - unlike most of my neighbors). One neighbor has replaces his grass with gravel and cut off the only tree in his front yard so that the trunk is inclined down toward the street. Attached to that trunk is an old gasoline powered lawnmower and the sign in front says "RETIRED!" I assume it refers to both he and the lawn mower.

        There are a few people who are putting in low water lawns but it is a trend that is only slowly developing.

        I assume from your reference to southern Ontario that you live there. A couple of weeks ago the 2001 American Solar Car race (they spell it Rayce but I can't bring myself to do that) came through Amarillo and everyone had a mandatory 30 minute pit stop. There were several cars from Canada including the one from Queen's University of Kingston Ontario and the one from the University of Toronto. Queen's came in 4th overall and Toronto came in 11th. As for the team from Texas? Well the only highschool in the bunch finished ahead of the Aggies from Texas A&M University. My guess is too much exotic engineering, not enough common sense or experience on the part of the Aggies. As one of the guys from North Dakota State said "Our car may be heavy and slow but it is reliable."


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