This short piece by Tim Marshall, who specializes in the intersection of geography and foreign affairs, looks at how a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy may impact geopolitics.
"Sun, wind and water are found in different quantities, but are global, and power garnered from them won’t need to be shifted around the globe in huge tankers. Some countries are better placed than others. The UK, notably Scotland, is well positioned to take advantage of wind power, but might be ‘solar challenged’. The USA has abundant sun, wind and water, and gas reserves aplenty, as it makes the slow shift. ... China is dominant in making solar cells and batteries, and is trying to corner the market in the materials required for their manufacture. It’s also home to huge reserves of neodymium, which is used to make the generators for wind turbines. Chile is well placed: it’s the world’s largest source of lithium. This leads us on to some of the losers. Creating and storing energy from renewable sources requires a range of rare earth materials and other commodities. For example, cobalt and lithium are vital for making rechargeable batteries. Most of the known quantities of cobalt are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and while this might seem a positive for the DRC, the likelihood is that both outside and internal powers will continue to fight over its resources even as scientists race to invent cobalt-free batteries. ... Some of the Gulf States, Venezuela, Canada, Kazakhstan, Nigeria and, to a lesser extent Russia, will see a gradual reduction in fossil-fuel revenue. ... Some shifts in the balance of power can’t be predicted, but we can say with confidence that they will happen. Bloomberg’s annual New Energy Finance report projects that by 2050, the world will get half of its power from wind and solar."
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