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Peak Population: What it Means for Global Resources (Part 1)

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Peak Population: What it Means for Global Resources (Part 1)

Peak Population: What it Means for Global Resources (Part 1)

Presented by: Gainesville Coins

Even with having existed for millions of years, the process for humans to reach 1 billion in population was long and arduous. It is only about 12,000 years ago that humans started engaging in sedentary agriculture. This allowed humans to settle and consistently produce food, rather than hunt and gather throughout.

However, it is with the Industrial Revolution that the means for exponential human population increases was created. New technology, boosts in productivity, and the use of energy allowed for a new frontier in increasing health, sanitation, and standard of living. It is also around this time – in 1804 to be exact – that the earth’s population hit 1 billion people.

Fast forward two hundred years, and the impact of the Industrial Revolution is loud and clear. Now with over 7 billion people, global population has risen so fast that by one estimate, 14% of all human beings that have ever existed are alive today.

Based on a recent UN study, by 2100, our global population is predicted to be between 9.6 and 12.3 billion people. The world will be much different than we know it today in the future.

For starters, the vast majority of growth will happen in the less developed regions of the world. As an example, Nigeria’s population will increase five-fold, from around 174 million today to almost a billion people. It will likely be the 3rd most populous country behind India and China in 2100. Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole could hold up to almost half of the world’s population in the future.

While population has exploded exponentially, unfortunately the resources on our planet are finite. The ecological term for this is “carrying capacity”, which is the maximum population that an environment and resources can sustain indefinitely.

Human carrying capacity is very complex and takes into account many factors, including nutrients, fresh water, environmental conditions, space, technology, medical care, and sanitation. The carrying capacity for humans is not static, and can be changed by adding or subtracting resources from the ecosystem.

While technology has saved the human race time after time, we have not yet found ways to address many of the problems tied to overpopulation such as consumption, changes to climate, inequality, and scarcity of resources.

There are certain realities we will have to face. Here are just some of the issues:
• By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity.
• The United States uses 1 million gallons of oil every 2 minutes.
• The marginal cost of producing oil and metals has never been higher.
• Food prices are skyrocketing, and availability of essential nutrients (like phosphorus) needed to grow food is becoming scarcer.
• Governments continue to create new currency and debt at unprecedented and unsustainable levels.
• Potential collapses in biodiversity and changes in our climate.

Is our future littered with disease, famine, stunted growth, currency collapse, and a lower quality of life?

Or should we be optimistic that we can persist? Can technology and smart decisions save the day?

Visual Capitalist continues to look at Peak Population in Parts 2 and 3 of this series in early 2015. Subscribe below to make sure you get it.

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Silver Series: Perfect Storm for Silver (Part 2 of 3)

In the second part of the Silver Series, we show that the supply and demand fundamentals are potentially shaping up for a perfect storm in silver prices.

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Silver Series Part 2

The Silver Series: A Perfect Storm for Silver (Part 2 of 3)

In Part 1 of the Silver Series we showed how precious metals can be a safe haven during times of volatility in a debt-laden era.

Today’s infographic is Part Two of the Silver Series, and it comes to us from Endeavour Silver, outlining some of the key supply and demand indicators that precede a coming gold-silver cycle in which the price of silver could move upwards.

Silver Fundamentals

Silver is produced primarily as a by-product in the mining of non-precious metals, and there is currently a dwindling supply of silver as a result of low base metal prices.

However, silver is more than just a precious metal and a safe haven investment. Its industrial uses also create a significant demand on silver stocks.

As the production of green technologies such as solar cells and EVs quickly escalates, upward pressure is being placed on the price of silver, indicating the potential start of a new gold-silver cycle in the market.

Investment Demand

Just like gold, silver has functioned as a form of money for centuries, and its role as a store of value and hedge against monetary inflation endures.

Currency debasement is not new. Governments throughout history have “printed” money while silver’s value has held more constant over time.

In today’s age, the average investor does not own physical silver. Rather, they invest in financial instruments that track the performance of the physical commodity itself, such as silver exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Until recently, ETF investment in precious metals has been relatively flat, but there has been a surge in the price of silver. Meanwhile, demand for silver-backed financial products have increased the demand for physical silver and could continue to do so.

Industrial Demand

Silver is also helping to power the green revolution.

The precious metal is the best natural conductor of electricity and heat, and it plays an important role in the production of solar-powered energy. A silver paste is used in photovoltaic solar cells which collects electrons and creates electricity. Silver then helps conduct the electricity out of the cell. Without silver, solar cells would not be as efficient.

As investments and the green revolution demand more and more silver, where is the metal coming from?

A Perfect Storm for Silver: Supply Crunch

The bulk of silver production comes as a by-product of other metal mines, such as zinc, copper, or gold mines.

Since silver is not the primary metal emerging from some of these mines, it faces supply crunches when other metal prices are low.

Silver supply is falling for three reasons:

  1. Declining mine production due to low base metal prices
  2. Declining silver mine capacity
  3. Declining reserves of silver

The demand for silver is rising and the few companies that produce silver could shine.

Don’t miss another part of the Silver Series by connecting with Visual Capitalist.

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How Much Oil is in an Electric Vehicle?

It is counterintuitive, but electric vehicles are not possible without oil – these petrochemicals bring down the weight of cars to make EVs possible.

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How Much Oil is in an Electric Vehicle?

When most people think about oil and natural gas, the first thing that comes to mind is the gas in the tank of their car. But there is actually much more to oil’s role, than meets the eye…

Oil, along with natural gas, has hundreds of different uses in a modern vehicle through petrochemicals.

Today’s infographic comes to us from American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers, and covers why oil is a critical material in making the EV revolution possible.

Pliable Properties

It turns out the many everyday materials we rely on from synthetic rubber to plastics to lubricants all come from petrochemicals.

The use of various polymers and plastics has several advantages for manufacturers and consumers:

  1. Lightweight
  2. Inexpensive
  3. Plentiful
  4. Easy to Shape
  5. Durable
  6. Flame Retardant

Today, plastics can make up to 50% of a vehicle’s volume but only 10% of its weight. These plastics can be as strong as steel, but light enough to save on fuel and still maintain structural integrity.

This was not always the case, as oil’s use has evolved and grown over time.

Not Your Granddaddy’s Caddy

Plastics were not always a critical material in auto manufacturing industry, but over time plastics such as polypropylene and polyurethane became indispensable in the production of cars.

Rolls Royce was one of the first car manufacturers to boast about the use of plastics in its car interior. Over time, plastics have evolved into a critical material for reducing the overall weight of vehicles, allowing for more power and conveniences.

Timeline:

  • 1916
    Rolls Royce uses phenol formaldehyde resin in its car interiors
  • 1941
    Henry Ford experiments with an “all-plastic” car
  • 1960
    About 20 lbs. of plastics is used in the average car
  • 1970
    Manufacturers begin using plastic for interior decorations
  • 1980
    Headlights, bumpers, fenders and tailgates become plastic
  • 2000
    Engineered polymers first appear in semi-structural parts of the vehicle
  • Present
    The average car uses over 1000 plastic parts

Electric Dreams: Petrochemicals for EV Innovation

Plastics and other materials made using petrochemicals make vehicles more efficient by reducing a vehicle’s weight, and this comes at a very reasonable cost.

For every 10% in weight reduction, the fuel economy of a car improves roughly 5% to 7%. EV’s need to achieve weight reductions because the battery packs that power them can weigh over 1000 lbs, requiring more power.

Today, plastics and polymers are used for hundreds of individual parts in an electric vehicle.

Oil and the EV Future

Oil is most known as a source of fuel, but petrochemicals also have many other useful physical properties.

In fact, petrochemicals will play a critical role in the mass adoption of electric vehicles by reducing their weight and improving their ranges and efficiency. In According to IHS Chemical, the average car will use 775 lbs of plastic by 2020.

Although it seems counterintuitive, petrochemicals derived from oil and natural gas make the major advancements by today’s EVs possible – and the continued use of petrochemicals will mean that both EVS and traditional vehicles will become even lighter, faster, and more efficient.

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