328 Million Americans use 3.2 million pounds of minerals, metals, and fuels in their lifetime

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Preface. Even if you go off the grid, society is using up minerals at an exponential rate to maintain the non-negotiable American lifestyle, which in 2006, required 3.7 million pounds of minerals, metals, and fuels in each person’s lifetime, or 47,769 lbs per person per year.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Collapse Chronicles, Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

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The amount of minerals per person is going down because the population is going up (not efficiency or less consumption) — we are simply each getting tinier pieces of pie every year

2007 population 301,200,000 / 2019 328,200,000

  • Copper 1,398 lbs / 980
  • Phosphate rock 18,447 lbs / 14,337
  • Coal 578,956 lbs / 330,573
  • Aluminum (bauxite) 5,417 lbs / 2,066
  • Iron Ore 32,654 lbs / 20,127
  • Cement 75,047 / 53,071
  • Natural Gas 5.71 million cubic feet (mcf) / 7.7 mcf
  • Lead 911 lbs / 953 lbs
  • Petroleum 82,199 gallons / 75,327
  • Stone, sand, & Gravel 1,720,000 lbs / 1,360,000 lbs
  • Zinc 773 lbs / 466
  • Clays 20,452 lbs / 12,182
  • Salt 31,909 / 30,190

How one earth do we use that much?

  1. 130 million homes (2010) need heating, cooling, and lighting. Each needs insulation (silica, feldspar, trona
  2. 2 million new housing units are built every year and each needs a quarter million pounds of minerals and metals.
  3. 4 million miles of roads that need to be built and maintained. 85,000 tons of aggregates are required for each mile of interstate highway.
  4. 255,917,664 passenger vehicles weighing an average of 3,000 lbs driven 12,000 miles/yr using 550 gallons of oil. travel these roads, consuming an average of 3 gallons of oil per day. The average automobile contains more than a ton of iron and steel, 240 lbs of aluminum, 50 lbs of carbon, 42 lbs of copper, 41 lbs of silicon, 22 lbs of zinc, and more than thirty other mineral commodities, including titanium, platinum, and gold?
  5. Each of them requires insulation (silica, feldspar and trona), roofing (silica sands, limestone and petroleum) and hardware (iron, zinc, copper, steel, brass). Glass windows are made of trona, silica sand, limestone and feldspar. Foundations consist of concrete made from sand, gravel and cement. Cement is made of limestone, bauxite, clay, shale and gypsum. The concrete is reinforced with steel rods.
  6. Over131 billion cans are produced / year;  63% of the steel cans and 52% of the aluminum cans are recycled.
  7. 80% of the electricity used in the U.S. is generated by fuels obtained by mining: 47% from coal, 20% from natural gas and oil, 21% from nuclear power. Only 7% is generated by hydro, with another 5% from geothermal, solar, wind and biomass combined.
  8. 1.28 billion cell phones sold worldwide in 2008 each has $1 of gold, plus 42 other minerals and metals.

Exponential growth is not sustainable. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) says that “demand for critical mineral resources is increasing at a rapid rate. That means that we are depleting our known mineral deposits at an increasing rate.”

  • 1776: 2,800,000 people : 1,200 lbs of minerals per year.
  • 1900: 76,000,000 people:  7,714 lbs of minerals per year, 6 times more than 1776.
  • 2006: 300,000,000 million people: 47,769 lbs of minerals per year, 40 times more than 1776.

Per Year every American consumes (2007):

  • 12,464 lbs. Stone to make roads; buildings; bridges; landscaping; numerous chemical and construction uses
  • 9,718 lbs. Sand & Gravel for concrete; asphalt; roads; blocks & bricks
  • 965 lbs. Cement  roads; sidewalks; bridges; buildings; schools; houses
  • 420 lbs. Iron Ore  steel  buildings; cars, trucks, planes, & trains; other construction; containers
  • 410 lbs. Salt used in various chemicals; highway deicing; food & agriculture
  • 237 lbs. Phosphate Rock fertilizers to grow food; animal feed supplements
  • 263 lbs. Clays  floor & wall tile; dinnerware; kitty litter; bricks & cement; paper
  • 70 lbs. Aluminum (Bauxite) used to make buildings; beverage containers; autos; airplanes
  • 18 lbs. Copper buildings; electrical & electronic parts; plumbing; transportation
  • 12 lbs. Lead  75% used for transportation— batteries; electrical; communications; TV screens
  • 10 lbs. Zinc used to make metals rust resistant; various metals & alloys; paint; rubber; skin creams; health care; and nutrition
  • 44 lbs. Soda Ash used to make all kinds of glass, in powdered detergents, medicines, as a food additive, photography, water treatment.
  • 6 lbs. Manganese used to make almost all steels for: construction; machinery; transportation
  • 665 lbs. Other Nonmetals numerous uses glass; chemicals; soaps; paper; computers; cell phones; etc.
  • 30 lbs. Other Metals numerous uses same as nonmetals, but also electronics; TV & video equipment; recreation equipment; etc.

Maintaining the American standard of living required 7.1 billion tons of rocks and minerals last year, or 48,000 pounds of new minerals for every person in the USA.  125 million houses require heating, cooling, and lighting, and 2 million new houses a year each need 250,000 pounds of minerals and metals.  There are 4 million miles of roads that need to be built and maintained. 237 million motor vehicles. And so on.

REFERENCES

300 Million Americans use 7 Billion Tons of minerals a year. March 2007. Mineral information institute.

MEC. 2020. Mining and mineral statistics. Minerals Education Coalition. https://mineralseducationcoalition.org/mining-mineral-statistics

 

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6 Responses to 328 Million Americans use 3.2 million pounds of minerals, metals, and fuels in their lifetime

  1. Sheila Chambers says:

    HOW can seemingly intelligent people actually believe that growth is “sustainable”?
    HOW can they actually believe that “renewables” can solve our energy problems due to declining resources when “renewables” could not even exist without them?
    Why can’t they see we are headed for collapse when our population stands at 7.8 BILLION & STILL GROWING AT 80 MILLION EACH YEAR?
    What are they using for brains, poop?
    HOW can they look at one of those huge cities, crammed top to bottom with humans & believe that this is normal & we can have even more growth?
    They are in for a very harsh dose of reality.

  2. Kevin M. says:

    As a reader who has been here for a relatively short while and for some reason still has some optimism I think it would be nice to see some alternative numbers. How would the numbers change if for example we had the living standard of another country. How would the numbers need to change to fit within our current or eventual nuclear and renewable fuel budget. What realistic projected numbers could we end up with in a best case transition scenario.

    What I am really wondering is if there still enough energy and resources to transition and then reduce the population gradually and if so at what kind of lifestyle?

  3. fred says:

    This pandemic has highlighted to some extent what we consider essential to our life style. If you think Mr. Trump has some psychological problems you are right. However, he is just a magnification of our entire society. We all want more and are never satisfied or content with what we have (a generalization for sure). For most of us though, having good health, food, to eat, a roof over our heads is not enough. It’s a sickness we all have as a society and it is more contagious than the new variant of the corona virus. This is why we will never get our energy use under control. The poorest immigrant will eventually have a 5,000 sq ft home and a three car garage with season tickets to their favorite sports team if they have the opportunity.

    • DavidS says:

      Arguably for many western citizens – their labour is no longer required, its been off-shored – their only role is as consumers. If they are employed its often in useless bs jobs, on low wages that are stagnating (or falling) in real terms. Their consumption has been increasingly funded by debt secured against a ponzi property market but this may be maxed out now. If they are to keep consuming (which they must) – then I think the next step is to simply give them the money to spend i.e. Universal Basic Income UBI. Everybody is happy ! It may be dressed up in grand ideas i.e. a Great Reset – but its essentially just a way of feeding their consuming habit and keeping profits of corporate drug dealers flowing.