Six Arguments against Alternative Industrialism

  • Posted on: 5 March 2010
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>by Mikko Virtanen

Almost everyone from capitalists to mainstream environmentalists and anarchists are proposing a massive construction project of alternative industrial infrastructure, replacing the current high emitting infrastructure, to solve the problem of global warming. These people say we need more wind energy, solar energy and ocean energy, a new electrical grid, electric cars, and even energy efficient household appliances. If critique of capitalism is uncommon these days, then critique of alternative industrialism is even less common. Here are some arguments often left out of the debate.

1. To build a new green infrastructure of such a massive scale would require a lot of energy and materials, which can only be provided through the use of already existing fossil fuel based infrastructure. Inevitably this would lead to a lot of net greenhouse gas emissions, in a situation when we need to start reducing them quickly.</td><td><img title="The question is not what are we going to do but what are we going to break..." src="files/pictures/2010/civilizationisacarcrash.jpg"></td></tr></table><!--break-->

2. The production of this new infrastructure will require a vast amount of raw materials, much of which are not renewable themselves, and are environmentally destructive to obtain. Alternative industrial technologies, such as wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars require a lot of rare earth metals that are already in short supply from the current alternative industrialism boom. It has yet to be proven if we even have the raw materials available to make enough wind turbines and solar panels to keep up current levels of energy consumption or any significant level of industrial production at all.

3. The new surge in green manufacturing puts a lot of pressure to open new mines and to build new processing plants. These new mines and other methods of resource extraction will inevitably destroy and poison local communities around the source of extraction. Even Jana Hartline, Toyota’s environmental communication manager admits: “Mining in any way, shape or form is never an environmentally friendly process. That’s the nature of the beast.”

4. If industrial production were to be ecologically sustainable, it would have to be a closed loop when it comes to non-renewable materials. In other words 100 % recycling. With current technology, this is impossible.

5. A question that shouldn’t be underestimated for anti authoritarians is whether or not it is possible to sustain the large scale co-operation and deep specialization necessary for running any type of industrial production, without falling into hierarchical ways of organization. This should not be taken lightly: the organization of CNT, the anarchist labor union which controlled much of industrial production in some areas of Spain during the civil war, had at least six levels of hierarchy.

6. It takes time to build new infrastructure, time that we don’t have. There are diverging opinions whether any kind of alternative green infrastructure could be built quickly enough to be any kind of replacement.

What all this means is that if we want to halt global warming, we need to start questioning our dependence on industrial production and infrastructure. We need to put wind energy, solar energy and other alternative industrial solutions on the list of false solutions along with agrofuels, nuclear energy, and clean coal technology. As soon as possible, we need to start doing the only thing that can halt the destruction of our life supporting systems: reducing our industrial production and consumption to the absolute minimum.

Further reading:

-Sharon Astyk: <a href="http://sharonastyk.com/2008/11/11/a-new-deal-or-a-war-footing-thinking-t... New Deal or a War Footing? Thinking Through Our Response to Climate Change</a> (Casaubon’s Book, 11.11.2008)
-Jeff Vail: <a href="http://www.jeffvail.net/2009/07/renewables-hump-8-concluding-thoughts.ht... Renewables Hump</a> (2009) and <a href="http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5588">Renewable Transition</a> (The Oil Drum, 2009)
-Stew Cowans: <a href="http://treo.typepad.com/raremetalblog/2009/08/media-rare-earth-supply-cr... earth supply crimp could derail expansion in alternative energy industry</a> (RareMetalMedia, 27.8.2009)
-Steve Gorman: <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE57U02B20090831">As hybrid cars gobble rare metals, shortage looms</a> (Reuters, 31.8.2009)
-Damian Kahya: <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7707847.stm">Bolivia holds key to electric car future</a> (BBC News, 9.11.2008)
-Bradley Berman: <a href="http://www.hybridcars.com/news/shortage-rare-metals-hybrids-overblown-26... of Rare Metals for Hybrids Is Overblown</a> (Hybridcars.com, 4.9.2009)
-I.Wernick and N.J. Themelis: <a href="http://www.seas.columbia.edu/earth/papers/aree98.pdf">Recycling Metals for the Environment</a> (1998)
-Robert U. Ayres, Leslie W. Ayres and Ingrid Råde: <a href="http://www.iied.org/pubs/pdfs/G00740.pdf">The Life Cycle of Copper, its Co-Products and By-Products</a> (2002)
-Robert U. Ayres: <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/89/3/815.full.pdf">Toxic heavy metals: Materials cycle optimization</a> (1991)
-Bob Black: On Organisation (Chapter 4 in Anarchy After Leftism, C.A.L. Press, 1997). See also p. 14-5 in Murray Bookchin: <a href="http://www.spunk.org/texts/writers/bookchin/sp001642/overview.html">To Remember Spain</a> (AK Press, 1994) and “<a href="http://www.infoshop.org/library/Daniel_Guerin:Anarchism2#CENTRALIZATION_... and planning</a>” in Daniel Guerin's “Anarchism - From theory to Practice”.

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This article was first published in "Dealing with Distractions - Confronting Green Capitalism in Copenhagen & Beyond". That pamphlet can be downloaded from here: <a href="http://dealingwithdistractions.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/readablezine/">h...

Comments

Sound argument, I don't know how there are still anti-authoritarians clinging to the idea that the industrial process can be made "safe." It seems that any industrial process or any process in general intended to create surplus is inherently unsustainable. When will other finally give up on the promises of "civilization?"

Torch all prius dealerships, haha!
That'd light a fire under the liberals asses.

"Green mansions" have already been torched...

more like this!

Industrialism is necessarily authoritarian.

We can either have anarchy, or industrial civilization. People working towards having both are wasting their time.

MUH,Ha,Ha,Ha,Haaaa.You will always be slaves to the machine,to the constructions of your deficient aotonomous states, to the blue-prints of your security state, to your fear of a lonely self-liberty.
Muh,Ha,Ha,Ha,Haaaa
--The non-hypocritical monster from your nightmares.

I think that the kind of alternative industrialism you are critiquing is the one green capitalists will try to sell you. It's obvious that wind and solar energy are never going to provide enough energy for our current levels of consumption, and I don't think any real environmentalist would suggest that we should maintain those levels! I think that it's important to acknowledge the reality that we can't support earth's current population without some sort of energy and agriculture infrastructure, and from here we can start thinking about what we need and how we are going to provide ourselves with it in ways that aren't exploitative (of people and the earth).

Thanks for the comments,

here are some of my further thoughts.

"I think that the kind of alternative industrialism you are critiquing is the one green capitalists will try to sell you."

No, I didn't mean it like that only. My idea was to also criticise alternative industrialism that some environmentalists and anarchists are trying to sell me.

That doesn't mean that there wouldn't be environmentalists bringing up visions of "sustainable" large scale production. One example is Jacobson and Delucchi's draft to be published in Energy Journal, of which there was a big article in the November 2009 Scientific American, where they propose a scenario to have all of world's energy from renewables by 2030. In their scenario world energy consumption would be 11.5 TW's, while it was 15 TW's at 2009. In their vision, the following power plants or devices would be needed: 3.8 million 5 MW wind turbines, 720000 0.75 MW wave devices, 5350 100 MW geothermal plants, 900 1300 MW hydroelectric plants, 490000 1 MW tidal turbines, 1,7 billion 0,003 MW roof PV (PhotoVoltaic) systems, 40000 300 MW Solar PV plants and 49000 300 MW CSP plants (p.13).

They admit that to build these would require huge amounts of energy and materials, and for example the production of neodymium, a rare earth metal used for the magnets in wind power plants and electric car motors among other places, would need to increase fivefold (p. 14-20). Jacobson and Delucchi's draft is online here: http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/susenergy2030.html (under "more detailed analysis")

An interesting perspective to the dreams of Jacobson and Delucchi to open a lot of new mines comes from The Manila Declaration of the International Conference on Extractive Industries and Indigenous Peoples (23-25 March 2009), which states that "we have suffered disproportionately from the impact of extractive industries as our territories are home to over sixty percent of the world's most coveted mineral resources." (p. 1). The declaration asserts that "there must be an immediate end to the criminalization of community resistance, the violent intimidation, harassment, and murder of our leaders, activists and lawyers, who are working for the defence of our lands and lives" (p. 3). Further on, the Declaration calls for "a stop to the plunder of our lands, territories and resources" and "a moratorium on further extractive industry projects that affect or threaten our communities" (p. 3). The Manila Declaration is downloadable here: http://www.tebtebba.org/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=358&Itemid=27

In other words, Jacobson and Delucchi are supporting militarism and violent colonialism, since few people would happily let their home be destroyed because of a mine or another infrastructure.

"I think that it's important to acknowledge the reality that we can't support earth's current population without some sort of energy and agriculture infrastructure"

Well, depends how you define infrastructure. I don't think monocultural agriculture is necessary to support current human and nonhuman populations: permaculture methods could do it just fine. This would though require motivation and skills from and access to land for the majority of the population. If the motivation would be there, that would bring a revolutionary change and probably quite a few conflicts with those who currently "own" huge areas of land. Not that there wouldn't already be a lot of land conflicts everywhere.

Greetings,
Mikko Virtanen

Correction to the above: the journal the draft is for is "Energy Policy", not "Energy Journal".

MV

Over Carrying Capacity:

There's just one problem with the primitivist line: We would have to reduce our population back to that of the pre-civilization area. We are far beyond the carrying capacity of the planet in a natural state.

While forcing the US and European "standard of living" down to that normal to the rest of the worlds will cut energy consumption maybe 80%, that isn't zero. It's a lot easier to use ANY form of renewable energy when you don't need as much, but there are so many of us. China only has 20% of America's per-capita energy consumption, yet equals the US carbon footprint with 5x the population.

If we want to keep most of our existing population alive, we are going to have to be able to feed them. GMO's et all don't help, so we will still have to "push" excessive yields from agriculture. We can fertilize with shit but will have to sterilise it. That requires energy. We have to move food from farms to the public and shit back. This was true even in the Middle Ages, where things were decentralized down to a town level.

A "Medievel Plus" economy, where decentralized biomass fuel replaces draft animals in an otherwise medieval-style economy might be the most likely sucessor to centralized industrial capitalism. Nobody will actively CHOOSE the this system, it will simply "overgrow" most of it's likely competitors. In the Middle Ages wind and water power were used a lot, so much so that this along with heavy transport is why cities grew up on rivers. What we CAN control is whether communities are free or are held in thrall to a new class of money-grubbing energy pimps making themselves kings.

In this scenario, steam or piston engine power from the town machine shop uses less grain or other usable food (as biodiesel or ethanol) than draft animals that "idle" 24-7 when not being exploited. The family-owned shops building this stuff use wind and water power, choosing line shaft or generator-motor layouts to suit their needs. I know about this stuff, as I have built things all of my life(can't afford to buy them!). Simple steam, diesel, or ethanol motors can be built locally from local materials and infinately recycled metals. The tractors and hauling carriages are simple, built to last and be maintainable by farmers or anyone else.

This doesn't provide any more power than horses or mules, there's not enough fuel for that, as food and fuel are in competition whether using animal power or biomass. The level of economic and residential/commercial centralization is forced back down to that of the middle ages, not by choice but by necessity. Who wants to bike or ride a 20mph moped (or 8 mph carriage!) on a 20 mile dirt road commute?

Small wind and waterwheels are everywhere, as they were in the Middle Ages and for exactly the same reason-you build them once, then get free energy. There is no centralized infrastructure, as nobody has the resources to build or keep it after old installations have worn out. Even copper wire is drawn locally at village shops. During the transition, people enjoy energy from the generators at Niagra Falls and old wind farms, but as these wear out and quit only small locally-made installations are available to replace them-not by choice, but by necessity.

Any artificial attempt to "Shock treatment" transition to ANY new infrastructure all at once will likely leave most people in the lurch. Rich scumbags will bid scarce food out of reach for the poor, using some of it to fuel luxuries instead of for eating. It will take time to get to a sustainable economy-and overwhelming force to keep the wealthy from hoarding everything for themselves or even becoming a new class of kings and lords, controlling wind farms and solar plants instead of castles. We will have to build our own infrastructure, at levels we can afford, if we don't want these would-be feudal lords to starve the public into submission.

We are going to have a climate disaster-and probably a coal age after oil even AFTER that, as politics has not proven capable of stopping massive fossil fuel consumption. Like the disasters that befell Europe(including a probable asteroid strike) in the same times as the removal of Roman overlords, this will push people towards local sources of both physical and military/political power.

Our job as Anarchists will be to fight as free people against a new generation of capitalist overlords. To do this, we will need to understand the essentials or both war and peace. We will need to raise windmills and armies, both feed and defend ourselves and our communities.
If we don't someone else will, and we will NOT like this new generation of kings and feudal overlords.

Under these circumstances, time spent on the farm or in the machine shop, working construction, etc will be far more useful that any number of political theory classes. Those who know me in person know that I am not a theory purist, but the equipment I make works.

Capitalism will either choke on it's own exhaust or literally run out of gas, possibly within our lifetimes-are we ready?

Dont knock animal power!!
I've got my team of 10 gerbils going flat out on a tread mill lighting my 3 volt globe in my cold dark tenement hovel!
No heating,but my coat is made from 400 gerbil skins sewn together,they breed like hell and taste good.
Necessity is the mother of invention ya know

"We can fertilize with shit but will have to sterilise it. That requires energy. We have to move food from farms to the public and shit back."

Wrong on all counts.

First of all, manure - even human manure - doesn't need sterilization but, if you are worried about the health of its source, it is enough to either compost it aerobically or spread it and allow it to sit for a year (at most). See the link at the bottom of the page. You can either buy the book or download it electronically for free ... your call. I did both.

Second of all, when it decomposes aerobically - whether in a pile or spread on the surface of a field - it is exothermic and thus yields more energy than consumed. This fact provides the thinking behind quite a few hothouse heating systems.

Third, it is of only minor value as fertilizer, having too much nitrogen to apply directly (a side dressing or soil incorporation, when fresh, DOES run the risk of food contamination), but of immeasurable worth as a soil amendment. By the time it has decomposed, along with the needed high carbon materials, it will assay out at around 1-1-1. Its value, then, is as food for soil microbes. It is they who will release the fertility of the soil.

Fourth, of all your thinking is still locked in the monoculture / agribusiness mode. Suppose that each person simply recycled his/her OWN manure into their OWN garden? This is more than just a closed loop as it is a means of adding external inputs (the foods eaten that were not grown on that soil). Or, if the manure, etc., from a city was recycled within 20 miles of that city. Twenty miles is not zero, but it is a great improvement over the average of 1,500 miles that our food currently travels to reach our plate.

I know for a fact that I can grow nearly $3,000 worth of vegetables on roughly 240 sq ft of raised beds per season in Michigan and this is /without/ the addition of any sort of manure ... just compost whose ingredients originated either in my kitchen or within 100 yards of my house.

This is not theory. My machines also work.

http://www.humanurehandbook.com/

The planet, whether our production systems recognize it or not, is a closed system. There is no "away"; so your manure, when you flush, does not go there.

I know this to be true! I have self-sufficed on occasion. Books are valuable, either for entertainment, compost or toilet-paper. Vegan feces has less odoriferousness, and mulches readily into the garden, compared to carnivorous feces, which leaves an oily film from the saturated fats present in a dominantly meat diet. Our own spaces are parochially closed systems if we are non-capitalist.

"We can fertilize with shit but will have to sterilise it. That requires energy. We have to move food from farms to the public and shit back."

Wrong on all counts.

First of all, manure - even human manure - doesn't need sterilization but, if you are worried about the health of its source, it is enough to either compost it aerobically or spread it and allow it to sit for a year (at most). See the link at the bottom of the page. You can either buy the book or download it electronically for free ... your call. I did both.

Second of all, when it decomposes aerobically - whether in a pile or spread on the surface of a field - it is exothermic and thus yields more energy than consumed. This fact provides the thinking behind quite a few hothouse heating systems.

Third, it is of only minor value as fertilizer, having too much nitrogen to apply directly (a side dressing or soil incorporation, when fresh, DOES run the risk of food contamination), but of immeasurable worth as a soil amendment. By the time it has decomposed, along with the needed high carbon materials, it will assay out at around 1-1-1. Its value, then, is as food for soil microbes. It is they who will release the fertility of the soil.

Fourth, of all your thinking is still locked in the monoculture / agribusiness mode. Suppose that each person simply recycled his/her OWN manure into their OWN garden? This is more than just a closed loop as it is a means of adding external inputs (the foods eaten that were not grown on that soil). Or, if the manure, etc., from a city was recycled within 20 miles of that city. Twenty miles is not zero, but it is a great improvement over the average of 1,500 miles that our food currently travels to reach our plate.

I know for a fact that I can grow nearly $3,000 worth of vegetables on roughly 240 sq ft of raised beds per season in Michigan and this is /without/ the addition of any sort of manure ... just compost whose ingredients originated either in my kitchen or within 100 yards of my house.

This is not theory. My machines also work.

http://www.humanurehandbook.com/

The planet, whether our production systems recognize it or not, is a closed system. There is no "away"; so your manure, when you flush, does not go there.

While I recognize several sensible points in the article, I must disagree with its vision as a whole.

In my opinion, it is vital for people to develop technology to a level whereupon a recipe, an universal assembler, enough energy and raw materials of suitable elements... will put it within a single individual's power to build anything which civilization can, including another universal assembler.

In my eyes, reducing our energy consumption and industrial output can ONLY be a temporary measure -- a tactical compromise, a sensible withdrawal to gain efficiency and try other paths, instead of throwing oneself senselessly forward, propelled by resources and models of society dictated by historic inertia.

To be content with not proceeding to work towards accessibility of space travel and practical immortality in face of age and disease, as well as the eventual eradication of all dependence, granting any individual the current capabilities of civilization...

...is to be content with death.

Mind you, some may be content with the concept that we will never escape Earth's gravity well, never escape our biological legacy (which holds little to be proud of, though much to be amused by)... never surpass the first cells which started life on this planet in their relative independence and autonomy.

Some may be content with the concession that we will always need to reproduce, that we will always be born senseless, and need to gain enough sense to operate with a semblance of autonomy though a process of learning almost two decades in span.

I am not content with that. Even if I may not live to see much of the outcome (though I would prefer to, and will try)... I perceive technology, and our choices in technology, and struggles which unfortunately await when anarchist choices clash with hierarchist ones... as the foremost chance to bring about anarchy.

State is all about dependence, but independence to pursue an antiquated lifestyle is not the path to defeat state. The path to defeat state is a culture built around technologies favourable to high autonomy... enabling people to communicate, organize, research, construct... while not depending on the centralized facilities of hierarchical society.

Furthermore, I have the following suspicion...

...that true anarchy may only be fully possible only for intelligent machines of their own construction, creatures of the same capabilities as their tools.

True anarchy may never arrive for us, but if offered a choice between returning to middle ages, and letting artificial intellect run out of control and supersede humanity, however tumultously and painfully it may happen, frankly, I would choose the latter. It would at the very leas, have chances of withstanding nature. Agrarian society and waiting for something or another to drive us extinct, is not constructive.

But in the temporary perspective, I am all for for conservation of resources. I can't squat an abandoned house at safe distance from civilization without having a vehicle... so I build one... and will limit myself to 3 KW of electrical power and 200 kg of material, instead of the fashionable 80 KW of internal combustion pushing 1500 kg of mass... but this does not mean that I'll stop thinking of laser launch systems for cheap access to space.

Fuck, days will come pretty soon when elementary resistance to police repression includes a course of robotics. It *may* well end in an arms race of runaway consumption, but unless we simultaneously up the resistance, deny the system all resources which can be denied to it, and try to obtain our own resources more efficiently, it's futile, folks. I feel that we need to do it. If you want, sure, go ahead and try without, but I'm preparing for the contingency that technology is needed to save our ass from state.

And naturally, if nothing comes of it, the arts of cryptography and steganography will be needed to save our ass upon complete defeat, and continue digging for anarchy in a totalitarial context.

Same anonymous coward technophile squatter here, and wishing I could edit my post and rephrase a couple of points... but nope, no such luxury for us anonymous folk.

So instead of rephrasing, I'd just spew more BS and try to express it better this time around. :P

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The first part of what I wish to add, pertains to industrial & energy production, and capacity for both.

Sure, reducing needs to as few as possible is wise. Efficiency nearly always is. Since it helps preserve our living environment as enjoyable, all the better.

However, there are situations where it's possible to perceive capacity for great industrial and energy production as useful.

In event of struggle, great waste inevitably occurs. Imagine the resources wasted in a large campaign of sabotage. Tons of potentially useful stuff getting broken, burnt, bent, whacked, punctured, cut, dropped, spilled, otherwise re-decorated beyond recovery... and replaced, reinstalled, rebuilt, only to be sabotaged again. Performing sabotage likewise costs resources: tools, vehicles, fuel, time which could have been spent building nice things and helping people.

In a situation of struggle, ability to destroy and produce counts. Ability to do it in manners which your opponent cannot obstruct, counts perhaps even more. If the goal is to resist the currently fasionable form of industrialized society, what it takes is another, more robust, more efficient, more decentralized, yet necessarily somehow preferable (otherwise there would be no point!) form of industrialized society. Non-industrialized resistance won't cut, it will be pushed out of way without getting a fighting chance.

Furthermore, struggle is not the only condition where production capacity can be viewed as positive.

Environment is not always benign. I say this after having waded yesterday, with construction materials, through a 60 cm of snow at a temperature of -15C. Others can confirm it from their point of view. Us humans have a rather limited range of habitable environmental conditions. Currently the planet caters rather well to our needs. If we intend to stay around however, we need to be ready for times when it no longer does. Great environmental changes have occurred before, and humans have been on the verge of extinction before. It will happen again, sooner or later, regardless of whether we play nice with nature or don't (if we play dirty, it will just likely happen a lot sooner).

To draw a simple scenario, what if Earth's climate does go wrong, shifting out of the habitable zone for humans? What if remaining options are directing more sunlight to Earth via space-based mirros or oppositely, reducing the sunlight available to Earth using space-based shades? What if the remaining option is altering the composition of the oceans or atmosphere, and the only feasible energy source is fusion? What if, beyond stupidities accomplished by people... an inconvenient episode of volcanism or inconvenient rock from space messes things up?

How is minimum-footprint society to respond? I can see no other response than rapidly increasing production of materials and energy, constructing what is necessary and using it to alter environment.

In short, I want to say that capacity for great industrial and energy production can be regarded as important survival skills.

There is absolutely no need to wastefully use them for whimsical purposes... but it seems quite worthwhile to retain capability of quickly ramping up production and consumption, because sometimes, they can be truly needed.

--------------

As a second point, I just wish I could alter the tone of my previous post, which at points seems to imply that reduced production would be incompatible with high technology.

Upon thinking about it more closely, I no longer see why it should be that way, and in that regard, I perceive my previous post as hastily written. Sure, let's reduce production as far as reasonable, but let's continue making microprocessors and solar cells, lasers and radio transceivers, brushless electrical motor controllers and magnetic resonance imagers. Enough resources can be spared to make them, and use them to improve people's lives, by cutting production of needless cruft.

Be careful of using the words "current technology" to prove a point. It won't be 2010 for very long, remember.

In the paper title Organocatalysis: Opportunities and Challenges for Polymer Synthesis published in the American Chemical Society journal Macromolecules, the scientists explain how they were able to create an "highly active, environmentally benign" organic catalysts that can chemically break down PET into monomers, the building blocks of polymers. They can then use those to make new plastic of the same quality as the feedstock, and all this at relatively low temperatures, allowing for "closed loop" recycling with low energy use.

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/03/ibm-stanford-organic-catalysts-p...(Treehugger)

Thanks for the comment,

Maybe it could be possible to recycle SOME materials in a closed loop manner with low energy use, but for all materials this is very unlikely.

First of all, recycling of metals requires huge amounts of energy, because they need to be heated to very high temperatures during the process. Even Lester Brown admits this in his "Plan B 2.0 - Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble": "recycling cans made from aluminum, which has a melting point of 660 degrees Celsius (1,220 degrees Fahrenheit), is an energy-intensive process" (p. 241 in Updated and Expanded edition, Earth Policy Institute, 2006). Despite this, Browns book is another scenario for a huge alternative industrialism infrastructure project: a short version of it is available here.

Another problem, which is more specifically explained in one of the further reading sources of my article above, is "Copper as a contaminant of recycled steel" (and aluminium). It is very difficult if not impossible to remove copper from recycled steel and aluminium, and when the copper levels get higher, the quality of the steel goes down. This is why recycled steel is mostly used in building and not in engine manufacturing, for example. Check pages 85-6 in The Life Cycle of Copper, its Co-Products and By-Products by Robert U. Ayres, Leslie W. Ayres and Ingrid Råde (2002).

Mikko Virtanen

Did you read the link? The closed loop recycling manner is a low-energy process.

But that's besides the point. Five years ago, this process was inconceivable. When you base your analysis on what's possible *right now*, but have impossible requirements of a perfect result, then you'll be continually proven wrong by the inevitably progression of technology. Instead, we should be looking at the best processes and methods now, with a constant push for greater technological progress towards a more closed loop.

And energy inputs aren't an issue. There's more than enough energy to go around, and retrieving that energy is the only real hurdle. The sun outputs 8,000x more energy in a year than humanity uses. Effectively, that's more energy in a year than the human population has *ever* used, total. Wind provides 18x more energy.

If you're looking for a perfect solution right now, that's not the point, but there's no point in letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Much of the technology necessary to drastically reduce the human effect on this planet has existed for 30, 40, 50, even 100 years. Our first goal is to move to those technologies, and off of oil and coal, and away from the gross inefficiencies of the tech currently in use. It's a continual process until technology evolves to the point where we can have a closed loop. And that's not that far away, especially with the exponential technological gains we're seeing. 2020 is going to look very different from 2010 in terms of what's possible.