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A Handbook of Industrial Ecology

Edited by Robert U. Ayres and Leslie W. Ayres

Industrial ecology is coming of age and this superb book brings together leading scholars to present a state-of-the-art overviews of the subject. Each part of the book comprehensively covers the following issues in a systematic style: the goals and achievements of industrial ecology and the history of the field; methodology, covering the main approaches to analysis and assessment; economics and industrial ecology; industrial ecology at the national/regional level; industrial ecology at the sectoral/materials level; and applications and policy implications.
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Chapter 31: Material constraints on technology evolution: the case of scarce metals and emerging energy technologies

Björn A. Andersson and Ingrid Råde


Björn A. Andersson and Ingrid Råde* The evolution of the biosphere has been constrained by the relative availability of the chemical elements, and all living matter mainly consists of the abundant elements, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The evolution of the industrial system, too, is constrained by the availability of elements as well as the sustainable use of them (Holmberg and Karlsson 1992; Karlsson 1996; Holmberg et al. 1996; Azar et al. 1996). A key component of every industrial ecosystem is the energy system. The growth of the world population to nine or ten billion towards the second part of the 21st century and continued economic growth will immensely increase the demand for energy services. At the same time, the carbon dioxide emissions inherently linked to current fossil fuel energy technologies need to be reduced substantially over the century. Hence, there is a need for development and large-scale growth of a range of new technologies in the energy sector. Some emerging technologies that are promising in the short term may, however, be constrained in the long term by their requirement for scarce metals. Constraints may materialize in the form of resource scarcity or detrimental environmental effects. In this chapter we discuss such long-term material constraints and the role they may play in forming or disrupting sustainable technology trajectories. We outline some implications of the assessment for policy and strategy as well as for the scope of industrial ecology. Throughout the chapter we give examples from three promising technology...

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