A recent article by the Michigan News covers research led by Michigan EARTH Professor Adam Simon that spotlights a significant issue in the U.S.'s ambition to transition to renewable energy—the production of copper. According to the study, the demands for copper, heightened by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022's electric vehicle targets, surpass the mining industry's current and projected output capabilities. Electric vehicles and renewable energy infrastructures command a much higher copper usage than traditional counterparts, exacerbating the challenge.

Professor Simon's analysis suggests that meeting these copper needs would require opening numerous new mines at a rapid rate, a suggestion further complicated by long permitting processes. The study advocates a more immediate pivot toward manufacturing hybrid vehicles and calls for a policy shift to align resource allocation with realistic mining capacities. Alongside co-researcher Lawrence Cathles, Professor Simon's findings highlight the growing tension between copper's role in developed nations' energy transitions and its integral function in developing countries' infrastructure.

“We are hoping the study gets picked up by policymakers who should consider copper as the limiting factor for the energy transition, and to think about how copper is allocated,” Professor Simon said. “We know, for example, that a Toyota Prius actually has a slightly better impact on climate than a Tesla. Instead of producing 20 million electric vehicles in the United States and globally, 100 million battery electric vehicles each year, would it be more feasible to focus on building 20 million hybrid vehicles?”

To read the full article from the Michigan News, click here.