The War of Rare Metals - The Hidden Face of the Energy and Digital Transition, by Guillaume Pitron - Preface by Hubert Védrine
Edition Les Liens qui libèrent, January 2018 - 296 Pages
Energy transition, digital revolution, ecological change... Politics, media and industry are all promising us a new world finally free of oil, pollution, shortages and military tensions. This book, the result of six years of research in a dozen countries, shows us that this is not the case!
By emancipating ourselves from fossil fuels, we are in fact sinking into a new dependency: that of rare metals. Graphite, cobalt, indium, platinoids, tungsten, rare earths - these resources have become indispensable to our new ecological (electric cars, wind turbines, solar panels) and digital (they nestle in our smartphones, computers, tablets and other connected everyday objects) society. Yet the environmental, economic and geopolitical costs of this dependence could prove even more dramatic than those that bind us to oil. So this book is a counter-history to the energy transition - a clandestine tale of a technological odyssey that has promised so much, and a behind-the-scenes account of a generous, ambitious quest that has so far brought with it perils as colossal as those it has set out to solve.
For six years, Guillaume Pitron investigated in a dozen countries all these new rare materials that are gradually replacing fossil fuels. And to do this, he had to rub shoulders with monks in tropical Asia, fly over the deserts of California in a twin-engine plane, bow before the queen of a forgotten tribe in Africa or dust off old scrolls stored in venerable London institutions.
Across four continents, a web of men and women acting in the murky, unobtrusive world of rare metals has revealed a much darker account of the energy transition. To their ears, the irruption of these new materials has not done mankind and the planet the service that the emergence of a greener world promised - far from it. For after the British and American magistrates on coal and oil, it is China that is establishing its domination of the 21st century thanks to the trade in rare metals.
Journalist for Le Monde Diplomatique, Géo or National Geographic (he is notably winner of the 2017 edition of the Erik Izraelewicz Prize for economic investigation, created by Le Monde), Guillaume Pitron signs here his first book. The geopolitics of raw materials is a major focus of his work. He regularly addresses the French Parliament and the European Commission on the subject of rare metals.