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Is There a Supply Crisis?: Sweden's Critical Metals, 1917-2014
Philosophy and History, KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, Philosophy.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9558-4621
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

While global metal production has increased almost exponentially over the last hundred years, actors have constantly worried about future scarcities. This article explores why state and business actors within a small country, Sweden, have perceived metals as critical and which strategies they have advanced to cope with potential shortages. It analyzes four reports and/or records of meetings from 1917, 1954, 1980 and 2014, years when the debate about resource scarcity flourished both in Sweden and internationally. The reasons why actors feared the future supply were largely connected to price increases, potential supply disruptions because of war or political instability, and soaring demand for technologies containing metals. Even Sweden, a neutral country, feared shortages because of political instability in foreign countries because of the transnational metal flows. The actors attempted to manage shortages by increased domestic production, technological development, stockpiling, international agreements and recycling. Tracing this issue over time, the article unpacks the importance of and concerns with metal flows in an age of rapid industrial, technological and geopolitical change.

Keywords [en]
Critical metals, Sweden, resource scarcity, supply crisis
National Category
History of Technology
Research subject
History of Science, Technology and Environment
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-219404OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-219404DiVA, id: diva2:1162747
Note

QC 20171206

Available from: 2017-12-05 Created: 2017-12-05 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Specter of Scarcity: Experiencing and Coping with Metal Shortages, 1870-2015
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Specter of Scarcity: Experiencing and Coping with Metal Shortages, 1870-2015
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In spite of an ever-growing supply of metals, actors have long feared metal shortages. This thesis – departing from an understanding that metals scarcity is not an objective geological fact, but an experience, a fear of a shortage – explores why business and state actors have experienced metals as scarce and how they coped with scarcity from 1870 to 2015.

The underlying reasons for scarcity experiences originated in high prices, a lack of substitutes, domestic unavailability, limited infrastructure and increased demand. In the view of businesses and the state, a shortage of metals could hinder successful industrialization. Defining metals as scarce was a first step in their attempts to ensure access through exploration, recycling, substitution, and trade agreements.

This dissertation presents five case studies which provide insights into three selected aspects of metals scarcity that have been overlooked in previous studies. First, while small countries experienced and coped with metals scarcity in a similar way to large nations, they were more vulnerable because of their dependence on transnational flows controlled by larger countries. Yet if they remained neutral in international conflicts, they could enjoy other opportunities to import resources than their larger rivals. Second, industries experienced metals scarcity before World War I; with the onset of the Second Industrial Revolution, at the very latest, new technologies were often dependent on metals which had never before been used commercially – there were not yet any extraction systems in place. However, once these metals began to circulate, state actors became aware of the international traffic and began to classify certain metals as critical. Thirdly, technological change has affected – and been affected by – metals scarcity. If a metal was scarce, manufacturers were likely to embark on a different path to production. Inversely, sometimes new technologies were able to alleviate perceptions of scarcity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2017. p. 106
Series
TRITA-HOT, ISSN 0349-2842 ; 2075
Keywords
scarcity, critical metals, Sweden, small countries, strategic metals, metal shortages, history of technology, experiences of scarcity, coping with shortages, technological trends, World War I, resource crisis, construction of resources.
National Category
History of Technology
Research subject
History of Science, Technology and Environment
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-219409 (URN)978-91-7729-610-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-01-19, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20171206

Available from: 2017-12-06 Created: 2017-12-05 Last updated: 2018-09-10Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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