Before the US election, China decouples, metals will benefit

Despite a year 2020 marked by the Covid-19 pandemic which has weakened all the countries of the world, China wants to continue to move in the direction of the decarbonization of its own economy.

L'Europe est toujours en confinement partiel ou en couvre-feu et notre dynamisme est en panne. Les États-Unis expérimentent une élection criarde et incommodante. Le Brexit accouche d'un problème. Contraste de l'autre côté de la planète : en Chine, la reprise est consistante. Les exportations de matériels médicaux y ont été un moteur de croissance de printemps, puis la construction immobilière, la production d'acier, la consommation de cuivre, d'aluminium ou la construction de batteries pour véhicule électrique sont, après une reprise en V, revenus au niveau d'avant crise.

L'économie chinoise affiche son découplage avec les nôtres. Sa force résultante est un taux de change US dollar/Yuan favorable et des centaines de milliers de chinois testés aux vaccins anti-Covid.

Chinese transformation in low-carbon mode

For the future, another Chinese dynamic is confirmed, because between the electoral programs of Trump and Biden, China chooses to compete with the Democratic Green New Deal.

As a preamble to the 14th five-year plan 2021-2025, the details of which will be known at the end of October, then of its future and ambitious carbon neutrality for 2060, Beijing is using the home stretch of the American elections to ban, without yet fully saying it, Australian coal. Would Biden do better?

The 14th plan will in fact pursue the decarbonisation of the economy, a long march between the “Yin and the Yang of carbon” which is illustrated by the future elimination of 60% of electricity production produced from coal, and the increase nuclear and gas electricity, solar and wind power to boost the penetration of electric vehicles by around 30% within 5 years.

For the world's leading consumer of energy and carbon emitter, it is a necessity, it must finally protect its environment as its strength is inhabited by its own weaknesses: besides that a future rise in sea level would threaten around 130 million. inhabitants of the coast, climate change and flooding can quickly disrupt large industrial centers, including that of the Pearl River delta or the Yangtze River basin which alone has 600 million inhabitants and 40% of the national GNP.

Copper, platinum, nickel, lithium

Whatever one thinks of China, and with good reason, it is an advantage for a country to have a doctrine, strategies, plans; strategic solidarities stated, implemented and visible economic results, logically embedded in each other that adapt to contingencies. The Chinese transformation in low-carbon mode knows this privilege in its upheaval. It is kindly illustrated by a very Confucian metaphor of the Chinese president: "green hills with blue waters are hills of gold and silver". Indeed metals shed light on this mutation.

Copper because the production of electricity, its transmission, its storage and its consumption in electric vehicles, infrastructure or 5G will soon imply an increase in consumption of around 15% of global demand. But will the global production of copper in Covid mode be able to meet the objectives of decarbonization? Probably not. It will therefore be necessary to adapt the demand and for example not to replace a thermal engine vehicle by an electric vehicle, but rather to be in a ratio of four to one, with the key to the need for 5G to manage the shared car and the cars. driverless cars.

This reasoning also applies to platinum, a metal very rarely mentioned as a future beneficiary of decarbonation linked to hydrogen. Platinum is five to six times more present in the ion exchange membranes of fuel cells than in the catalysts of combustion engines. As long as H² technology does not evolve, the global production of platinum will remain an obstacle to hydrogen cars, except in the case of mutualisation of consumers and the sharing of driverless vehicles. Here, 5G is also needed.

The case of nickel is less problematic. Stainless steels consume 68% of world production, but thanks to substitutions with nickel-free stainless steel and certain carbon steels, a part can be diverted to batteries, in particular Canadian and Russian production. In addition, we will experience even fewer nickel deficits as on the one hand the Lithium-Iron-Phosphate batteries used in particular by Tesla and Daimler do not contain nickel (or cobalt), and on the other hand the risks overheating and fire of 8-1-1 nickel batteries encountered by several manufacturers recently will not be contained.

Lithium is not a problem either, production is sufficient, technical progress to reduce consumption is still underway. Just like the situation of rare earths, which have never been present in batteries of the future, the ensemble once again overturns the fake-news of “rare metals”.

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