“Russia controls 4 percent of global cobalt production, for example, and 11 percent of nickel production. Following the sanctions package dropped on Russia, cobalt’s price increased from $74,000 per ton to $82,000 per ton and has now more than doubled since the start of 2021. Nickel’s price, meanwhile, has zoomed since the beginning of March, rising from $25,000 per ton on March 1 to a high above $45,000 briefly before settling at $32,000. Since 2019, the price of nickel has nearly tripled.
Shortages and price rises in those commodities will stymie any transition from carbon-emitting combustion engines to electric cars, since the average electric car battery contains 80 pounds of nickel and 15 to 30 pounds of cobalt. Increased gas prices due to a Russian oil collapse would not necessarily increase the adoption of green energy programs because electric cars, solar panels, and wind turbines all use nickel and cobalt to varying degrees. The rising costs of nickel and other inputs will very likely cause electric vehicle batteries, which were growing rapidly less expensive over the last decade, to stop getting more affordable until at least 2024.
Reduced access to Russian commodities will drive up the cost of renewables and electric vehicles as gas prices also increase. It’s easier to increase oil production than it is to increase nickel or cobalt production; America has at least 35 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and OPEC can increase oil production whenever it wants. Pumping more oil is a faster and less arduous process than building a new nickel mine.
But the U.S. has another available source of nickel and cobalt that could be counted on when countries on the other side of the world have production difficulties due to war or internal strife, and it’s a scant 90 nautical miles off the coast of Florida.
Unfortunately, this source happens to be Cuba, and American companies have been forbidden by law to do business with Cuba for most of the last 60 years.”