Wars over water, oil and phosphorus?

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Many have predicted there will be wars over water and oil, but one Arizona State University professor says phosphorus should be added to that list.

"There will be wars over water and oil. And right along with that, there will be wars over phosphorus," said Mark Edwards, a marketing professor and co-organizer of Arizona State University's Sustainable Phosphorus Initiative.

In 2009, a pair of Australian scientists published studies suggesting that demand for phosphorus could exceed supplies as early as 2035. Using the term "peak phosphorus," an analogy to peak oil, they relied partly on a Geological Survey estimate that the world had 16 billion tons of minable phosphate rock.

Phosphorus is often overlooked of the big three macronutrients because supplies of nitrogen and potash are readily available with no shortages projected anytime soon. However, the supply of phosphate rock is not as plentiful.

Scientists have estimated that minable supplies may not be sufficient to meet worldwide demand within decades. The situation could lead to higher food prices, famine and worse.

Despite Edwards’ prediction, others disagree. Robert Shirley, with PotashCorp, says phosphate supplies will not run out anytime soon and the thought that it will is inconceivable.

PotashCorp estimates that the Aurora, N.C., mine will be productive for at least 49 years, and while some people can think about the global implications of a possible shortage, Shirley focuses on how crucial phosphorus is to the local economy.


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Teresa    
Idaho  |  March, 26, 2012 at 10:29 AM

"Robert Shirley, with PotashCorp, says phosphate supplies will not run out anytime soon and the thought that it will is inconceivable. PotashCorp estimates that the Aurora, N.C., mine will be productive for at least 49 years, and while some people can think about the global implications of a possible shortage, Shirley focuses on how crucial phosphorus is to the local economy." So, reading these two sentences logically, what Mr. Shirley is staying is: 1. Because potash is so important to local economies (his, in particular) then it is impossible for it to run out. 2. Because his particular potash mine is expected (EXPECTED) to be productive (but at what level?) for the next 49 years, it is impossible that other potash mines may not be as productive for as long and that overall production of potash will decrease. Sorry, Mr. Shirley - this isn't a very convincing argument. I sure hope there was more of this that the article didn't print, because what is printed here makes you look a bit like an idiot.

bob streit    
boone, ia  |  March, 29, 2012 at 02:16 PM

Based on what I have learned thru years of work is that there are supposedly five major sources of P being utilized in the world. These are in Florida, Russia, Morrocco, Algeria, and Tunisa. This does not include the big newer deposit near Hurst, Ontario, Canada. Three of those countries are increasingly Muslim. Russia is not always a friend, and the Florida area always has environmental policy to contend with. So geo politics and cultural/religious differences may play a role on who can buy the mineral supply. It could well become an Achilles heel for U.S. producers.


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