McKinsey & Company  produce on a daily basis articles of the type and quality of the following here below.  This one deals with the scarce resources volatility in a world that is constantly on the move. The article titled The future is now: How to win the resource revolution is written by Scott Nyquist, Matt Rogers, and Jonathan Woetzel and is about the unpredictability of the ensuing consequences in our selection of resources. 

Although resource strains have lessened, new technology will disrupt the commodities market in myriad ways.

A few years ago, resource strains were everywhere: prices of oil, gas, coal, copper, iron ore, and other commodities had risen sharply on the back of high and rising demand from China. For only the second time in a century, in 2008, spending on mineral resources rose above 6 percent of global GDP, more than triple the long-term average. When we looked forward in 2011, we saw a need for more efficient resource use and dramatic increases in supply, with little room for slippage on either side of the equation, as three billion more people were poised to enter the consumer economy.

While our estimates of energy-efficiency opportunities were more or less on target, the overall picture looks quite different today. Technological breakthroughs such as hydraulic fracturing for natural gas have eased resource strains, and slowing growth in China and elsewhere has dampened demand. Since mid-2014, oil and other commodity prices have fallen dramatically, and global spending on many commodities dropped by 50 percent in 2015 alone.

Even though the hurricane-like “supercycle” of double-digit annual price increases that prevailed from the early 2000s until recently has hit land and abated, companies in all sectors need to brace for a new gale of disruption. This time, the forces at work are often less visible and may seem smaller-scale than vertiginous cyclical adjustments or discovery breakthroughs. Taken together, though, they are far-reaching in their impact. Technologies, many having little on the surface to do with resources, are combining in new ways to transform the supply-and-demand equation for commodities. Autonomous vehicles, new-generation batteries, drones and sensors that can carry out predictive maintenance, Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, increased automation, and the growing use of data analytics throughout the corporate world all have significant implications for the future of commodities. At the same time, developed economies, in particular, are becoming ever more oriented toward services that have less need for resources; and in general, the global economy is using resources less intensively.

These trends will not have an impact overnight, and some will take longer than others. But understanding the forces at work can help executives seize emerging opportunities and avoid being blindsided. Our aim in this article is to explain these new dynamics, and to suggest how business leaders can create new strategies that will help them not only adapt but profit.

A technology-driven revolution

To understand what is going on, consider the way transportation is being roiled by technological change. Vehicle electrification, ride sharing, driverless cars, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and the use of lightweight materials such as carbon and aluminum are beginning to ripple through the automotive sector. Any of them individually could materially change the demand and supply for oil—and for cars. Together, their first- and second-order effects could be substantial. McKinsey’s latest automotive forecast estimates that by 2030, electric vehicles could represent about 30 percent of all new cars sold globally, and close to 50 percent of those sold in China, the European Union, and the United States.

That’s just the start, since vehicles for ride-sharing on local roads in urban areas can be engineered to weigh less than half of today’s conventional vehicles, much of whose weight results from the demands of highway driving and the potential for high-speed collisions. Lighter vehicles are more fuel efficient, use less steel, and will require less spending on new roads or upkeep of existing ones. More short-haul driving may accelerate the pace of vehicle electrification. And we haven’t even mentioned the growth of autonomous vehicles, which would further enhance the operating efficiency of vehicles, as well as increasing road capacity utilization as cars travel more closely together. Several million fewer cars could be in the global car population by 2035 as a result of these factors, with annual car sales by then roughly 10 percent lower—reflecting a combination of reduced need as a result of sharing but also higher utilization and therefore faster turnover in vehicles and fleets.


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About the author(s)

Scott Nyquist is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Houston office, Matt Rogers is a senior partner in the San Francisco office, and Jonathan Woetzel is a senior partner in the Shanghai office.