Daily Archives: March 11, 2012

Commodity Prices Have Exceed the Peak of World War I

And it doesn’t look like they are going to decrease any time soon. But more importantly, recent analysis by the McKinsey Quarterly indicates that commodity prices will remain high and volatile for at least the next 20 years. As per this recent article in the McKinsey Quarterly on a new era for commodities, demand for energy, food, metals and water will continue to rise inexorably as three billion new middle-class consumers emerge in the next two decades.

And the changes will be significant. As per the article, the global car fleet will double by 2030. Calorie intake per person in India will increase 20%, per capita meat consumption in China could increase by 60%, and urban infrastructure demand will soar in both countries. A hundred years ago, this was not that big of an issue as improvements in exploration, extraction, and cultivation techniques kept the world ahead of ever-increasing global needs. But today, the potential climatic impact of carbon emissions associated with surging resource use limits exploration and extraction because we’re already at a level where global carbon emissions are significantly above the level required to keep increases in the global temperature below 2° Celsius — the threshold which has been identified as potentially catastrophic. Plus, current cultivation technology is pretty much at its limit as only so much food can be grown in a fixed space.

And everything is connected. The ripple effects of water shortfalls at a time when 70% of water is consumed by agriculture and 12% is consumed by energy production can be catastrophic. For example, in Uganda, water shortages led to escalating energy prices which led to the use of more wood fuels which led to deforestation and soil degradation that threatened the agricultural food supply.

As a result, for the short term, commodity prices are going to stay high and your organization had better be prepared.