Wealthy countries consume massive amounts of natural resources per capita, and Americans are no exception.
According to data from the National Mining Association, each American needs more than 39,000 pounds (17,700 kg) of minerals and fossil fuels annually to maintain their standard of living.
Every building around us and every sidewalk we walk on is made of sand, steel, and cement.
As a result, these materials lead consumption per capita in the United States. On average, each person in America drives the demand of over 10,000 lbs of stone and around 7,000 lbs of sand and gravel per year.
The construction industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy.
Crushed stone, sand, gravel, and other construction aggregates represent half of the industrial minerals produced in the country, resulting in $29 billion in revenue per year.
Also on the list are crucial hard metals such as copper, aluminum, iron ore (used for steel), and of course many rarer metals used in smaller quantities each year. These metals are still high value even when uses are more concentrated—for example, battery-grade lithium costs over $80,000 per tonne.
Despite ongoing efforts to fight climate change and reduce carbon emissions, each person in the U.S. uses over 19,000 lbs of fossil fuels per year.
Gasoline is the most consumed petroleum product in the United States.
In 2021, finished motor gasoline consumption averaged about 369 million gallons per day, equal to about 44% of total U.S. petroleum use. Distillate fuel oil (20%), hydrocarbon gas liquids (17%), and jet fuel (7%) were the next most important uses.
Over the past three decades, the United States has become reliant on foreign sources to meet domestic demand for minerals and fossil fuels. Today, the country is 100% import-reliant for 17 mineral commodities and at least 50% for 30 others.
In order to reduce the dependency on other countries, namely China, the Biden administration has been working to diversify supply chains in critical minerals. This includes strengthening alliances with other countries such as Australia, India, and Japan.
However, questions still remain about how soon these policies can make an impact and the degree to which they can ultimately help localize and diversify supply chains.
(This article first appeared in the Visual Capitalist Elements)