There are a number of economic issues that are being raised by the global shift toward more sustainable forms of generating energy. Even if we allow that this transition will be gradual, the implications are still rather significant for markets around the world.
We have already begun to see changes related to the emergence of "green technology," including when it comes to the precious metals. What you may not realize, however, is that gold—in addition to silver, platinum, and palladium—could play a key role in possible renewable energy technologies.
One area of focus for environmentalists has undoubtedly been the effect of automobile emissions on pollution and the climate. The primary mechanism in car exhaust systems for reducing such emissions is a device called a catalytic converter. Its main components are made of platinum and palladium.
However, new research by the World Gold Council (WGC) suggests that "Gold can [also] act as a catalyst (a material that accelerates chemical reactions without being consumed in the process) effective in reducing hazardous vehicular emissions."
Moreover, the WGC has shown that using "gold alongside . . . platinum and palladium . . . can reduce the cost of the devices." While this new technology using gold made its debut on the international markets in 2011, the council is continuing to support manufacturers in adopting catalytic converters that include gold.
With automobile demand around the world remaining strong, a sharp rise in platinum or palladium prices could make using a small amount of gold in catalytic converters an attractive alternative. This is particularly relevant with tightening supplies of these two Platinum Group Metals.
Harnessing solar energy is another promising green technology that could mitigate our reliance upon burning fossil fuels. Silver is an important component of solar cells. The steep rise in orders for solar panels over the next five years have therefore forecast greater industrial demand for silver in the future.
Interestingly, scientists and engineers are now finding that gold nanoparticles have the potential to improve the efficiency of solar cells as fuel cell catalysts. More research could reveal other key industrial uses for gold in protecting the environment. For instance, the treatment of contaminated groundwater may soon involve gold. Researchers at Rice University have successfully removed chlorinated compounds from water with the help of gold and palladium as catalysts.
With the goal of maintaining a clean air and water supply in focus, more possibilities for the usefulness of gold in reaching environmental initiatives will likely continue to come to light.
The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.