A few months ago I proposed in this text an industrial transformation for Spain, parts of which I will include in this document in order to facilitate a global understanding.
I believe that a strategy of cooperation can be launched, coordinated with the Spanish Government and seeking the reference of the European Commission, given the circumstances in which we find ourselves and the needs not only of Spain but also of the European Union itself: I am thinking in broader Western terms.
I recall that Industry 4.0, as we call it following the German government's proposed definition, began to be seen as such in 2011. This can be interpreted at various levels, for example, technologically and in terms of how it affects the manufacture of goods, but also the way in which services are provided.
Based on China's experience, three types of "Internet" can be distinguished: the Internet of electric vehicles (any of them), the Internet of things and the industrial Internet. All three generate data, and all three must be fully developed, with all that this entails in terms of industry and services.
The United States intends to negotiate the regulation of free trade in goods and services at the global level, and there is talk of a new Bretton Woods. A paradigm shift is beginning to be perceived in globalisation: national or bloc security is taking precedence over international trade. China's progress can also be seen in unit costs, which are now even higher than in Eastern Europe, for instance.
China also senses the movement and is preparing to mark its space in a comprehensive sense, as mentioned above. Relocation, nationalisation of value chains, blocking or scrutiny of acquisitions by foreign companies, certain and prepared decoupling of the Chinese production system, interference by the Americans to ensure that their allies do not use Chinese technology.
We are reaching the stage where outsourcing the production of any of its parts and the means that sustain it beyond what we might call the "productive region of the bloc" is a thing of the past, for not only does it imply security deficiencies and lack of income, it also implies an undeveloped model and will expose us to unemployment and social and demographic problems, in short, political ones. Strategic interests, which were in the background of economic welfare, now come to define part of multilateral relations.
Spain is again, as in previous industrial revolutions, in a position to make decisions. But now, obviously, the scale is much larger. In other words, it matters what we do as a country, but it matters that we do it as a bloc.
Spain urgently needs to abandon the strategy whereby in ten years the unit cost of labour in industry has been reduced by 25%, affecting wages, contributions and resulting in temporary employment and worsening conditions. The result of this policy has been the abandonment of Nissan and other elements that put Spain on the wrong track, also in the industrial sector.
Thus, it is also urgent for Spain to come up with an aggressive plan that takes into consideration the potential mineral wealth and put it to use, but not simply to extract it. An industry that transforms and designs must be developed to try to get as close to a complete cycle as possible, including recycling, but also design, with the aim of reducing the price of the unit and making it competitive through technology, efficiency and design.
The energy transition today represents both an opportunity and a threat, because the necessary materials are imported. A few relevant facts from China alone: an electric battery accounts for 30-40% of the value of an electric car, but for the time being this is an Asian monopoly, as are solar cells and wind turbines. But also:
- 51 %: China's share of electric vehicle sales
- 54 %: China's share of wind turbine assembly capacity
- 75 %: China's share of global lithium-ion cell manufacturing
Under current conditions, the acceleration of the energy transition will lead to an acceleration of our material imports, and thus of our weaknesses, with repercussions, some of them far-reaching, on employment in Europe.
China is also the world's largest manufacturer and exporter of solar panel technology in the world. In addition, the cost of PV technology continues to fall in China and the solar industry is not limited by the government quota.
Additionally, we should recall that the European Union Parliament voted in favour of a European Commission proposal for a total ban on new petrol/diesel vehicles from 2035, with hybrid cars included in the ban. This provision is not yet law, but the vote confirms Brussels' position for the upcoming negotiations with EU countries on the final rule.
This decision, if a whole series of measures are not taken, exposes us even more to China's domination, as the initial part of the new production chain is controlled by the People's Republic of China in terms of raw materials and know-how related to these processes. And in this, Deng Xiaoping's assessment was fundamental, as was reflected when China launched the 863 Programme in 2010, which was designed to control rare-earth elements (REE). In 1986 the Chinese leader stated: "Arab countries have the oil, China has the rare-earth elements".
There are 17 rare-earth elements: yttrium, scandium and the fifteen elements belonging to the lanthanoid or lanthanide family in a "15 + 2" format, which have the characteristic of exerting a resistant magnetism even at high temperatures. They are essential for the production of hard disks, satellites, lasers, digital cameras, wind turbines, fluorescent lamps, hybrid electric motors, mobile phones, guided missiles, new generation radar and many other goods, including those of military interest, and so on.
Since 1986, China has been the country that has made the greatest effort to support technological research in the sector. By exploiting economies of scale, it has managed to optimise the supply chain, thus offering prices that outstrip all competitors. Between 1978 and 1989, Chinese production grew by 40 % each year, overtaking US production in the mid-1990s. In fact, the US stopped mining rare-earth elements in 2002, at which point China has advanced its positions, supplying around 95% of world production. Despite low prices, rare-earth elements exports were one of the most important pillars of China's trade surplus for 25 years. However, since September 2009 the line changed abruptly: Chinese exports were reduced by an authoritative 28% and outgoing tariffs increased, and although the cutback had no immediate consequences, due to the presence of stocks and contracts that China was obliged to honour the outlook became increasingly worrying, particularly in the military sector, and we can cite as an example the 2010 US Department of Energy study Critical Materials Strategy, which warned of shortages of 14 strategic materials, although China subsequently roughly recovered export levels.
In response to this challenge, the US, Europe and Japan reacted with very similar plans, with four main points:
1/ Encourage producer countries to increase their supply, reopen mines and multiply the search for new deposits;
2/ Encourage other countries, especially Russia, to undertake the exploitation of its resources;
3/ To promote what are called "urban mining", which consist of recovering rare-earth elements from the landfills of discarded technological products; and,
4/ Reduce the use of these elements by replacing them with others.
From these points we can see a number of elements that must be underlined: Russia was included in the equation, a factor that must now be left out of consideration, and which in turn sets a very important precedent, especially in view of China's evolution once it stops exporting so many rare-earth elements (i.e. China starts "keeping them" and underpinning its expansion at all levels to assert its hegemony). There is a lesson here: technology, like food security, or energy, requires totally secure supply and value chains, and the more all the elements are controlled, the more secure they are. So they need to be directed towards Western control, in our case, in the same way that China controls its own and has Russia's at its fingertips whenever it wants. The same is true for any component. For example, the relevant point was not that Spain was thinking of sending its useless Leopard 2A4s to Ukraine, after repair in Germany or with its permission (it goes without saying). What is relevant is that we would be running a deficit of titanium, which is key to the manufacture of battle tanks... and we are importing it from Russia.
On the other hand, it should be noted that the obsolescence of the electric vehicle seems to be greater than that of a car with an internal combustion engine, which means that the car, or its battery, needs to be replaced more frequently, making it necessary to access and/or recover more and better essential components. The greater weight of the electric car, which is currently attributable to the batteries, requires the release of greater amounts of energy to move, and this must also be taken into account.
There is a general failure of high dependence on Asia, but first and foremost on China, in sectors critical to global, but also local, security, prosperity and social peace.
Following the French model, therefore, and applying it to Spain, but also to Europe and the West, the supply of mineral raw materials to French industry had to be assured, and they did so by setting three fundamental objectives:
1/ Assess with industrialists the level of security of metal supplies;
2/ Specify their respective needs; and,
3/ Propose an organisation of the work of public and private actors to improve resilience to critical metals in production chains.
All this work must be primarily oriented towards battery metals (nickel, cobalt, lithium) and permanent magnets (rare-earth elements), which are particularly critical for electromobility and new energies, and for launching the Industry 4.0.
Looking at the French model in this respect, there is a great lesson to be learned, as the government maintains the following strategic axes:
A/ In a joint public/private approach, launch of preparatory work for the creation of a strategic metals investment fund for the energy transition.
The objective of this fund will be to contribute to securing supplies to French and European manufacturers, through capital investments and the establishment of long-term supply contracts with industrial operators, starting from the top of the energy transition value chain (mining, refining, primary processing, recycling) with, as a first priority, the upstream of electric mobility.
B/ Established in close collaboration with the Strategic Committee for the Mining Sector and,
C/ Metallurgies, an observatory of critical metals, which brings together the corresponding resources of industrialists and administrations.
D/ Appointment of an interministerial delegate to ensure the supply of strategic metals to coordinate the actions of the administrations in the implementation of the decisions taken, with the close involvement of industrialists.
E/ Development, within the framework of the acceleration strategy dedicated to batteries and under the joint management of the CEA and the CNRS, of a technological roadmap shared between manufacturers and public research concerning the metals of the next generations of batteries.
F/ Translation into a standard or a certifiable label of the concept of "responsible mining", in connection with the battery regulation currently under review at European level.
Local ecosystem dynamics have also been strengthened for industrial establishments related to intermediate value-added stages (refining, battery components, recycling).
The French government strongly supports initiatives taken at regional level and by industrialists to set up industrial and eco-efficient platforms.
In other words, projects should reduce the degree of national dependence on non-European suppliers and develop the sectors of the future by ensuring the creation of value in France and in Europe.
Investment projects can take the form of:
A/ Creation of new productive units;
B/ Investments in existing production units to significantly transform their processes or production capacities, making them more productive and flexible; and,
C/ The development and implementation on an industrial scale of innovative technological processes that save raw materials and energy.
Why Can the Spanish Space Agency Have a Major Generating Effect, and How?
The competition to establish the headquarters teaches us a lesson that the West must learn once and for all: competition is all very well, but with rivals, never in the same bloc, and even more so when the rival is China+Russia. This should be crystal clear on both sides of the Atlantic, in Europe... and, believe it or not (with a deep dose of irony), in Spain as well.
However, among the candidate locations, all of them have advantages that must be used in a networked, coordinated manner to ensure a big leap.
The Andalusian aerospace sector has a turnover of 152 companies and more than 2.4 billion euros, which means that the space segment employs 14,500 people and exports products worth 1.1 billion euros.
Moreover, Andalusia is one of the five main aeronautical hubs in Europe, behind Madrid in Spain.
The Andalusian aerospace industry generates 32.6% of employment and has 179 companies in the sector, the second community in number of aerospace companies after the Community of Madrid.
The province of Teruel tests rocket engines and has certified sky quality. The technological projection in the design of drones, the quality of the skies, the weather and is waiting to be accredited as the only space airport in Europe.
The aerospace sector in Teruel has an annual turnover of 1.3 billion euros and employs 7,000 people, 2,000 directly and 5,000 indirectly, according to AERA (Aragon Aerospace Cluster).
The particularities of León at an industrial level with leading companies and related university studies at the University of León. The city has great scientific collaboration with the European Space Agency where the community has one of the three aeronautical innovation hubs in Spain. Castilla y León has 18 companies in the aerospace sector, according to ICEX Spain.
Cebreros has participated in successful missions between NASA and INTA along with its support to the Pioneer and Apollo programme, a mission that achieved the arrival of the human being to the Moon.
In addition, Cebreros has the only deep space antenna in Europe, one of the three unique antennas and since May 2021 it is the most modern in the world.
Cebreros also has the Deep Space Satellite Tracking Station. This terminal, known as Cebreros Station, provides support to satellite operations such as Venus Express and Mars Express with backups. Since its inauguration in 2005, one of the most important missions it has carried out has been the tracking of the Rosetta satellite.
Puertollano has the National Hydrogen Centre together with the company Deimos. This leading company in the design and construction of satellites in the aerospace sector is focused on high-tech engineering. Deimos has built several satellites, the first of which was dedicated to maritime surveillance.
The company's cutting-edge technology has led to the creation of a spacecraft for the European Space Agency. The turnover of the aerospace sector in Puertollano is 49.2% with the presence of 33 companies and generates 43.1% of employment, according to ICEX Spain.
The same can be said of the Valencian Community, the Community of Madrid and the Canary Islands, and so on.
It should therefore not be seen as a competition: it should be seen as a big launch that needs several engines to succeed.
But this transcends the direct location of the Spanish Space Agency, and is intimately related to the question of industrialising Spain, Europe, and incidentally, creating the conditions by which we can reach the absolute convergence of interests and factors that will vertebrate the European continent, from north to south, from east to west; and incidentally, prepare the means of great competition using various transoceanic elements.
Space already plays a fundamental role in our daily lives, and even more so in the immediate future. Satellites orbiting the Earth keep us connected, support defence and security, aid navigation, and monitor weather and climate. So a strategy should be generated for Spain, but with Europe and trans-oceanic cooperation in mind, whereby national strengths in science and technology, defence, regulation and diplomacy are leveraged, developed and coordinated in exponential growth to pursue a bold national, European and trans-oceanic vision.
To this end, a Spanish, European and transoceanic Space Strategy must be pursued that will intensely promote international collaboration, laying the first pillars of new forms of multilateralism (based on agreements with ESA, NASA, JAXA... on the fight against climate change, cooperating in the protection of global food security, aspects linked to defence and intelligence and a wide etcetera, and which must be based on the EU and its different organisations and defence and development plans. ..., the UN, NATO... and so on), acquiring a major scientific-technological power in the imminent competition against China and its space, even more than it is now; developing resilient space services and capabilities; and, consequently, unlocking the growth of the space sector in close relation to other industrial and technological sectors, as well as mining.
At the moment there is no standardised, global definition for "space sector", but the OECD, the European Space Agency and other space agencies consider that this term covers the entire value chain of a spacecraft, from initial R&D through manufacturing, launch, the operation for which it was sent, and finally the processing and application of satellite data and signals to consumer, products and services.
The axes, in a schematic way, and in accordance with the UK Space Strategy which can serve as a perfect reference, are:
1/ Spacecraft manufacturing
Design, develop and manufacture payloads, platforms and exploration spacecraft:
- Integrate, assemble and test the product.
- Providing post-launch support and upgrade services
2/ Launch manufacturing and services
Design, development and manufacture of rocket launch vehicles (engines and structural elements).
Service marketing (e.g. ridesharing) and launch management (e.g. spaceport).
3/ Ground segment manufacturing and services
Design, development and manufacturing of ground systems and/or equipment (end-user terminals and gateways and/or antennas) and integration of third party hardware and software.
Providing services for the purpose of signal consolidation and connecting spacecraft to the Internet.
4/ Special operations
Sell satellite capacity to service providers (e.g. raw data, wholesale bandwidth):
- finance satellites
- operate and maintain spacecraft through operations centres
Manage space activities (e.g. in-orbit servicing, space mining).
5/ Special services and applications
Provide connectivity or data and/or analysis services to end-users:
- Procure capacity from operators
- Procure and deliver end-user terminals
- Install, manage and maintain the ground segment equipment necessary to provide the service
- Value-added services
- Sell and service end-users
6/ Ancillary services
Professional services to enable the above, e.g:
- Launching and insurance
- Legal and financial services
- Software and IT services
- Market research
- Policy formulation and regulation
As a reflection, the global space economy is expected to grow from €302.365 billion ($350 billion) in 2019 to €544.257 billion ($630 billion) in 2030. This represents a growth of around 80% over 11 years or, in other words, a compound annualised growth rate of 5.6%. In fact, Morgan Stanley estimates that the global space industry could generate revenues of over $1 trillion or more by 2040. However, the most significant opportunities in the short to medium term may come from satellite broadband Internet access.
Satellite broadband is estimated to account for 50% of the projected growth of the global space economy by 2040, and up to 70% in the most optimistic scenario. The launch of satellites offering broadband internet services will help reduce the cost of data, just as demand for such data soars through the Industry 4.0, via the Internet of Things, the Internet of Vehicles and the Industrial Internet, along with artificial intelligence, virtual reality and video.
Demand for data is growing, and will continue to grow, at an exponential rate, while the cost of access to space (and, by extension, data) is falling by orders of magnitude. In Morgan Stanley analysis:
"We believe the biggest opportunity comes from providing internet access to underserved and underserved parts of the world, but there will also be increased demand for bandwidth from autonomous cars, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and video."
Indeed, as demand for data increases, a trend driven particularly and for the time being by autonomous vehicles, Morgan Stanley estimates that the cost per megabyte of wireless data will be less than 1% of current levels.
While reusable rockets will help reduce these costs, so too will the mass production of satellites and the maturation of satellite technology. Currently, the cost of launching a satellite has been reduced to around $60 million from $200 million through reusable rockets, with a potential drop to as little as $5 million. And mass production of satellites could reduce that cost from $500 million per satellite to $500,000.
In fact, the pandemic has not been particularly aggressive towards satellite manufacturers and the two leading manufacturers in Europe, namely Airbus Defence & Space and Thales Alenia Space, whose demand has come particularly from customers outside Europe, in the form of telecommunications satellites, We could also point to the case of space station modules for Thales Alenia Space, where NASA's lunar programme and its Gateway station have come together, as well as Axiom Space and its programme to build modules for a private orbital station.
As far as demand within Europe is concerned, the volume is clearly smaller, but it is still visible and could be expected to grow if the European Union embarks on developing and operationalising its own mega satellite constellation programme, which is crucial to implement in the Industry 4.0.
In terms of observation satellites, European demands focus on the maintenance of the Copernicus programme, with Sentinel satellites, and on state programmes, such as France's Pléiades. Copernicus provides a large amount of data with little satellite availability, but the other programmes are based on the provision of on-demand images rather than mass observation, which requires many more elements, such as Maxar or Planet and BlackSky, which aim to challenge, among others, Maxar's capabilities.
Within the space sector, some segments are expected to grow significantly faster than others, with annualised growth rates ranging from 1% for spacecraft manufacturing to 25% for broadband.
Today, new state and commercial space stations are being planned and built.
One of the key aspects, therefore, must be for Spain to take the lead in the launch of commercial and public small satellites from Europe and EU space. This implies developing spaceports, laying the foundations for the construction, launch and operation of full-service small satellites by working closely with industry to implement modern regulations and create favourable conditions for launch.
A greater commitment from the public and private sectors to launch the semiconductor sector in Spain, with the aim of closing the circuit and completing it, would be very interesting.
In addition to Spain's geographic location, its high geostrategic value on routes of all kinds, the Strait of Gibraltar and the positions, in addition to those on the Spanish mainland and the two autonomous cities, of the Balearic and Canary archipelagos, and the technology centres, for example associated with Google, IBM, Microsoft and others that are or may be attracted by the construction of this great "hub". Indeed, it is worth noting that China will build a "free trade data port" in the Nansha district (Guangzhou, Guangdong) by 2025. The facility will serve as a pilot project for the transfer of digital information between China and the rest of the world.
Beijing aims to create a first bottleneck, along the lines of those that can be observed in maritime navigation and trade, through which to retain sensitive data in its own national interest and to collect what is useful on behalf of rivals, the United States above all but not only, that gain access to the People's Republic of China.
In this regard, China is merely giving shape to a series of measures that have been pointing in this direction since 2017, so far in a legislative sense: it has adopted three laws in this regard, respectively on cybersecurity, data security and the protection of personal information. These three laws have formed the core of the system created by Xi Jinping to transform the country into a cyber power and defend it from external and internal threats. Foreign companies fear that the legal framework will allow Beijing to access their data and make them less competitive in the PRC market. In turn, it will find its full potential in the Industry 4.0.
This Nansha pilot project, with estimated funding of around $5 billion, is expected to include a data centre, an industrial park for big data and a communications lab in the so-called Broad Bay, which involves parts of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau. The digital port will connect to the overseas submarine cable network.
In fact, Hong Kong can connect the Greater Bay Area to the rest of the world, playing exactly the same role as San Francisco in the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley.
Both cities are meeting places, according to a joint report released by the US think tank Bay Area Council Economic Institute and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC). The report, "China's Greater Bay Area Bay-to-Bay Area Plan and its synergies for US business and the San Francisco Bay Area", focuses on the connections between the two regions.
Just as San Francisco is the meeting place between Asia and the United States, Hong Kong is the meeting place for other countries in China's sphere of influence and beyond with mainland China.Think of Spain in these terms.
Moreover, the fact that Beijing has chosen to set up a similar structure in Guangzhou has to do with the following aspect: most of China's technology giants are concentrated in the southeastern part of the People's Republic, starting with Alibaba and Tencent. These are giants to whom Beijing has made it clear that their resources (data and know-how) should serve China's strategic interests and should not be used to create alternative centres of power to the Communist Party.
In addition, Guangzhou is located a few kilometres from Hong Kong which, despite high internal tensions, remains a privileged access point for foreign multinationals wishing to invest in China. And it is therefore a relevant theatre for the technological competition between Beijing and Washington.
The area comprising Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao was central to the launch of the reform and opening-up policy in 1978. Today its narrative is rewritten to mark the link between the president and China's economic development.
The Pearl River Delta, which includes the province of Guangdong and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Regions (HKSAR) and Macao (MSAR), and has so far played an essential role in Chinese geopolitics for at least three reasons, to which the data port must now be added:
1/ It is one of the most economically dynamic areas of the People's Republic of China, with plans to turn it, already underway, into a large urban agglomeration, under the name of "Enlarged Bay".
2/ It includes the former British colony, which Beijing wants to incorporate into the national economy while dampening its democratic demands and movement.
3/ The dominance of the unstable South China Sea, an obligatory stop in global trade flows, to which are now added the "new bottlenecks" along the Mahan of the data, as well as being a possible theatre of confrontation between the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the US military.
The parallels are clear: through the Strait of Gibraltar we have the passage of increasingly important maritime traffic, to which we must add the passage of submarine cables, something shared with other parts of the Iberian Peninsula. Add to this the archipelagos of the Canaries and the Balearic Islands, resources of the first magnitude and absolutely key on a strategic level, and we should promote with partners, to promote, create and coordinate a profile within others that are created and that will compete with China's plans for its respective area of extensive dominance and hegemony. It is a matter of uniting dimensions, resources, capitals, spaces. The European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States should be fully engaged in this, joining the Euro-African corridors:
But it must also be thought of in terms of great connection and assembly.
One factor worth highlighting is Spain's mining wealth, a country whose geological formation makes it particularly interesting in terms of this sector, which is gaining in importance in the context addressed in these lines, of moving towards a circular, sustainable economy, capable of energising a country until it becomes a very important player, depending on what it also does with this wealth, in the European context, as this is where we are located and where we can mutually feed back in a win-win relationship, and which must be manifested in European construction and in Spain's international presence.
Mineral raw materials are also essential for the citizens of Spain and Europe, providing a multiplier effect in companies of all types and sizes, impacting on employment and providing gross added value. Let us not forget that sooner rather than later the coal mines in Spain, among other countries, will have to be closed, so we need an alternative for the future, and to this end, the Just Transition Fund is also being set up by the European institutions.
On the one hand, Spain has a variety of raw materials of rocks and minerals, 70 different types, which we can divide into 7 metallic products such as gold, silver, copper, tin, lead and wolfram; 25 industrial minerals, such as refractory clay, attapulgite, bentonite, kaolin, celestite, potassium chloride, quartz-siliceous sands, fluorspar, steatite, feldspar, glauberite, leonardite, raw magnesite, mica, iron oxides, pumice, pozzolana, spring or sea rock salt, sepiolite, thenardite, tripoli, peat and wollastonite; as well as 7 ornamental rocks and 27 quarry products. This is an industry that drives the circular economy in accordance with the plans set by the European Commission and Spain, ensuring we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.
Spain also has deposits of rare-earth elements, cobalt, lithium and tellurium, which are also concentrated in the areas of so-called "empty Spain", since 80% of the evidence of deposits of essential minerals, according to the Spanish Geological Mining Institute, is precisely in the strip that includes Galicia, where there are monocytic sands in the estuaries of Vigo, Pontevedra and Arousa, and in alluvial deposits in Orense and Pontevedra, and beyond the south of Extremadura if we add to the rare-earth elements the largest European reserve of coltan, which is in Ourense, Cáceres, which has an interesting lithium project, but it is also worth mentioning the Pyrite belt, from Seville to the Portuguese coast, where there are enormous concentrations of polymetallic massive sulphides with minerals that are highly valued for manufacturing mobile phones, tablets, flat screens, magnets and other electronic devices or components; In Ciudad Real, the company Quantum Minería estimates that there are geological resources of 40. In Ciudad Real, the company Quantum Minería believes that there are geological resources of 40,000 tonnes of rare-earth oxides in a deposit of grey monazite, providing an opportunity for the development of infrastructures of all kinds, since it would not only be a question of developing the Mediterranean corridor, but also of providing good planning and immediate work on the development of what we could call the great "Silver Route - Portugal/Galicia" region, since cobalt deposits predominate in the mining basins of Asturias, in short, in this region which includes Galicia, Asturias, Zamora, León, Salamanca, Cáceres, Badajoz, Huelva, Valencia and Seville, we would have the opportunity to promote a backbone strategy for the whole of the Iberian Peninsula, with connective elements between the different rail links, taking advantage of the wealth that exists on the Iberian Peninsula, with a view to exploring a good neighbourly and strategic relationship with the European Union of Spain and Portugal, as well as in areas such as Latin America, Asia and Africa.
In addition, according to the Journal of Geochemical Exploration, there are about two million tonnes of rare-earth elements in the soil of the island of Gran Canaria, and there is already evidence in the Pájara-Betancuria area in the centre and in the Esquinzo-Agua Salada area in the north of Fuerteventura. In the underwater mountains of Amanay, El Banquete and Banco de la Concepción, in the central and northern waters of the Canary archipelago and therefore far from the claims of Morocco, as it is within the Spanish Exclusive Economic Zone, which covers 200 nautical miles, there is the world's largest deposit of tellurium, vital for the implementation of solar energy, as well as cobalt, vanadium, nickel and yttrium in its abyssal seamounts. Also, in the seamounts southwest of the Canaries, also far from Morocco's claims, there is an established deposit of some two million tonnes of rare-earth elements, which alone have the capacity to supply world demand for ten years, but very high value mining methods have to be worked out to extract them at minimum environmental cost, and not only in this case. In all of them. This requires large-scale public-private research, because the prize is extremely worthwhile and must involve all interested European and Spanish institutions, as well as multinational companies. Moreover, the West Euro-African corridor connects us with Morocco in several ways... perhaps it is time to adopt a realistic and strategic approach to this.
In this regard, it is worth noting the example of Japan, because they used to buy rare-earth elements from China, as we all do, but in 2011 they found rare-earth elements in Pacific submarine muds within their territorial waters, particularly around the island of Minami Torishima, which ensured them some 200 years of consumption autonomy and they found a way to have almost no underwater environmental impact. I insist as I said before about Sweden or Finland on the land surface but now I apply it to offshore fields, let's look at how they have done it, apply their lessons and improve on them.
It is also clear that there is a great opportunity to launch a strong programme to support robotics, drones, electric vehicles of all types and uses, both civil and military, as well as shipyards, and of course, with the space sector in mind, as we would be in a position to fully produce any element, closing the full cycle here, from steel to technology, attracting important partners for our companies, for example German microelectronics, technology companies such as Nokia or Ericsson, European steel companies, Movistar/Telefónica, Cellnex and a long and interesting etcetera, which would strengthen the national economy, the European economy and facilitate European cohesion.
They are very scarce raw materials and therefore vital for the European Union and its ecological transition that will boost industry and also high-tech manufacturing.
It should be emphasised that, as far as we know, Spain has an abundance of rare-earth elements. In fact, setting up this region would mean that Spain would be the second largest producer of rare-earth elements in the European Union after Finland, which could be studied to improve the way it manages the environmental impact of such deposits. Operating the mines would involve an investment of up to 8 billion euros and create around 25,000 new jobs in addition to the 28,000 jobs already existing in metal mining, according to CONFEDEM's calculations.
Exploiting these deposits is profitable and will become even more so as these minerals, which are essential for mobile technology, renewable energy generation and the manufacture of batteries and electric motors, become more expensive.
What is clear is that the establishment of a circular economy, based on the reuse of natural resources, is imperative, for which the whole process needs to be located on site: from extraction, the energy to activate it, the technology to make it efficient and safe at any scale, sustainable, and that moves in proximity in a cheap and sustainable transport, the raw material to be transformed, designed, and if necessary, recycled to be reused and reduce the environmental impact, improve the quantity, quality and variety of direct and indirect jobs in these sectors involved, with the very beneficial consequences for other sectors, which will be strengthened and driven towards better standards of quality, contract duration and remuneration.
And speaking of energy, if we look at Andalusia, all the provinces have between 3,100 and 3,527 hours of sunshine per year, in Aragon Huesca and Teruel have more than 3,000 hours, and Zaragoza has 2,139; Murcia has 3,348 hours of sunshine per year, Extremadura has between 3. With the exception of Asturias (1,962), Cantabria (1,639) and the provinces of Vizcaya (1,694) and Guipúzcoa (1,906), the rest of the provinces are above the 2,147 of Álava and more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year. But Spain also has rivers, as well as 7,661 kilometres of coastline to harness tidal energy. Onshore and offshore wind power can also be added, aspects in which Spain could also greatly improve its data.
Energy sources are key to any industrial revolution, and this one has an energy that we could describe as a "bridge", which is natural gas; to this we could add photovoltaic, wind and tidal energy... but then there is hydrogen.
On the industrial side, there are the Gigafactories, on the other hand; and, last but not least, nuclear fusion technology, where we already have China, which has taken the lead by activating the first nuclear fusion reactor. It has nothing to do with nuclear fission, in fact, it is known as the "Holy Grail of energy". The technology mimics the way the sun works and is able to provide energy at an unbeatable price, in a totally safe way and is key to avoiding pollution. Spain's uranium mining capacity is key for our country and for underpinning the strategic energy sector for Europe as a whole.
In all of this, Spain has a key role to play, not only for national industry, but also for European industry, in such a way that it ensures, and which must serve to jointly lead an industrial economy, with emphasis on digitalisation, and with a guaranteed and protected European electricity infrastructure, since it is as strategic, if not more so, than telecommunications networks, and which must ultimately lead to the emergence of a greater and deeper degree of European energy solidarity as a first and vital step.
On the other hand, there would be the energy resources to keep the different industries and facilities running, as well as the elements that would make it possible to create the fuel needed for space launches, based on hydrogen, or freight and passenger trains.
In this sense, it must be understood that, as I said, a series of bad decisions have been taken, from trying to compete with the industry that has remained residual with little R&D as a result of the economic orientation of this country, the lack of strategic vision that can be attributed to not having consolidated national energy giants more strongly, stirring the spirit of one against the other, both within Spain and among European partners, and which has manifested itself not only since the crisis of 2010, but also with the process of facing challenges of all kinds that we can only overcome, both in Spain and in Europe, all together. It is easy to understand.
Spain has the capacity to produce the cheapest green hydrogen in the world, but we must work to improve this capacity even further and lower the threshold of the 30s of this century, so there is no other option than research and investment by public-private agents who are interested in it, which is all of us.
The priority has been set to develop a hydrogen economy. On batteries, the Asians have a huge head start and Europe has a big effort to make with traditional lithium-ion batteries, but we need to make composite batteries in a more sustainable way, more on that below. It would also be possible to have steel plants (at 52:40) running on hydrogen, lowering costs and reducing global emissions, with wise industrial and R&D policies.
Hydrogen is well on its way to becoming an energy source for airlines, shipping, cars and trains, and we should not forget that China is already working on a hydrogen train, thanks to hydrogen fuel cells, and in the space sector. Hydrogen can be transported over long distances without loss of energy and then converted back into electricity. Imagine the possibilities available to us.
Another key aspect we need to talk about with regard to hydrogen is that Naturgy and Enagás are also involved in a mega-project in Spain that will offer green hydrogen at a very competitive price thanks to photovoltaic solar energy, which they will do together with the also Spanish Dhamma Energy, as part of the 'HyDeal Ambition' project, to promote an integrated value chain to distribute green hydrogen at a competitive price and which will be based in Spain, with the participation of other large European corporations from various countries such as Falck Renewables, Vinci Construction, Hydrogène de France, Gazel Energie, McPhy Energy and Snam, among others. This is, on the positive side, an example of what I propose to do here, in Spain, to achieve greater financing, but also to reach a larger, more cohesive market with greater purchasing power due to better salaries and job stability.
Spain must have, as it has what it takes, Gigafactories, beyond the manufacture of batteries for cars. This supports industry in several aspects, which in a context of the need for industrialisation will mean strengthening, together with our capacity for hydrogen, Spain's industrial profile and the conditions to influence European and global industry. Choosing good partners and having a plan brings many notable benefits, and makes us, like everything else in this document, simply indispensable.
While projections point to battery manufacturing in Europe accelerating in the coming years, it will be a surprise if it catches up with the Asian market. By 2026, it is estimated that the Europe and MENA region will account for almost 228 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion cell manufacturing capacity per year, compared to the Asia-Pacific region with almost 345 gigawatt-hours of cell manufacturing capacity per year. This increase is largely driven by expected growth in the global electric vehicle market. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, annual demand for lithium-ion batteries from new EV sales could reach nearly 1,400 gigawatt-hours by 2030. Chinese manufacturers have their sights set on meeting most of the market's needs.
China's leading EV battery producers, BYD Co. and Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. (CATL), already have well-built plans to exponentially increase their battery production capacity as we enter 2021. With new Gigafactories in the works, BYD and CATL are poised to surpass Tesla/Panasonic production levels. And as product quality improves, these and other Chinese companies will become leading suppliers of EV batteries worldwide, not just domestically.
As for the European case of the battery industry to meet the strong demand for electric vehicles, unlike the model outlined for the Asian case in general, and in particular the shining example of China, in the European case we find exactly the same problems that we have always encountered when talking about Europe: too fragmented, too many competitors, too dispersed...
A private consortium around the Swedish company Northvolt, founded by Peter Carlsson and Paolo Cerruti, both former Tesla executives, is to open a first Gigafactory in Swedish Lapland. Financed among others by Volkswagen to the tune of one billion euros, the company received a loan of 350 million euros from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and a German state guarantee of around 450 million euros. Perhaps it would be a good idea, given the strategic nature of Europe, to bring Spanish capital into the company, as well as territory and, of course, the industrial production required for this product.
So, whether for hydrogen, a Gigafactory, technology minerals, 5G and so on, and to compensate and even improve the gap left by Nissan, perhaps it would be a good idea to talk to the FIAT group to bring it back to Spain, or to Volvo, as Volvo and Mercedes even signed a binding agreement to jointly develop and manufacture hydrogen fuel cells for hydrogen-fuelled, heavy-duty electric trucks.
When European manufacturers started manufacturing their electric vehicle models, they opted to use batteries from Asian manufacturers, which have dominated lithium-ion technology since the 1990s, and invested early on in large factories that enabled cost savings at scale, as detailed in a report by the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).
The aerospace element is also really prominent in Spain, as is the naval sector, by the way, because we have the minerals to not only manufacture, but also to give a technological "soul" to what is produced, as I have already made clear several times throughout this document.
As to how to boost industry, raise the standards of quality and sustainability, and at the same time protect the environment, it is possible to get out of the trap that makes us want this kind of industry, or sometimes it is simply that you want electricity production, without more, but you ignore that the wind turbines, essential components that are vital and that are used have been extracted without too much care, but we want to believe that because we do not see that fact it is not happening. Well no, it must, if you want our economy to be more sustainable and circular, to provide stable jobs, to care for the environment everywhere, you must know where the primary products come from and whether they are produced sustainably or not. Moreover, it should be stipulated that there should be labelling that not only recognises this, but also what working and safety conditions prevail, whether environmental damage has been reduced to a minimum, and even reward companies that also develop programmes to restore the environment, replant forests, promote green areas in municipalities, and so on. It is a question of ensuring that all products made in Europe have this quality and that we demand it, in a way that can be reliably demonstrated, from anyone who wishes to sell on our market.
Last but not least, the following components should not be overlooked, as they are the future, and Japan is taking interesting positions in them: E-ammonia, blue ammonia and bio-methanol, aspects that should not be overlooked.
How to Take All This Forward with Guarantees?
In addition to planning, implementation, cooperation between institutions at different administrative and public-private levels, it is necessary to look at the "American System" and federalism, as I have already explained here.
It can be argued that the foundations for economic rise and development were laid by the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States under the administration of President George Washington, Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton argued that in order to secure America's independence, a sound policy had to be created to encourage industrial growth and thus secure the future as a permanent feature - and the adjective "permanent" should be particularly emphasised - of the economic system of the federation of states.
To achieve his goals, according to Hamilton, a system had to be established that combined rewards or subsidies to industry, a regulation of trade with moderate tariff protection that did not stop imports, but rather increased revenues, and thereby shifted them towards supporting the manufacturing of American industry (as well as unleashing a race to improve and outdo the competitor). The result was to be: growth of industry, diversified and stable employment opportunities, and the boosting of the demographics of the federation, as the purpose was also to ensure high wages compared to Europe, which would generate more consumption, more job stability, a demographic increase and the attraction of young people from Europe to bolster the demographics and capabilities of the United States. He did not neglect the application of scientific and technical progress for all sectors, including the agricultural sector, for remember also that there is no industrial revolution without a green revolution. In his report he also advocates rewarding all who contribute "improvements and secrets of extraordinary value": in other words, industrial intelligence.
Alexander Hamilton was joined in his strategic gamble by Henry Clay, Henry and Matthew Cary, John Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln. For example, the main ideas of Hamilton's Report on Manufactures were later added to the "American System" programme by Kentucky Senator Henry Clay and his Whig Party, as well as being a cornerstone of Abraham Lincoln's programme along with his opposition to the institution and expansion of slavery.
The vision of economic policy-making of Hamilton and those who followed him was seen as naïve, and even foolish or silly, by most American academic economists, educated in the laissez faire doctrines then fashionable in the UK. The Jeffersonian and Jacksonian factions opposed the application of such ideas with all their might... although the Jeffersonian position originally favoured an "agrarian" economy, it did change over time to embrace many of Hamilton's original ideas, and it is also true that Madison's administration helped bring about the first truly protectionist tariff in US history.
Hamilton's model also implicitly reflects the debate in France that led to one of the most important financial innovations of the 19th century, the creation of Crédit Mobilier in France in 1852.
So the American System is based on:
1/ Subsidies to infant Industry
2/ Internal improvements
3/ A proper system of national finance
1/ Subsidies to Infant Industry
Hamilton establishes this principle because American manufacturing capacity cannot compete with superior British quality. According to the prevailing theories, by the way, both at the time of Hamilton, who went against the grain as noted above, and also now (let us reflect on this calmly), which were based on Adam Smith and David Ricardo, the Americans had to specialise in the areas in which they excelled relative to the British, which was the primary sector. So American economic policy had to be directed at converting American agriculture to the production of cash crops in a mercantilist context: rice, tobacco, sugar, wheat and, above all, cotton by maximising the production of these products and exchanging them for British manufactured goods which were cheaper and superior, despite the freight charges.
According to Ricardo, then as now, assuming a static distribution of comparative advantage, with each country becoming a specialist in its respective comparative advantage, overall production is maximised and through the regulatory effect of trade, in this particular case, both British and Americans will be better off.
Leaving aside the evidence of the creation of a European "South" and a global "South", with the permanent advantage of a European "North" and a global "North", the Industry 4.0 and the plethora of transformations, technologies and segments that must be controlled by each agent that participates in it and does not want to be swallowed up by competitors, etc., these circumstances in the world that is already being drawn today are of no use whatsoever. The Industry 4.0 demands autonomous development and management, research and transformation without being dependent on others in the great zone of regional hegemony (see China and its expansion through data, its space race, NewSpace, Artificial Intelligence...). it is no longer enough to be very good at some things, you have to be extremely good in all facets, which include the field of military industry, by the way, and which require capabilities that surpass the nation-state, be it the United States or any other, and even more so when compared to China and its big space, as I pointed out here).
This situation generated a clash in the United States due to the establishment of the different states of the Union, which came from the starting point of two agrarian models that were immediately differentiated. In the South, American academics followed British doctrines because they were producers of raw materials and were interested in free trade, slavery, and support for Alexander Hamilton and his Democratic Party. In the Northeast, however, the configuration of land ownership led to the implementation of Hamilton's measures. Differing views on free trade, slavery, states' rights and the functioning of the federation versus the confederation led to a North-South conflict that ended in Civil War. This demonstrates the importance of political construction and articulation, and that federalism is the best possible option.
It is interesting to note that in the European Union we have the same situation: a difference of regional establishments that pursue different objectives, and that are a hindrance to progress along the lines of European integration, industrialisation and so on. These are elites who finance the opposite, i.e. "sovereignism", understood for what it is, the perpetuation of their interests above the logic of time, and for this they use nationalism. The rise of parties obsessed with the idea of identity, and not really of community, but rather of "the tribe" that protects me from change, to which we can add the euro as a monetary unit but not a fiscal unit, etc., are elements that have the potential to push us towards conflict, whatever the nature of this conflict may be, and whatever scope it may reach. One more lesson for the European Union to learn from the United States: if you do not share the same interests everywhere, you cannot go in the same direction. Spread industrialisation, centres of knowledge and technology creation, research, optimal wages, and so on. Or you will prove to have missed the point; moreover, given the scale of the challenges and the power of the new giants of finance and disruptive industries, more than "just" the United States or the European Union is needed to ensure prosperity, security, peace, justice - and all that is necessary for a decent human life.
Hamilton was firmly convinced that it was important for the United States to develop its own manufacturing base because, as he explained in his 1791 Congressional report mentioned above, he argued that productivity growth was likely to be so much greater in manufacturing than in agriculture or mineral extraction that all three should be integrated into a single system. These positions place him in the antithesis of David Ricardo because Hamilton believed that comparative advantage was not static and could be forced to change in ways that benefited less productive countries. Moreover, he thought that manufacturing could employ a greater variety of people, in greater numbers, and that it was not subject to seasonal fluctuations or fluctuations in access to minerals.
So how to beat the British? Well, by copying them when the British had to beat the Dutch a century ago and replaced them as the global dominators from the West. Tariffs and other measures had to be imposed to raise the cost of foreign manufacturers enough to allow their American counterparts to subsidise them in the US market. In addition, the Americans had to acquire as much British technological capability and expertise as possible.
The idea that countries get richer under free trade conditions has little historical support. In fact, as happened to the UK, rich countries are more likely to discover the benefits of free trade only after they become rich, while poor countries that embrace free trade too enthusiastically almost never get richer. In this regard, I recommend reading Michael Pettis' article in Foreign Affairs magazine in November/December 1996.
A key element is the mix of protection of industry from competition, but as Hamilton says, there has to be a stimulus for domestic innovation and in the end it is, as I mentioned above, competition that leads to breakthroughs in productivity and management organisation, key to the rise of the American and German multinationals when they challenged the global hegemony of the British Empire.
In general, countries that protected domestic industry but allowed their domestic markets to be captured and dominated by their national champions would never develop as the United States did in the 19th century.
Just as companies that receive substantial state subsidies also fail to develop in the way they need to because, instead of forcing management to improve economic efficiency as a way to outperform their domestic rivals, these countries encourage managers to compete by trying to make more profit from access to those subsidies, and today, also from "subsidies" handed out by Wall Street by raising capital and through share buybacks, for instance.
For those who wish to go deeper into the matter, I recommend reading Michael Roberts' article on protectionism and free markets, as the basis of the Keynesian dilemma and offering an interesting Marxist response from Engels, who states:
"But the worst thing about protection is that once you have it, you cannot easily get rid of it."
2/ Internal Improvements
Today it would be infrastructure. And infrastructure investment is like any other investment in that it is only economically justified if the total economic value created by the investment exceeds the total economic cost associated with that investment. If a country spends more on infrastructure than the resulting productivity gains, more infrastructure makes it poorer, not richer, but it does make the contractor richer, usually in an equation that points to the existence of strong political and/or pecuniary incentives to expand investment, as well as where there is little transparency and responsibility.
Brazil, for example, headed west and north in the 1950s and 1960s as it expanded from the rich coastal areas of the south towards the Amazon and the Caribbean. The Soviet Union did something similar after World War II when it headed east towards Siberia. Spain during Aznarism and part of the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. However, in Brazil, the Soviet Union or Spain there was little incentive for individuals to lead the process. It was the government that led, and private companies followed only because public spending created large profit opportunities through contracts and subcontracts.
The value of infrastructure primarily lies in its being valued as a function of the value of labour saved. In countries with very low levels of productivity, each hour of labour saved is less valuable than each hour saved in countries with high levels of productivity.
On reflection, Norberto Bobbio, in a reprint of Gaetano Mosca's works, introduced a lucid reflection that particularly illustrates this point.
Norberto Bobbio takes up Mosca's criticism of the electoral-parliamentary mechanism. Bobbio succinctly explains that a young Mosca was attacking the idea of transforming the electoral mechanism by simplifying it into a "market", and added the following:
"What the young Mosca did not realise was that the evil he was lamenting was inherent in the democratic system as such, more specifically in the system of representative democracy (...) The idea, which is nothing new, that democracy can be compared to a large free market in which the main commodity is the vote is nothing to exalt; nevertheless, it must always be borne in mind in order to understand the behaviour of politicians, especially when elections are approaching. Like the economic market, the political market also escapes any control that might be imposed on it from above, and from this point of view, too, the analogy is a proven fact". Norberto Bobbio. "Mercato politico", La Stampa (Torino), 3 gennaio 1983.
The fact of competing in the electoral race implies that, by the logic of a prisoner's dilemma, if one of the competing actors is going to use the extra means to achieve the necessary influence to win the elections through the paid search for sympathy in the media, specific people, better publicists, and so on. It is clear that all this entails a cost, and it is clear that, with a budget and a regulatory prerogative, power allows for concessions, public contracts, decision-making, the choice of suppliers, companies to carry out works or to compete in the management of various services. It is a simple quid pro quo, as I have had occasion to reflect in the past.
This means that higher investment sometimes generates more wealth, under certain conditions, and sometimes not. Rather than simply assuming that it always works or never works, I think it is much more useful to consider the basic conditions under which higher investment increases productivity and wealth and the conditions under which it does not.
The key assumption here is that the upper limit of an economy's productive capacity, which we can think of as its ability to productively exploit labour, capital, technology and other resources, is not uniform across countries. Instead, it depends on the set of formal and informal institutions (educational, financial, political, legal, tax and social) that govern economic behaviour.
This level of capital and technology is very well described by Albert Hirschman, who wrote so brilliantly and extensively on this process, e.g. Hirschman (2014), (1972) and (1958), and also by Rodrik (2004).
More capital, in other words, will generate higher real growth as long as the country is below its level of investment according to Hirschman, but once it reaches that level, further development does not come from further capital deepening, but rather from institutional reform, including a transformation or change of elites.
This is the case I pointed out at the beginning of the article: in this case more investment means losing wealth, unless there are the necessary changes, and the renewal of elites who understand the model and therefore can apply it correctly, at which point there will be a strong return where the investments have been made that will drive further growth of the interconnected whole.
3/ A proper Finance System
A good starting point for this section is provided by the Belgian historian of finance Raymond Roover when he notes that:
"Perhaps it could be said that reckless banking, while causing many losses to creditors, accelerated economic development in the United States, while banking may have retarded economic development in Canada."
As a member of the British Empire in the 19th century, Canada had a much better financial system than the United States on paper, as it was administered from England, an example of solidity and also the role of the gold standard of the pound sterling.
Some very interesting reflections come, once again, from Michael Pettis, who in the Financial Times of 25 March 2013 explained why the world needs "reckless bankers", in the wake of what we discussed in these last lines.
This is because the US financial system excels, in the same way that the British system excels relative to the French, in lending. In the American case, it has been very good at providing money to risky new ventures, providing capital based not only on the value of assets but, more importantly, on expectations of future growth, and risk-taking ends up being actively rewarded, with a clear tendency to correct itself very quickly through crises, so that loans that could not be collected were written off and liquidated almost immediately.
Liquidation, in other words, provides significant economic value to the economy. It allows the price of assets to change, which creates a boost to the economy and prevents those assets from acting as an irrecoverable loss.
Hence the need for monetary, but also fiscal and banking unity for Europe with the euro and the search for a new Bretton Woods with the United States, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and so on.
And for All This: Higher Wages
The American system developed in opposition to the then dominant economic theories of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, partly because classical British economic theory implied that reductions in wages were positive for economic growth by making manufacturing more competitive in international markets. However, a major focus of the American system was to explain what policies the United States, with its much higher wages than in Europe at the time, had to design in order to generate rapid growth. Keeping wages high, in fact, became one of the key aspects of the US system. And that is to take measures to force wages up and keep them up, thereby boosting productivity growth and creating a large domestic consumer market for US producers.
Hirschman, Albert O., Las pasiones y los intereses: argumentos políticos en favor del capitalismo previos a su triunfo, Capitán Swing, 2014.
_, Exit, Voice and Loyalty, Harvard University Press, 1972. (Kindle Version).
_, Strategy of Economic Development, Yale University Press, 1958.
Lind, Michael, Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States, Harper, 2012.
Rodrik, Dani, "Growth Strategies" (2004) doi: 10.1016 / S1574-0684 (05) 01014-2
Waltz, Kenneth N., Theory of International Politics, Kindle Version, Long Grove, IL, USA, Waveland Press, Inc., 2010.