In 2012, Canada sent some pretty clear signals that portend the shape of things to come for that country’s energy and mining industries. From entertaining controversial foreign investment in oil and gas companies to slowing investment in the mining sector, Canada seems to have taken a sobering look at its prospects and made significant decisions to set the country on a path to increased profitability and stability.

Late in 2012, analysts started worrying that the “Bakken Boom” had peaked and began wringing their hands over its imminent decline.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, news of the Bakken demise has been greatly exaggerated, or at the very least, misguided. Bakken will continue to be the biggest oil-producing play in the United States, right ahead of the Eagle Ford shale, and it will be instrumental in putting America ahead of Saudi Arabian oil production by 2017.

Much of the outlook for the alumina market in 2013 will be driven by positive signs of economic recovery, but making products more environmentally and energy efficient across a multitude of industries will also impact demand.

Not only is the aerospace and aircraft industry a major consumer of the aluminum produced each year, demand is expected to continue to increase even more as the airline industry experiences change. Some estimates project that the total number of flights – many of which will be regional trips on “single-aisle” jets – will more than double in the world in the next decade. Aircraft, especially smaller planes, utilize aluminum as it is lighter and reduces fuel consumption. New alloys such as aluminum-magnesium-scandium will enter the market over the next decade, and further penetrate the aviation industry with an enhanced capacity to reduce aircraft fuel consumption by 30 percent.

The ongoing development of alternative fuel sources must not hinder the innovative use of existing clean energy solutions as a method of battling against climate change and runaway energy costs. Among the various strategies currently being pursued by government and industry, the quest to slash harmful carbon emissions and lower fuel costs has spurred a host of innovations.

The deterioration and vulnerability of the US infrastructure has been brought to the forefront in recent years by events such as water main failures, levee breaks, power grid disruptions and a high-profile bridge collapse.

Beginning in 1998 The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) periodically produces a “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” giving a grade from A to F to various components of the national infrastructure. The current report card, published in 2009, provides a broad survey of infrastructure conditions, with an average grade of “D,” and spending needs. The report card anticipates a five-year need of more than $2.1 trillion to restore the U.S. infrastructure to good conditions, with only approximately half of that amount currently funded.

In recent years, nuclear power has been getting a second look. The increased attention in nuclear energy has been stimulated of late through changes in governmental policy (i.e., loan guarantees), public opinion on global warming, concerns over foreign oil dependence and industrial investment opportunities.

With the unrest in the Middle East and domestic energy policy decisions affecting global energy markets and domestic gas prices, Americans are once again calling for a strong U.S. energy policy to reign in the high gas prices, which are eating up more of their monthly budgets and increasing the costs of other consumer goods.

The nations of the Arab world have entered an extended period of instability as repressive regimes, both royal and dictatorial, struggle to either quash or meet the growing political aspirations of their peoples. Calls for democratic reform are not just sweeping the Arab world, they are also percolating in sub-Saharan Africa where populations watch what is happening to the north as they harbor similar demands for political and economic reform. While some states may succeed over the short-to-medium term in repressing those aspirations, the reform genie is out of the bottle in others, and the first step in the messy long-term process of developing multi-party systems and constitutional monarchies has begun. Should the reform movements fail to meet the basic but growing expectations of their citizenry, the countries and regions will become increasingly unstable and radicalized. This, in turn, will raise the premium on the price of oil, gas and many other raw materials, just as demand and growth begin to accelerate in the developed economies.

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