Agree that the environmental footprint of phosphate mining is terrible, and the existing legacy in the U.S. is terrible whether or not current production is expanded (or even continued at current levels).Parke:
On the price side, phosphate fertilizer prices have fallen back to 2006 levels (see Figure 3):
Higher prices (past and future) will likely spur incremental supply coming from other parts of the world with lower cash costs of production and environmental restrictions (e.g. North Africa). Overall, the FAO predicts phosphate fertilizers will have surplus capacity by 2011/2012 (see first link and p15, 17 of second link):
Unfortunately, the environmental problems from new mines will likely be similar, but receive even less attention than they would here in the U.S. Outsourcing our environmental footprint is obviously not a good solution at a planetary level.
Parke, I agree that using fewer environmental resources per person is critical; I think the key practical question here is how to incentivize that in the specific case of the global fertilizer market.
Thanks, R, for the better data and the thoughtful comments. I've added another update to the original post, acknowledging the recent price data. Despite the embarrassment of encumbering the post with three updates (argh), perhaps the revised post shows off the efficiently collaborative nature of web-based writing.Me:
That's the beauty of blogging - no shame in updating!