Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Going down like a lead balloon

Lead is in the news again in Morley. Thieves have stripped various more roof flashings, including the Salvation Army. Also, drain grids are going walkies. (Previous local news stories here and here.).

It seems that the demands of China for copper and lead to feed their rapidly expanding industrialisation are squeezing supplies. Indeed, our Data Centre power system supplier told me today that one battery supplier has just bumped up prices by 15% and introduced an unspecified "lead surcharge" chargable on delivery at whatever cost they want to stick you with. (Data Centres have systems that protect the mains supply to the computer systems by switching over instantly to batteries during any fluctuation).

I had a look at the website of the London Metal Exchange today, out of curiosity. The graph below shows the price over the last five years, the laws of supply and demand in action. The website stats make interesting (if arcane) reading and looking at market analysis, apparently demand has outstripped supply five years running and UK tracked stockpiles have shrunk to only two days supply. (This explains why we have to wait several weeks for our order!)

The deep discharge batteries in our uninterruptable power supplies have an internal construction that demands the use of new lead rather than recycled lead so I can rest assured that the Morley scratters having a trip down to the scrap yard won't end up in me inadvertently receiving stolen goods.

I still chuckle at the Latin name for Lead that we were taught in Physics at School (If you have forgotten, it is Plumbum) and considering how toxic it is I balk on reflection at how much we used to handle it, melting it in a pan over the stove and casting fishing weights. (I wasn't a fisherman, I used them in my model theatre as counterweights).

No doubt our children will be agog at us using aluminium pans.

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