Interesting article in Monday's NY Times:
In the rush to build the next generation of hybrid or electric cars, a sobering fact confronts both automakers and governments seeking to lower their reliance on foreign oil: almost half of the world’s lithium, the mineral needed to power the vehicles, is found here in Bolivia — a country that may not be willing to surrender it so easily.
Japanese and European companies are busily trying to strike deals to tap the resource, but a nationalist sentiment about the lithium is building quickly in the government of President Evo Morales, an ardent critic of the United States who has already nationalized Bolivia’s oil and natural gas industries.The lithium fields in Bolivia may just be the next crucial resource. (Maybe this should have been the plot of the latest James Bond movie "Quantum of Solace" instead of Bolivia's water supply...that was dumb.) We know that lithium is not only useful for car batteries. Lithium also powers every smart phone in the world and the mineral is increasingly being used as an alternative to nickel in other types of batteries. It's going to be very interesting to see how Evo Morales, Bolivia's socialist president, handles Chinese, American, European, and Japanese demands on his country's resources. This may be an area to watch in the coming months/years.
For now, the government talks of closely controlling the lithium and keeping foreigners at bay. Adding to the pressure, indigenous groups here in the remote salt desert where the mineral lies are pushing for a share in the eventual bounty.