Monday, February 09, 2009

Bolivia's nationalization to hold back green revolution?

Interesting NYT piece I haven't gotten around to noting yet. If we're to wean ourselves off foreign oil, one of the vehicles is likely to be hybrid or electric cars. A key component of the batteries for such cars is lithium, and it turns out that about half the world's known lithium supply is in Bolivia, run by Evo Morales, a sometime ally of Venezuela's self-professed socialist Hugo Chavez, who wants to control that supply very closely. He's already nationalized oil and natural gas, though the decisions are meeting some resistance. Bolivia doesn't have the financial resources to exploit the lithium supply efficiently and resists having foreign companies come in (though with the world financial crisis that may be a moot point for a while).

So you can't get away from resources, sometimes in the control of regimes either hostile to the U.S. (at least rhetorically; Chavez has done nothing to interrupt the flow of Venezuelan oil to the U.S. except to centralize control of the industry, which has made it less efficient). If we wean ourselves from foreign oil we may become beholden to foreign lithium. Some choice.

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