(L)ithium 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. (source)
As we turn to cars designed to save gasoline or diesel oil by relying more and more on battery power, the demand on lithium is skyrocketing. By far, most of the known world supply is found in southernmost Latin America. Argentina, Chile, and especially Bolivia. Bolivia is sometimes called "the Saudi Arabia of lithium."
Most countries have a somewhat workable alternative to Saudi Arabia when it comes to oil, but Bolivia and its aforementioned neighbors are just about the only viable source of lithium in the quantities that will be needed to keep supplying cell phones with batteries and, more importantly, the batteries we need for cars that don't guzzle gas.
Many people see much of American foreign policy motivated by control of oil supplies. Can we expect the same in our relations with Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile?
And what happens when the world starts to run out of lithium?
I often point out that whatever environmental "solutions" the greenies propose stop being so green once scaled up to the necessary degree. Lithium is just another example.