Bolivia wants to be Saudia Arabia of lithum batteries

McClatchy/Miami Herald:

On a remote Andean plain here, a short drive on unpaved roads from the world's largest salt flat, 120 government workers are constructing a facility to help power the fuel-efficient electric cars of the future.

The plant, in a sparsely populated region, is supposed to begin producing basic compounds of lithium, which is used to make batteries for cell phones, power tools, computers and other electronic devices, by year's end.

Government officials think Bolivia possesses the world's biggest lithium reserves, and they also think the country is poised to profit big time from the automakers' push to develop electric cars that will run on lithium ion batteries. ''Bolivia will become a big producer of batteries in six years,'' Luis Alberto EchazĂș, the minister of mining and metallurgy, said in an interview. He ticked off three companies that he said have expressed interest in investing in the government's lithium venture: Sumitomo, Mitsubishi and Bollore, a French company.

Officials from the three companies didn't respond to requests for comment.

Lithium is the lightest metal and the least dense solid. It's typically extracted from beneath salt flats. About 70 percent of the world's supplies come from Chile and Argentina. While lithium batteries don't power hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius, analysts think that the fuel-efficient electric cars of the future likely will use them.

Rather than helping lead the way to a cleaner, more fuel-efficient future, however, Bolivia could be a case study on the limits to globalization.

The country's socialist president, Evo Morales, and its powerful union leaders are deeply suspicious of foreigners, and their politics could stymie yet another opportunity for Bolivia to improve the lives of its citizens.

...

Morales is a socialist control freak who can be counted own to screw up an opportunity like this by being greedy. Socialist usually reserve their greed for the government and they are not keen on markets. The likely result will be batteries that will be over priced and poorly constructed.

Besides, why would the US and the rest of the world trade a crackpot like Hugo Chavez in Venequela for a crack pot, coca chewing Evo "Evil" Morales?

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