In December 2006, William Tahil, an energy analyst, published a paper online titled “The Trouble with Lithium.” His argument would be alarming to the many people who had placed their hopes for a cleaner, more prosperous economy on the rapid development of electric cars powered by lithium-ion batteries.
The trouble, he proposed, was that the world didn’t contain enough economically recoverable lithium to support such a switch. Moreover, the viable pockets of lithium that did exist were concentrated in just a few countries. “If the world was to swap oil for Li-Ion based battery propulsion,” he wrote, “South America would become the new Middle East. Bolivia would become far more of a focus of world attention than Saudi Arabia ever was. The USA would again become dependent on external sources of supply of a critical strategic mineral while China--home to significant lithium deposits--“would have a certain degree of self sufficiency.”