Battling for Bolivia’s Lithium That’s Vital to Electric Cars


“The amount of lithium we need in any of our climate goals is incredible,” mentioned Anna Shpitsberg, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for power transformation. “Everyone is trying to build up their supply chains and think about how to be strategic.”

But Washington has little sway in Bolivia, whose leaders have lengthy disagreed with the American strategy to drug coverage and Venezuela. That could clarify why some power executives don’t suppose Bolivia is definitely worth the danger.

“You’ve had 30 years’ worth of projects in Bolivia with almost nothing to show,” mentioned Robert Mintak, chief government of Standard Lithium, a publicly traded mining firm based mostly in Vancouver, British Columbia, referring to lithium growth efforts relationship again to 1990. “You have a landlocked country with no infrastructure, no work force, political risk, no intellectual property protection. So as a developer, I would choose someplace else that is safer.”

Mr. Egan sees the percentages in a different way.

That Mr. Egan has gotten this far is a marvel. He realized about Bolivian lithium solely by likelihood when he and a buddy crisscrossed South America as vacationers in 2018.

When they acquired to the salt flats, a information defined that they have been standing on the world’s largest lithium reserve. “I thought, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I need to be involved,’” Mr. Egan mentioned.

He had tried his hand as a sports activities and music agent and ran a small funding fund on the time. He had invested in Tesla in 2013 at $9 a share; it now trades round $975. (He wouldn’t reveal what number of shares he had purchased and what number of he nonetheless had.)

But he felt that he wasn’t attaining a lot. Before Mr. Egan traveled to South America, his father, Michael, the founding father of Alamo Rent A Car, suggested him to make two lists — of his 5 greatest passions and of the 5 industries he thought would develop quickest within the coming many years. Renewable power was on each lists.

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