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Is the Ukraine war the first one for lithium?

From mundane local issues to world-endangering conflagration is not too large a jump if you use your noodle. And you’d have to engage in the most tortuous mental gymnastics to avoid making any obvious connections between your neighbor’s energy-swilling jalopy and a potential for bloody international turmoil.

Of course, you might believe the millions of cars clogging our greater Los Angeles freeways are all a part of God’s plan for us. Yes, you are entitled to believe that. Don’t let me interfere. But any consequences of the energy production necessary to make your daily commute through hell and back can have effects elsewhere. We don’t live in isolation here.

As an obvious example, the debacle in Iraq that Bush the Lesser swindled us into in 2003 was an oil war. There was a lot of disinformation generated to make the infinitely trusting American people believe there were noble issues involved. Freedom for the Iraqi people. Removing Saddam Hussein, the bloody dictator we put in power. WMD, which never was found. Etc.

However, set aside those bollocks and what do you get? Oil and money, baby. That’s where the real action was found. And at quite a human cost. According to Opinion Research Business, which polled Iraqis about their personal loss during Bushapalooza, there were an “estimated 1,033,000 violent deaths due to the Iraq War. The range given (was) 946,000 to 1,120,000 deaths.”

Think about this next time you drive the Audi to Sprouts for $5 sushi Wednesday.

A big issue in California is the enforced conversion to electric cars in a decade or so. Here at the Crawford compound we already own a pair of EVs. Coupled with our solar panels, they run on sunshine. All the world’s problems solved, right?

Probably not. The fly in the ointment is lithium. It is a finite mined natural resource that has become increasingly sought after as electric cars have risen in popularity. As The World Economic Forum opines:

“The world could face lithium shortages by 2025, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says, while Credit Suisse thinks demand could treble between 2020 and 2025, meaning “supply would be stretched … About 2 billion Electric Vehicles need to be on the road by 2050 for the world to hit net zero, the IEA says, but sales stood at just 6.6 million last year.”

What has this to do with Ukraine? In the article “Lithium: The Link Between the Ukraine War and the Clean Energy Transition,” the University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy claims:

“According to preliminary estimates, researchers believe that Ukraine is a treasure trove of lithium, holding about 500,000 tons of the ‘non-renewable mineral that makes renewable energy possible.’ … Skyrocketing global demand growth for lithium is estimated to range from 400% to 4,000% in coming years.”

A New York Times piece, “Before Invasion, Ukraine’s Lithium Wealth Was Drawing Global Attention,” adds this:

“Ukrainian researchers have speculated that the country’s eastern region holds close to 500,000 tons of lithium oxide, a source of lithium, which is critical to the production of the batteries that power electric vehicles. That preliminary assessment, if it holds, would make Ukraine’s lithium reserves one of the largest in the world.”

So did Russia really invade Ukraine to reestablish Putin’s dream of a united USSR? Realistically, no. Like Bush in Iraq, it’s actually about a precious energy resource and the extraordinary wealth to be made there.

On Twitter someone made this acerbic claim about Tesla’s eminent lithium consumer: “Elon Musk is just fulfilling his promises to Putin potentially in exchange for a lot of recently obtained Ukrainian lithium. Twitter is just a propaganda tool now. Elon is using it for leverage.”

The wars and politics of the electric vehicle era have now arrived. Welcome.

John Crawford is the publisher of the Sierra Madre Tattler.

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