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January 26, 2010
Beneath the Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flats in a remote corner of South America's poorest nation, there's an untapped fortune below the white crust.
Nearly half the world's lithium -- 5.4 million tons of it, according to the U.S. Geological Survey -- lies in the briny water underneath the Bolivian salt flats.
As the world shifts away from fossil fuels and looks close to embracing lithium-battery cars, Bolivia's reserves are key to improving life in an impoverished land -- and to fueling the rest of the world's budding Green Revolution.
But in Bolivia, where corruption is rampant and leftist President Evo Morales is bent on increasing state control, there are no sure bets. Can Bolivia overcome the past and change its history, or will the world's lithium-powered dreams be held hostage by its failures?
In December, I traveled to Bolivia to get some answers. You can read my feature about Bolivia's lithium and the future of the auto industry in tomorrow's issue of the New Times, or click here.
And check out a video -- produced by our own Jacob Katel -- from footage I shot in the salt plains.
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