The phrase "the Saudi Arabia of X" is not unheard of in the green car industry, with Shai Agassi telling Australia to become the Saudi Arabia of plug-in cars and Bolivia having the potential to become the Saudi Arabia of lithium. Bolivia might soon have some competition for that title with the recent Pentagon announcement that Afghanistan could have as much as $1 trillion worth of untapped mineral deposits and maybe the world's largest lithium deposits. The Pentagon report even says outright that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium," according to the New York Times. (Of course, the real question for plug-in vehicles isn't just the lithium, which is not that rare, but lanthanides.)

In any case, the newly discovered (or, at least, newly announced) deposits are not a guarantee of good news for the country, which just became the battleground for America's longest war. As Josh Marshall writes over on Talking Points Memo:
The unfortunate but very common pattern is that extractable natural resources produce autocratic, often kleptocratic, regimes, ruling by violence, which reliably get the stuff out of ground and into the hands of more developed and wealthier foreign countries. You can come up with morality tales about exploitative first world countries but a lot of it is structural -- tied to the scale of the wealth involved, the relatively limited involvement of the local population required to get the stuff out of the ground and transformative political effect of the wealth on offer.
Indeed. Just look at Saudi Arabia.

*UPDATE: Not so fast.

[Source: New York Times, Talking Points Memo, | Image: The U.S. Army - C.C. License 2.0]

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