Coups-for-Green-Energy added to Wars-For-Oil

Kollibri terre Sonnenblume

Salar de Uyuni salt plain in Bolivia. (photo by Lion Hirth, public domain)

The US-supported right-wing coup against Bolivian President Evo Morales on November 10th was a serious strike against that nation’s autonomy and its people (especially its indigenous, of whom Morales was one).

Such meddling has defined US foreign policy in Latin America for nearly two centuries, since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.

“Same song, different verse,” one could say, and that’s true, but each verse has different lyrics and this one features a new element (no pun intended): Lithium.

While Lithium is used as an ingredient in a wide variety of products such as pharmaceuticals, industrial lubricants, desiccants, lenses and even rocket propellants, the fastest growing application is for batteries for electric cars. According to Bloomberg, demand for lithium could “double by 2025.”

Bolivia’s lithium reserves are believed to be the largest in the world.

A conservative estimate puts their share at nearly a quarter of the world’s total, though the government has claimed it to be as high as 70% [Lithium Today].

Regardless of the exact amount, Bolivia’s supply is globally recognized to be significant, enough to have attracted the attention of China and Germany, among other countries.

Obviously, US interests in Bolivia are not about democracy, freedom or the rule of law, as Trump disingenuously stated. They’re not solely about lithium either; the socialist politics of Morales are anathema to capitalist elites the world over.

Similarly, Iraq was not solely about oil.

But with lithium, we’re talking about a substance that could become “one of the most important commodities on earth” so yes, it has some bearing.

[See: Bolivian Coup Comes Less Than a Week After Morales Stopped Multinational Firm’s Lithium Deal and Bolivia coup against Morales opens opportunity for multinational mining companies.]

The big dream of “green energy” is that society will just be able to switch from one source to another without changing anything fundamentally. How perversely appropriate, then, that US foreign policy would not have change to fundamentally either. To wars for oil, we’ll just add coups for green energy. That’s not an improvement.

Here our attention is called to a big blind spot in US liberalism. “Defense” spending devours over half the discretionary budget; the Pentagon is the world’s largest institutional polluter; the military has approximately 800 bases around the world in over 80 countries.

The facts are plain: the US is a bloated empire, defiling the planet and retaining our ’60s era title of “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”

But these facts go virtually unmentioned by Democrats, either the leadership or the rank-and-file.

Here’s this monstrous institution that’s exceptionally expensive, ecocidal, and murderous, and it’s off the table. That’s obscene.

The text of the “Green New Deal” as proposed by AOC and others does not mention military spending or activities, though both must be drastically curtailed to address the multiple environmental crises inflicting the planet. With this omission, the whole program is a non-starter. Throw it out and start over.

As far as all of this is concerned, investigative journalist Cory Morningstar hits it in the bullseye:

Without anti-imperialism as a foundational building block of every social movement, without a comprehensive understanding of history and the existing power structures at work, we not only fail our brothers and sisters in the Global South, we fail as a species. Not only will our social justice movements be fought in vain, all legitimate ecological movements undertaken to protect what remains of our natural world will also prove to be futile.”

Exactly. The stakes are high. This is no time to pussy-foot around, play dumb, or put our faith in half-measures. Yet we are ignoring this central truth of our world.

Further, we must take a close look at anything labeled “green.” That includes lithium mining, no matter who’s doing it.

The highest concentrations of lithium are found in the briny groundwater beneath salt flats. This water is pumped up and collected in shallow ponds where it is left to evaporate. The remaining precipitated solids are subjected to a chemical process to extract the lithium.

Such salt flats exist only in arid places in the world and the removal of the brine tends to lower surrounding water tables, affecting local wildlife and humans. Toxic chemicals are introduced into the water, soil and air. Heaps of sludge pile up. Plants and micro-organisms are killed and animals depart.

In short, the sites subjected to this industry are irrevocably wrecked. That ain’t green at all.

These are not theoretical effects. They have been observed at places like Chile’s Atacama salt flats, where lithium extraction has been happening for years. [See here & here.]

In an article about the environmental issues of lithium mining, Bloomberg quoted a Chilean biologist, Cristina Dorador, who said:

We’re fooling ourselves if we call this sustainable and green mining. The lithium fever should slow down because it’s directly damaging salt flats, the ecosystem and local communities.”

In an piece entitled, “Lithium mining for ‘green’ electric cars is leaving a fetid stain on the planet,” which discussed lithium operations in South America, Raw Story concludes: “The idea that electric cars, or anything with lithium batteries, is ‘green’ might be a farce.”

Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat on Earth (Photo by Anouchka Unel, copyleft Free Art license)

Bolivia’s lithium is found on the Salar de Uyuni, a massive salt plain (at over 4000 square miles in size it is the world’s largest) high in the Andes Mountains (at close to 12,000 feet in elevation). It is a place of startling beauty and the second most popular tourist attraction in Bolivia. However, it has been negatively impacted by just the limited mining activity so far:

Previously, on travelling across the blinding white surface, one could expect to come across mirages, multi-coloured lakes and even flamingos or geysers. This time there are no flashes of light or oases on the world’s largest salt flat, just an inestimable number of artificial lakes, clunking machinery and workers. The new complex of laboratories, pilot plants, prospecting wells and pools covering 27 sq km of the southeastern part of the plain, situated 140km from the town of Uyuni, represents the dreams of more than a generation of politicians – a national lithium industry.
Bolivia’s lithium boom: dream or nightmare?

Morales was calling for much bigger operations, with the main beneficiary to be the state rather than foreign corporations. “We will develop a huge lithium industry,” he said.

Under this plan, the unique Salar de Uyuni would become a sacrifice zone, like Chile’s Atacama.

I abhor the fascists that ran Morales out of office, especially the ones in the US. We have no business messing with anyone’s right to self-determination. I hope that Morales is able to return to power, as he has pledged to do.

At the same time, I wish that Morales could support his revolution some other way, just as I wished that Chavez could’ve avoided oil extraction in the service of his. Just as I wish every day that we here in the belly of the beast could break our deadly habits.

In this era of ever more severe ecological disasters, our most important task as humans is to stop what we’re doing, in the interest of simple survival. In this context, I will venture to say that resource extraction like lithium mining is one of the master’s tools, unfit for dismantling the master’s house.

Even when it’s called “green.”

Originally published on Macska Moksha Press


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Mike Ellwood
Mike Ellwood
Nov 18, 2019 10:46 AM

In his book “Prescription for the Planet”, Tom Blees makes a convincing case for boron as being a possible super-fuel for future vehicles: http://www.thesciencecouncil.com/pdfs/P4TP4U.pdf The concept depends on the availability of essentially unlimited amounts of “clean” energy/electricity which he suggest could be from reactors of the type known as Integral Fast Reactors, as pioneered by Argonne National Lab with their EBR (Experimental Breeder Reactor) in the 1980s and 1990s. These are similar to, but distinct from, the slightly better known MSRs (Molten Salt Reactors). The latter are often mentioned in connection with thorium (although they do not have to use thorium). Anyway, in the context of vehicle fuel, the advantage of the idea of using boron in the way Blees describes is that the boron, once “burned” (with the combustion products captured), it can be almost completely recycled and re-used, so you wouldn’t need unlimited amounts of boron into the… Read more »

Nov 17, 2019 11:19 PM

The US has become an obscene usurper for the multinational business class and so arrogant as doing it right in our face and stating as much .What are you going to do about it like the bully in the school yard ?
I don’t know how this turns out but would it not be sweet justice if this exploded in their face.

Nov 17, 2019 12:21 PM

Coups for green energy are written into the GND: only, don’t try and tell anyone. It is best not to mention it at all. However: the scale of these coups and the knock-on effects of our lifestyle choice to go pseudo-green are perhaps incalculable. That is simply due to the exponential increase in aggregate demand for lithium, cobalt and the so-called ‘e-tech’ minerals needed for the 4IR (fourth industrial revolution). Bolivia may be first: but it won’t be the end. Just the beginning of the end. And Venezuela will not be spared by the aggregate demand of the high global consumption bourgeoisie we all find ourselves in, like it or not. We need diesel to go ‘green’ as all currently available battery technology is too heavy for trucks, lorries, and aviation. And globalisation is a function of its trucks and shipping. But that is another story. Some of the e-tech… Read more »

Nov 16, 2019 8:26 PM

There’s an assumption in the article and some of the BTL comments that had Morales stayed President of Bolivia and gone ahead with lithium mining and production in the way he intended, that the environmental devastation such production would bring will be on the same scale as in Chile. Chile is not a good model for comparison as it already has a hardline far-right govt under Sebastian Pinera. Morales at least claims to be working for indigenous Bolivians, of whom he is one. My understanding is that the altiplano region in Bolivia where the salt flats are located is a desolate area with a harsh climate. There is very little rainfall and soil is thin, making the area unproductive for agriculture or any other human activity. If lithium mining and production including refining can underpin Morales’ social reforms and give most Bolivians a chance of living well, it seems churlish… Read more »

Nov 17, 2019 7:29 AM
Reply to  Jen

Good points. Objecting from our comfortable Western seats to a distant country taking advantage of its natural resources could appear to be not just churlish, but downright hypocritical, all things considered.

And that Morales had recently opted for a joint venture project with a Chinese partner just before the coup is very interesting indeed. The plot thickens.

Nov 16, 2019 6:01 PM

Ultimately, the greenest thing you can do is avoid buying new things. An old car may not have the the cleanest emissions but of course it takes FAR more energy and resources to produce a new one and if you’re charging an electric vehicle, where does the grid get its power from? Nuclear?

Repair where possible, use things with care and source what you can pre-loved. I don’t enjoy buying new things at all now (sorry to sound a bit Greta there), with the exception of quality wholefood.

Failing to go off-grid, we won’t be able to avoid the forthcoming scam of ‘green/carbon’ taxation – unless enough of us simply refuse to pay. Worked on the poll tax….

Taxation Rebellion – mass arrears-ing and gluing a few financiers to HMRC buildings. Works for me.

Gary Weglarz
Gary Weglarz
Nov 16, 2019 5:11 PM

Excellent discussion of the completely amoral soft-white-underbelly of the now rather manically promoted “New Green Capitalism/NGD” Somehow the “New Green Deal” ends up being the “same old deal” for the Indigenous peoples of the world unlucky enough to find themselves existing for millennia on land where “our” Western resources lay just waiting to be plundered. It is also the “same old deal” of unlimited-plunder-for-profit for the myriad of earth’s interrelated ecological systems that sustain all life on the planet. Somehow through the “miracle of the market” and a massive Western propaganda effort – combining openly neocolonial coups – with monetizing and investing in the very destruction of a habitable planet – has simply never felt more – “green.”

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker
Nov 16, 2019 3:36 PM

Our planet and society are utterly fecked. I really cannot see a reversal of our rapacious greed and time soon, if ever. The neoliberals will not stop. Even Morales the Marxist didn’t care about protecting his environment.

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker
Nov 16, 2019 3:38 PM
Reply to  Frank Speaker

Admin, any chance that you can finally implement the feature to be edit comments, et least for a few minutes after posting? When you planned the upgrade of the site you did say that would be one of the new features. Thanks in anticipation.

Nov 16, 2019 12:57 PM

It’s time to change the human mentality that decorated this present moment, all the ones before and all the ones that will follow. It made itself available to be thought, that the phrase ‘to see the bigger picture’ is actually off inferior understanding of the matter. It needs to be ‘to see the whole picture’. When those who still have some reason left to do so, will ponder about the difference between ‘the bigger’ and ‘the whole’, it will strike like lightning. ‘The whole picture’ includes parts not seen. Little is spoken about these areas, although the minds of a many are wiggling like earth worms with each new crime comitted by the western regimes. In the whole picture, there is an area, where not only Rumsfeld, but indeed the entirety of the military industrial complex (U.S.+) creates ‘the realities’ it needs to prosper and aid in claiming the ownership… Read more »

Nov 16, 2019 10:34 AM

The US has more than 1000 Bases and/or Military Installations worldwide. Most countries in the world are occupied by US millitary and US-led NATO.

Nov 16, 2019 10:14 AM

“The facts are plain: the US is a bloated empire, defiling the planet and retaining our ’60s era title of “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”……………Not according to the BBC and the rest of our MSM in Great Britain though.

Capricornia Man
Capricornia Man
Nov 17, 2019 12:06 AM
Reply to  Grafter

And not according to the ABC and the rest of the corporate media in Australia, either.

Nov 16, 2019 8:10 AM

The United States ‘Department of Defense’ always sounds like a complete misnomer, similar to Orwell’s Ministry of peace. And the UK’s ‘Ministry of Defense’ is another one. Just euphemisms to try and cover up blatant imperialism. As to the environmental concerns of lithium mining, this is a tricky one. It’s obvious that damaging and destroying pristine and beautiful parts of the earth is not a good thing. But even if humanity radically changed its ways and moved to a sustainable existence, we’d still have a use for much lithium. Perhaps advances in extracting lithium from sea water could be a future answer. Though as extraction through salt flats is easier and so more profitable, and we’re all so hungry for lithium, the prospects for the health of the salt flats don’t look good. And if any site boffins are reading this, there is a typo in paragraph 12; ‘change to’… Read more »

Seamus Padraig
Seamus Padraig
Nov 16, 2019 6:34 PM
Reply to  ity

The United States ‘Department of Defense’ always sounds like a complete misnomer, similar to Orwell’s Ministry of peace.

Until 1947, it was officially known as the Department of War.

Nov 17, 2019 12:48 AM
Reply to  Seamus Padraig

In the UK, it was the War Office, until 1964 when it became the MOD

Mike Ellwood
Mike Ellwood
Nov 18, 2019 10:52 AM
Reply to  Estaugh

And the building that housed it continued to be known as the Old War Office Building for many years. It’s now in private hands, apparently:


Nov 16, 2019 7:18 AM

Going off at a tangent, Roger Stone in the US has just been convicted of multiple charges in the Democrats’ Russia Witch Hunt against Trump.
He is looking at many years in jail.
The man is an incorrigible political grifter of many years’ standing, and people may not feel a great deal of sympathy for a somewhat reptilian operator like him.
But his conviction further underlines the corrupt and politicised nature of the US “justice” system.
And what Julian Assange can expect when he is exposed to its tender mercies. Or other figures like Max Blumenthal and Medea Benjamin.

Nov 16, 2019 7:07 AM

Outside interference in the continent has never been more than an unmitigated disaster for all humanity.
100 million plus victims in the Native American Genocide, the real holocaust of world history, which is continuing to this day.
2 billion ounces of silver were extracted from Potosi alone by the Spaniards, using genocidal slave labour.
An unbroken record of mass murder, slavery, racism and rapacious exploitation that has remained unchanged.
58 oligarch families control the economy and politics of the continent.
They own the banks, industry, agriculture, media, and politicians.
These 58 families own more than the bottom 250 million inhabitants of Latin America.
And they are ever ready to whore themselves out to Uncle Sam to support the latter’s endless coups and intrigues, or whatever bogus Green Agenda comes along, to preserve their wealth and privilege.

Nov 16, 2019 8:49 AM
Reply to  mark

While I agree with what you say, is using the phrase ‘bogus Green Agenda’ in the above context really helpful? I can accept that a ‘green agenda’ has been in some ways hijacked or co-opted by certain powers that be, and that environmental issues can be big business, but this fact doesn’t invalidate all environmental concerns, all environmental activists, or all green agendas.

It’s just that I think that carelessly linking the word ‘bogus’ and ‘green agenda’ is in many ways actually helping the wealthy and privileged keep the status quo. The phrase is re-enforcing the message that nothing needs to be done.

Nov 17, 2019 7:18 AM
Reply to  ity

I have no problem with people voting a comment of mine down, but sometimes an explanation as to why a comment has been voted down would be helpful.

Nov 16, 2019 4:31 AM

Why is nobody mentioning that Evo Morales has been president of Bolivia ever since 2006 till last week: three full terms totaling over 12 years? Was there no lithium before or were the US or China sleeping?
The 2016 Bolivian constitutional referendum rejected a 4th term for any president. Morales could have avoided any conflict by letting his no.2, Vice President Álvaro García Linera for the no. job but apparently his ego didn’t allow for that. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Bolivian_constitutional_referendum

A non conspiracy case.

Berlin beerman
Berlin beerman
Nov 16, 2019 2:30 PM
Reply to  Antonym

Don’t think this current situation was not planned out either from the sidelines of Mr. Morales party. Perhaps there was reason in what appears to be a coup one day and a resignation the other. Even western nations were not sure what the heck happened. I mean it took Canadian imbeciles a good 5 days to say something, needless to assume it took some time for Mrs. Freeland and her handlers to explain to Mr. Trudeau what his position on Bolivia is. Mexico seemed ready and waiting and surprisingly organized in its decisively quick minded decision to aide Mr. Morales. Perhaps the only two being played are Mrs. Anez and Mr. Mesa, interestingly against each other. Just enough to spark unrest and have Mr. Morales comfort the nation, while all the same returning as the white night. The constitution would need to be re-written after all – to avoid such… Read more »