So who gets rich next? Bolivia, that's who
For much of its modern history, the Arabian Peninsula has been a hot, arid stretch of land notable as home to two of the holiest mosques of Islam, but with little to recommend it economically. That was until truly colossal reserves of oil were discovered in March 1938, propelling Saudi Arabia to a position of massive geopolitical importance.
In pure cash terms, it was like placing a billion dollar bet on yourself as a 1000-1 shot to win several mammoth rollover lotteries on the bounce, while simultaneously discovering that a long lost great-great-great-great-great uncle called Croesus had left you his entire fortune, which had been sitting in a high interest account since the 6th century BC. And then some.
But with fossil fuels finite and alternative energy sources set to be radically exploited, who's hitting the gushers of the future?
As it turns out, another previously economically unpromising part of the world: Bolivia. The poorest South American nation is sitting on around 50% of the world's lithium reserves and lithium is a key component of the batteries that our electrically-powered cars of the future will be requiring in enormous quantities.
But Bolivia's uncompromising president, Evo Morales, isn't just going to pony-up his natural resources to rapacious foreign exploiters. Instead, Evo wants rapacious foreign exploiters to become benign domestic investors by manufacturing the batteries and maybe even the cars in Bolivia itself. (He probably means business. Morales recently went on hunger strike to force through an election reform.)
Other places set to hit the big time include the plateaus of Western China and Tibet, bits of Western Australia and a fair few US states. As acknowledged world expert on Lithium reserves R Keith Evans says: 'Concerns regarding lithium availability for hybrid or electric vehicle batteries or other foreseeable applications are unfounded.' The Lithium rush starts here.