trump-tech-news-digest-newU.S. Softens Stance on Trade War with China

President Trump has apparently backed away from his tough stance on trade with China, opting to work through Congress instead of issuing an executive order.

"Earlier this week reports indicated that Trump was on the verge of using emergency presidential powers to issue an order to dramatically restrict Chinese investment in US businesses," writes Zeeshan Aleem in Vox. "The goal is to make it harder for China to acquire important technology used to manufacture things like robotics, aerospace and aviation equipment, clean energy cars, and medical equipment. Experts say China currently sees buying technology from American companies as a key strategy for developing its own manufacturing capacities."

It's not clear how this latest development in the ongoing competition between the U.S. and China will affect long-term strategy, but it seems as though both sides would prefer an amicable relationship at this moment.

tesla-tech-news-digest-newA Rare Look at Tesla's Org Chart  

Elon Musk has a reputation for working alone. But as usual, the truth is more nuanced. Musk does have a team of executives, even if they stay mostly in the background.  

Bloomberg provides a rare look into the table of organization at Tesla, a company that enjoys a high profile while somehow remaining shrouded in mystery.  

From my perspective, I find it reassuring that Elon Musk needs help running Tesla. Every CEO needs a good team of executives, and in that sense, Musk is no different from CEOs at other world-class corporations. 

tech-news-digest-newElectric Vehicles Might Soon Depend on Cobalt Mined in Deep Space

While we're on the topic of Tesla, there was a fascinating article in Medium this week about mining cobalt from asteroids. 

What's the connection between Tesla and deep space mining? For years, Musk has been a proponent of mining rare minerals from asteroids. Cobalt is essential for the batteries that power Tesla automobiles, which explains Musk's keen interest in finding new sources of the mineral. Since cobalt is also used in smartphone batteries, a supply chain disruption would have a widespread impact across the economy.

According to the article, "a supply chain disaster" is not a remote possibility. "Roughly 60% of the world's cobalt is produced as a by-product of copper and nickel ores located in the Democratic Republic of Congo," writes Tausif Bordoloi in Medium. Most of the Congolese cobalt is controlled by Chinese miners, "which in turn, supply to Chinese battery manufacturers and EV makers. Such cobalt 'lock-in' behavior could soon turn into a supply chain nightmare for Tesla and its western brethren."

Musk's desire to mine the asteroids isn't just a science fiction dream - it's a possible solution to a problem that could put Tesla and other carmakers in serious jeopardy.