Trade War Escalates From Words to Action
The trade war with China moved into a new phase today as threatened tariff increases went into effect. The first round of tariffs on imports from China represents about $34 billion, but President Trump has suggested the total amount could rise to $550 billion - which is more than China exports to the U.S.
Some U.S. manufacturers are backing away from plans to expand, while others are slowing or shutting down productions lines in response to the tariffs, which make imported materials such as stainless steel more expensive.
"The riskiest economic gamble of Trump's presidency could spread as it enters a new and dangerous phase by imposing direct costs on companies and consumers globally. China has vowed to hit back in kind on goods ranging from American soybeans to pork, which may in turn prompt Trump to raise trade barriers even higher," write Andrew Mayeda and Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News.
Tech Startups Hope to Make EV Batteries Without Cobalt
Last week, I mentioned our risky reliance on using Chinese-controlled cobalt for electric vehicle batteries. This week, there's an interesting post in Medium by Tausif Bordoloi, who writes about two tech startups hoping to develop alternative methods for building the lithium batteries used in EVs and smartphones.
"The story of cobalt's ascendance in the battery universe is so intriguing as to be nearly impossible to ignore. Riding on the cusp of an imminent electric vehicle (EV) revolution, cobalt demand in batteries is expected to double in the next five years," writes Bordoloi.
The problem is that more than half of the cobalt used to make the batteries is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and much of that supply is apparently controlled by Chinese companies.
Bordoloi writes about two startups that are trying to level the playing field by using alternative methods for producing batteries. It will be interesting to see if more companies decide to enter this potentially lucrative field.
Baseball and the Rise of Data Science
If you thought there was a connection between the obsession with baseball statistics and data science, you were probably right.
I recommend reading this excellent McKinsey interview with Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow in which he describes how data analytics have revolutionized baseball.
"Our sport has been consistently the same for decades and, quite frankly, a century, says Luhnow. "What's really changed dramatically in the last 30 years is information, and how that information is used to make decisions."
From my perspective, I find it absolutely fascinating how baseball has become a sport dominated by data science. In that regard, baseball is like most other major industries. As the saying goes, "If you can measure it, you can manage it."