Happy Earth Day.
We took a timely deep dive into lithium this week (see The Big Story below), a key resource in batteries that power our electrification dreams. While the price of the rare metal is rising, concerns are also spreading over its environmental cost.
And a recent study published in Nature found that climate change and farming practices have killed nearly half of the insects in some parts of the world. This is a wakeup call for efforts to increase biodiversity and re-wilding. Please let me know if you are aware of solutions worth covering, I'm on the lookout.
The Big Story
In brief | Elon Musk has been in the news for his interest in Twitter, but it is his tweet about lithium that may prove the most consequential as the price for the rare metal surges. Lithium is used extensively in the batteries that underpin electrification and demand is far outpacing supply. The Tesla CEO is not the only one taking notice, US President Biden has invoked the Defence Production Act to shore up domestic supplies. While lithium has been dragged into the turmoil surrounding commodities after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prices were already on the rise amid a global race to net-zero emissions and pandemic-disrupted supply chains.
Why it matters | Sky-high lithium prices may slow down decarbonisation efforts, while the true environmental cost of our electrification push is also coming under scrutiny. It takes vast quantities of water and fossil fuels to conventionally mine lithium. There are less water and carbon-intensive methods in largely untapped markets like the US, Germany and Britain. Don't rule out Elon - or other major players in electrification - to get involved in an area of the energy transition that is crying out for disruption.
Future in Focus
Biofuel beaches | Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Development Company plans to use biofuel generators to operate the major coastal tourism destination, which is set to welcome its first guests by the end of the year. The project is aiming to avoid reliance on the national electric grid.
Dramatic overhaul | This week the UAE announced some of the biggest changes to its visa system in years, with implications for job-seekers and sectors like technology and real estate. The Business Extra podcast explains what to know about the new visa schemes.
Tweets for sale | An NFT of the first tweet posted on Twitter by co-founder Jack Dorsey is struggling to attract bids anywhere near the price sought by the seller. Sina Estavi, who originally bought the digital version of the tweet for $2.9 million, has so far attracted a top bid of $29,000.
Predicting the future | Signal or noise? Just 42% of the Eastern Mediterranean region, a territory spanning 22 countries from Morocco to Pakistan, is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the World Health Organisation said.
This is a signal. Even though deaths are decreasing to some of the lowest numbers since the start of the pandemic, transmission rates are still high, according to the WHO. If vaccination coverage remains low while public health and social measures are being relaxed, then the world risks continued transmission and new, more deadly variants.
In Case You Missed It
A new study found that climate change and agricultural practices have wiped out nearly half of the insects in some parts of the world.
Careem has added FinTech to its super-app, with a digital wallet and peer-to-peer transfer update.
And what went wrong with Nasa’s mega Moon rocket.