Illustration for article titled It Wasn’t So Hard Getting Tesla’s Factory Reopened After All
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Tesla is close to a (calm) factory reopening, the U.S. auto industry now waits on our trade partners, we may have a good use for old car batteries, and much much more in The Morning Shift for May 13, 2020.

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1st Gear: That Wasn’t So Bad

The situation on the ground in Alameda County between local officials trying to block Tesla from bringing its Fremont factory back online after locking down for Covid-19 seems to be more about two groups having a calm discussion about getting back to work with Elon Musk tweeting and yelling in the middle of it all.

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Officials today claim progress was made to officially reopen the factory next week, if Tesla can manage to comply with a few standard safety practices. Here’s more from Bloomberg:

Health officers for Alameda County said late Tuesday that the factory can reopen if Tesla adopts safety recommendations in addition to a new plan the company submitted on Monday. While the county will let Tesla start to augment its operations this week, city police will be called upon to verify that the automaker is adhering to the agreed measures aimed at protecting workers.

“Provided that the data show progress with our Covid-19 indicators,” the county said, “we would allow additional approved activities for local businesses, including Tesla, as previously planned.”

The move comes after CEO Elon Musk pressured workers to return to the factory on Monday against local government orders, which was just part of Musk’s aggressive hard-line to get his factory back online.

However, employees that did show up to work noted the company had introduced new safety policies and installed more protection, and some employees were reportedly shown new safety films.

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The fact that this new arrangement mostly makes sense and reflects what the rest of the American auto industry plans to do to reopen, only makes Musk’s tantrums look more and more ridiculous. But he got what he wanted—attention, not the factory opening.

2nd Gear: Time To Reactivate The USMCA

Now that the American auto industry is gearing back up for production next week, it needs its suppliers, many of which are in Mexico waiting for the green light to return still. That should change today, according to Reuters:

The U.S. government and automotive companies have called on Mexico to reopen factories serving the U.S. market, despite the Latin American nation still dealing with a rising number of infections from the coronavirus pandemic. Mexico on Tuesday registered 353 coronavirus deaths in its most lethal day yet.

Mexico sends 80% of its exports to the U.S. and became the United States’ biggest trade partner last year, with bilateral commerce worth over $600 billion.

Lopez Obrador has been eager to get Mexico’s businesses firing again amid forecasts the economy could contract by as much as 10% in 2020, plunging the country into its biggest recession in living memory.

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Obrador is expected to make the announcement later today. This is probably similar to an issue the U.S. would have had back when the President tried to blow up NAFTA, so it’s probably good that didn’t happen completely.

3rd Gear: What About Canada?

The U.S.-Canadian border will be closed to non-essential travel through the middle of June, so don’t dust off those summer plans to steal truckloads of maple syrup just yet. More from Reuters:

Canada and the United States had agreed on April 18 to extend border restrictions until May 21 as cases of the disease continue to rise in both nations. Canada is now pressing for the measures to stay in place for another month.

“It’s too early to lift the restrictions, so we’re working toward an extension,” said one Canadian source, describing the talks with Washington as positive. A second source said the discussions had been collaborative.

On Tuesday, the chief Canadian public health officer said the United States - where cases are increasing steadily - presented a risk to Canada.

The sources requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation. News of the Canadian request for a 30-day extension was first reported by the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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Canada’s problem is New York, one of the hotbed states in the U.S. for coronavirus that just happens to border Canada. They don’t want diseased Americans crossing the border too early, and I can’t blame them.

The essential travel part is important, though, as the U.S. takes in around 75 percent of of Canadian goods exports. You don’t have to worry, that stuff is still coming.

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4th Gear: From Autos To Agriculture?

Some smart people in Australia think they may have figured out a way to recycle some of the rare-earth and metallic materials in used batteries as nutrient fertilizer for plants.

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From Bloomberg:

The tests, which were carried out at the company’s Envirostream Australia Pty recycling facility in Victoria, showed a “significant uptake” of the metals in wheat on local low-quality soil, according to managing director Adrian Griffin, though it was a slower process in comparison to fertilizer-grade sulphate products.

“We would anticipate that the results would be significantly better than that on more normal soils that we see in the wheat belts in Western Australia,” he said in an interview.

With annual sales totaling around 6,000 tons nationally, alkaline batteries — used in typical household items — are notoriously under-recycled, according to Lithium Australia, citing research showing that 97% of batteries end up in landfill.

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This both seems like a good solution to curbing waste from cleaner energy sources while also boosting food production. Just sounds like I’m going to let someone else try the first ear of corn.

5th Gear: All-Consuming Uber Fixes Appetite On Grubhub

Uber, the company behind Uber Eats, if you couldn’t tell, is looking to expand its corner of the food-delivery business by potentially buying Grubhub, Bloomberg reports:

The companies are in talks about a deal and could reach an agreement as soon as this month, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public.

Deliberations are ongoing and talks could still fall through, the people said. A representative for Grubhub couldn’t immediately comment, while a spokesperson for Uber couldn’t immediately be reached.

Grubhub shares closed Tuesday’s trading up 29 percent to $60.39. Uber shares rise closed the day up 2.4 percent to $32.40.

Uber is shuttering its own food-delivery unit, Uber Eats, in seven countries where the service has proven unpopular, it said last week. Those markets represented 1 percent of Uber Eats gross bookings and 4 percent of the business’s adjusted losses before interest, taxes and depreciation for the first quarter of 2020, the company said.

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If the Covid-19 outbreak has proven anything, at least in New York City, it’s that people don’t think much about the service workers delivering their food. But it’s also clear that there will be demand for food delivery in the worst of times, and when people may not want to share a ride for some time to come for reasons, maybe Uber is looking to diversify.

Reverse: Nixon Car Almost Tipped

Good thing this guy recovered to go to have an absolutely non-controversial rest of his life.

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Neutral: Is Elon Vindicated?

From my perspective, Musk only got in the way of any meaningful discussions to get the Fremont factory back online in compliance. I feel like he could have made his arguments calmly to the county, citing the rest of the industry’s restart plans and the local California counties, and easily gotten his cars running off the line again. But instead he acted like a fool. Do you think it worked?

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