🌎 Rise of the robots

Plus: Fossil fuel subsidies are holding clean energy back.
🌎 Rise of the robots

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Here’s what you need to know

North American manufacturers bought a record number of robots. Labor shortages and rising competition costs helped the robotics market score its best-ever results in the first half of the year.

Ecuador’s state oil company warned commodity trader Trafigura about sanctions-breaching risk. Petroecuador complained after receiving a shipment containing mostly Russian diesel.

The Federal Trade Commission sued a data broker for selling sensitive geolocation data. The lawsuit aims to block the sale of the files, which could trace people to abortion clinics.

Honda and LG will make EV batteries in the US. The Japanese carmaker and the South Korean company are beefing up their own supply chains with a $4.4 billion factory.

NASA’s Moon mission must wait. The US space agency canceled the launch of a major test mission yesterday because of difficulties fueling its new rocket.

Elon Musk subpoenaed the Twitter whistleblower. Musk, who’s trying to get out of his deal to buy Twitter, wants Peiter Zatko’s sweet, sweet spam account data.

Serena Williams aced the first round of the US Open. The tournament is widely expected to be the tennis champion’s last before she retires from the sport.

What to watch for

The US gets a look at how the labor market is doing this week, with job openings and quits, or JOLTS, out Tuesday and the monthly jobs report on Friday.

Though the number of job openings is likely to have dropped in July—in June there were 1.8 open positions per person looking for a job—job seekers still have the upper hand, according to data from job board Indeed. New job postings were up more than 60% from pre-pandemic levels, and the number of workers searching for positions that pay $20 an hour keeps rising.

A line chart showing US searches for jobs by hourly rate on Indeed.com. Searches for $20 an hour increased while $15 decreased.
Graphic: Quartz

But the labor market could slacken as the US Fed continues tightening financial conditions aggressively, the war in Ukraine adds to geopolitical instability, and covid continues to evolve.

Fossil fuel subsidies are holding clean energy back

An energy crisis like the one Europe is currently experiencing—with prices for natural gas and electricity at record highs—should be a time for renewables to shine. But government subsidies for fossil fuels throw a wrench in that dynamic by shielding consumers from their real cost, and in 2021 global subsidies nearly doubled from the year before.

A bar chart showing global fossil fuel and electricity subsidies from 2012 to 2021. They decreased sharply in 2020 to $400 billion but were back up to more than $700 billion in 2021.
Graphic: Quartz

“The concern here is that as you modify fossil fuel prices through these support measures, you kill or at least mute the price incentives to switch to other fuels and undergo a low carbon transition,” said Greg Garsous, a trade policy analyst at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. There’s no question, he said, that fossil fuels may need to be subsidized for some lower-income households. The trouble today is that prices are continuing to soar, and most subsidies are universal, including for major energy consumers.

Business travel will never make a comeback

A bar chart showing when people in different countries think work travel will pick back up. In most countries, the largest percentage of people said it'll never come back.
Graphic: Quartz

The tourist industry rebounded in a big way this summer as people tired of staying close to home throughout the pandemic seized the opportunity to travel.

But business travel has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, and a new report says that in much of the world, it may never. Sarah Todd rounded up some reasons why the briefcase-toters are staying home.

✦ Has our covid coverage helped you navigate the rollercoaster of the last two years? Member support helps keep Quartz stories like these free and accessible to all. Sign up today and take 40% off when you do!

Quartz’s most popular

🛰 The problems with Elon Musk’s satellite phone plan

🚬 More Americans are smoking marijuana than tobacco cigarettes now

😬 India has reasons (other than the US Federal Reserve) to worry

🪵 Germans are looking to firewood for energy as natural gas prices soar

😦 Indian colleges police women under the garb of protection

🍦 A brief history of Ben & Jerry’s political ice cream flavors

Surprising discoveries

Starbucks increased the price of its pumpkin-spiced latte. Can we get that with oat milk but hold the inflation, please?

An American ship lost in 1859 was found in Argentina. They literally cut it open and counted the tree rings.

Whiskeys now have notes of climate change. Warmer weather is changing how the spirit and the wood in which it’s distilled interact, sometimes for the better.

New Yorkers will be ID’d when buying whipped cream. Shoppers need to be 21 to buy the product, but many residents don’t know about the new law.

A thawing Greenland ice sheet could send sea levels up nearly a foot. Researchers think regardless of emission cuts, 110 trillion metric tons of ice will melt by 2100.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Send any news, comments, PSLs, and whipped cream to hi@qz.com. Reader support makes Quartz available to all—become a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Sofia Lotto Persio, Samanth Subramanian, Tim McDonnell, Nate DiCamillo, Ana Campoy, Susan Howson, and Morgan Haefner.