Elon Musk’s Appeals for Lithium Are No Substitute for Better Price Signals

If lithium is the new oil, it needs better answers to widely traded crude benchmarks like Brent and West Texas Intermediate.

Oil-price increases have been modest compared with the rally in the metal that underpins electric-vehicle batteries. Despite a recent pause for breath, spot prices for seaborne supplies of the key lithium compounds, carbonate and hydroxide, have more than quintupled over the past year, according to data from price-reporting agency Fastmarkets. A tidal wave of demand from car makers with big EV plans has washed up against a sluggish supply response.