Coal is one of the world’s biggest polluters, with its transportation, storage and usage accounting for around 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations.
One executive who says she wants to help reduce the Asia-Pacific region’s dependence on the fossil fuel is Somruedee Chaimongkol, chief executive of energy firm Banpu Public Company. The company has operated coal mines in Thailand for almost four decades.
Sometimes known as Asia’s “first lady of coal,” Chaimongkol became CEO of the company since 2015 and established what she called a “greener, smarter” business plan for the firm the following year.
“Since 2010, we talk about transformation. And since 2015, when I succeed my predecessor as CEO, we start to implement on the greener, smarter [plan]. For the past five years, we spent $2 billion and 90% of [that went on] … a greener investment, such as gas, such as renewable energy, and energy technology,” Chaimongkol told CNBC’s “Managing Asia: Sustainable Future.”
“[There are] a lot of mega trends happening — digitalization, decarbonization, decentralization — and that sped up Banpu to produce a new, greener, smarter strategy,” she added.
Founded in 1983, Thailand’s Ban Pu Coal Company Limited began its operations in the country’s northern Lamphun Province and listed on the Thai stock exchange six years later. In 1993, it took on its current trading name, and in the following years expanded into other parts of Southeast Asia and China.
Last year it established Banpu Next, which encompasses its energy technology businesses including electric vehicles, renewable energy plants and electric ferries.
Banpu’s 2020 annual report indicates that coal accounted for more than 95% of Banpu Public Company Ltd’s revenue in 2020, a figure more or less in line with 2019. The same annual report shows that including the company’s overseas subsidiaries, coal accounted for more than 80% of total revenue.
The company has been buying up natural gas assets in the United States for the last several years.
In March, the firm said it wants to make half of its earnings from “green” energy by 2025.
“We are adding more rapidly on the renewable generation in Japan, Vietnam and in China … And we have set up Banpu Energy Australia,” Chaimongkol said.
The company also wants to create an energy “ecosystem” within Banpu NEXT, covering everything from energy creation and storage, to distribution and building charging stations for EVs. Chaimongkol said the division can generate “significant” revenue by 2025.
“Under Banpu NEXT, currently the major revenue contribution is still from energy generation from solar farm and wind farm. Going forward, we will scale up on … [the] energy technology,” she explained.
One aspect of the new system is a tech platform that helps to manage fleets of electric three-wheel taxis known as tuk-tuks, as well as four-wheel vans. “What we are selling to our customer is selling the platform, selling the solution, managing … a fleet [and providing] … e-charging station[s],” Chaimongkol explained. In November, Banpu NEXT launched an electric powered ferry that will operate rides for tourists around the Thai island of Phuket, and in March it invested in Urban Mobility Tech Co (UMT), an EV ride-sharing company based in Bangkok.
Will Banpu ever exit coal mining altogether? Not in the next five to 10 years, according to Chaimongkol, as there will still be a demand from customers for it. But the company won’t invest in new coal assets, she said, adding it will instead be pumping money into renewable energy and in doing so reducing the contribution of coal to the firm’s turnover.
Chaimongkol said future business plans would “embed” sustainable policies and gave the impression she’d like to move away from her “first lady of coal” nickname. “Right now, Banpu is transforming and … our direction is towards a greener, smarter [plan]. But if [we] talk about leading the company, I would say Banpu is an energy company,” she stated. Her leadership is about making sure managers of the firm’s four divisions — minerals, gas production, conventional coal-fired power and Banpu NEXT — can focus on the “greener” strategy, she added.
Banpu has been selected as a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices benchmark for seven consecutive years, which Chaimongkol hopes will appeal to investors. Companies are chosen following an assessment of ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria.
“I hope that investor[s] will see this strong … commitment [to] being a conscious company. I hope that it will reflect in the value of the company going forward,” she said.
Quick Charge Podcast: November 29, 2023
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UAW launches campaign to unionize all automakers at once – Tesla, Toyota, etc
The UAW has launched an unprecedented campaign to unionize the entire US auto sector at once, with thousands of auto workers at 13 companies announcing simultaneous unionization campaigns.
After UAW’s big strike win, winning 25%+ pay increases at the “Big Three” American automakers after a simultaneous strike at GM, Ford and Stellantis, the union is looking to maintain that momentum and go bigger.
Immediately after declaring victory, UAW President Shawn Fain said that in the next negotiation in 2028, UAW wants to come back to the bargaining table to negotiate not just with the Big Three, but with “a Big Five or a Big Six” – implying that the union planned to expand to other automakers. And President Biden said that he would support a UAW push to unionize Tesla and Toyota.
Now we’ve seen an official announcement that UAW isn’t just looking to unionize two or three more automakers, but all of them at once. Typically, unionization campaigns focus on a single company at a time, but here UAW is targeting a whole sector with simultaneous campaigns at each individual company. This seems like a tall order, but UAW’s triple-strike against the Big Three seemed to work out well, so it’s now applying that simultaneous tactic to organizing new union drives.
In service of its goal, UAW launched a new website at uaw.org/join, asking workers at each company to sign their union card. The website mentions several automakers by name, and has links to individual campaigns for each automaker where workers can go to express their interest in unionizing:
The campaign was accompanies by a video narrated by Fain making his union pitch. In short, UAW says that automakers and investors are making record profits, but that worker compensation has not kept up. The video specifically mentions Tesla and Rivian’s recent quarterly results, and also states that the Japanese/Korean automakers have combined to make $470 billion in profits, and the German automakers have made an additional $460 billion, in the last ten years.
Since the UAW’s big wins, other automakers have moved to increase pay to (partially) keep up with pay increases at the Big Three. VW, Hyundai, Toyota and Honda have all announced hikes in pay, showing how union wins can buoy an entire industry by making automakers compete for workers with higher pay.
But UAW doesn’t want to stop at a few voluntary pay hikes from other companies, it thinks that unionizing those companies can give workers a better deal. One worker at Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant put it thusly:
We’ve lost so much since I started here, and the raise won’t make up for that. It won’t make up for the health benefits we’ve lost, it won’t make up for the wear and tear on our bodies. We still build a quality vehicle. People take pride in that, but morale is at an all-time low. They can give you a raise today and jack up your health benefits tomorrow. A union contract is the only way to win what’s fair.
Jeff Allen, 29-year Toyota assembly worker
UAW also quoted workers at Hyundai, VW, Mercedes and Rivian in its release, focusing on how they think unionization would improve safety and benefits at these automakers.
Unions are having a bit of a moment in the US, reaching their highest popularity ever since surveys started asking about them.
Much of union popularity has been driven by COVID-related disruptions across the economy, with workers becoming unsatisfied due to mistreatment (labeling everyone “essential,” companies ending work-from-home) and with the labor market getting tighter with over 1 million Americans dead from the virus and another 2-4 million (and counting) out of work due to long COVID.
Unions have seized on this dissatisfaction to build momentum in the labor movement, with successful strikes across many industries and organizers starting to organize workforces that had previously been nonunion.
But union membership has been down over several decades in the US, and as a result, pay hasn’t kept pace with worker productivity and income distribution has become more unequal over time. It’s really not hard to see this influence when you plot these trends against each other.
It’s quite clear that lower union membership has resulted in lower inflation-adjusted compensation for workers, even as productivity has skyrocketed. As workers have produced more and more value for their companies, those earnings have gone more and more to their bosses rather than to the workers who produce that value. And it all began in the 80s, around the time of Reagan – a timeline that should be familiar to those who study social ills in America.
All of this isn’t just true in the US but also internationally. If you look at other countries with high levels of labor organization, they tend to have more fair wealth distribution across the economy and more ability for workers to get their fair share.
We’re seeing this in Sweden right now, as Tesla workers are striking for better conditions. Since Sweden has 90% collective bargaining coverage, it tends to have a happy and well-paid workforce, and it seems clear that these two things are correlated. And while that strike is continuing, meaning we haven’t yet seen the end of it, most observers think that the workers will eventually get what they want since collective bargaining is so strong in that country.
These are all reasons why, as I’ve mentioned in many of these UAW-related articles, I’m pro-union. And I think everyone should be – it only makes sense that people should have their interests collectively represented and that people should be able to join together to support each other and exercise their power collectively instead of individually.
This is precisely what companies do with industry organizations, lobby organizations, chambers of commerce, and so on. And it’s what people do when sorting themselves into local, state, or national governments. So naturally, workers should do the same. It’s just fair.
Rivian R1T could add a projector for movies on the go
The Rivian R1T might get an exciting upgrade. The electric pickup can drive through 3+ feet of water, rock crawl a 100% grade, and take off like a sports car. But what if the Rivian R1T had a mobile projector that could be easily stored in the gear tunnel? That’s what Rivian is scheming up.
Rivian files patent for R1T mobile movie projector
Rivian’s R1T electric truck is the ultimate adventure vehicle. It recently made history as the first EV to win the off-road Rebelle rally, the longest of its kind in the US.
The truck continues improving through OTA updates that add fun new features, range, and more. One of its most recent improved the ride quality of its vehicles. By building its cars from the ground up, Rivian has a major advantage.
Like Tesla, the EV maker focused on software and “having the ability to configure every piece of hardware,” according to Wassym Bensaid, Rivian’s VP of software development.
Rivian can use this advantage to create unique products that integrate into its EVs. One of its most recent ideas is a mobile projector.
According to a new patent filing for a “vehicle entertainment apparatus,” the Rivian R1T could soon see an added movie projector.
The patent, filed November 23, details a kit that can include a projector, screen, and at least one speaker. The kit is attached to a shuttle that slides in and out of the gear tunnel for easy storage.
Once extended, the projector can be rotated into position. It will also include a mirror to reflect the projected light onto the screen without harming quality. Meanwhile, the pole to hold the screen will fit into several spots.
The setup enables a mobile entertainment setup in little to no time. Everything can be stored in the gear tunnel while not in use. When ready, it can just slide out and set up.
Rivian is including everything needed for the ultimate movie night on the go. And the best part – everything is powered by the R1T.
Although a movie projector may seem like a wild idea to some, that’s right up Rivian’s alley. The company has developed several add-on options like a three-person tent and the Camp Kitchen.
Many were dissapointed when Rivian discontinued the Camp Kitchen from its gear shop earlier this year. The $5,000 add-on included a pull-out kitchen complete with two induction cooktops, a water tank, collapsable sink, and more.
Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe said on the MKBHD podcast that the idea was more popular than expected. However, Rivian is redesigning it for something that doesn’t take up the entire gear tunnel.
Maybe a Rivian R1T movie projector isn’t that far off after all. Meanwhile, Rivian will likely offer a redesigned camp kitchen first.
Would you consider buying Rivian’s movie projector add-on? Let us know what you think in the comments.
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