Top Stories

April 03, 2019

Technology & Innovation

Toyota to make thousands of hybrid car patents royalty-free to challenge the shift to electric

Japanese carmaker, Toyota, plans to make thousands of patents relating to its hybrid technology royalty-free to help keep the technology relevant by encouraging competitors to enter the market. Toyota said today that it would release nearly 24,000 patents for vehicle electrification technology. It also pledged to offer paid-for technical support to other manufacturers using Toyota’s technology, with the aim of expanding the use of such vehicles. The move is intended to keep hybrid vehicles relevant in an industry that is looking to shift to fully electric vehicles. Toyota has long maintained that hybrid vehicles are a cost-effective alternative to conventional vehicles, negating the need for charging infrastructure and delivering roughly double their fuel efficiency with comparable driving ranges. The latest strategic shift is expected to help Toyota, which pioneered the production of hybrid vehicles but has lagged behind on fully electric cars, buy time for its own transition to newer technology. The patents will be especially relevant for Chinese automobile companies as they look to comply with tougher emissions regulations. (Financial Times)*


IEA’s climate models criticised as too fossil-fuel friendly

The world’s top energy body, the International Energy Agency (IEA), has been criticised by leading investors and scientists who say that its energy forecasts are not in line with the latest climate science. The IEA’s annual benchmark, the ‘World Energy Outlook’, is considered the definitive assessment of the energy sector, but critics say its models do not go far enough in mapping the deep cuts in carbon emissions needed to limit the worst climate impacts, and are too fossil-fuel friendly as a result. A letter by businesses, including Hermes Investment Management, Allianz Group and Legal & General Investment Management, has asked the IEA to develop a model with lower emissions that would line up with 1.5⁰C of warming. Currently, the IEA’s most ambitious model, ‘the sustainable development scenario’, includes a level of carbon dioxide emissions that implies a 50 percent chance of limiting global warming to 1.7⁰C, compared to pre-industrial levels. Its new policies scenario implies between 2.7⁰C to 3⁰C of warming.  (Financial Times)*


Thousands of workers at US factories in Mexico are striking for higher wages

Workers at a major Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mexico are camping out in response to low wages. This comes as thousands of factory workers have held strikes over pay in Mexican border cities since January. The areas are home to hundreds of factories run by US companies and subcontractors. The Coca-Cola bottling plant, Arca Continental, is one of the few employers in the state of Tamaulipas that have so far not agreed to workers’ demands. Previously, over 8,000 Walmart employees were set to strike until management partly met demands. Factory workers along the Mexico border are protesting wages which average approximately $2.50 an hour and the control of labour unions by businesses and government officials. The strikes have sparked what is now called the ‘20/32 Movement’, based on the 20 percent pay raise and 32,000 peso annual bonus (about $1,600) that striking factory workers in the city initially demanded, and eventually won. (Vox)

Google staff condemn treatment of temp workers in ‘historic’ show of solidarity

More than 900 Google workers have signed a letter objecting to the tech giant’s treatment of temporary contractors, in what organizers are calling a “historical coalition” between Google’s full-time employees (FTEs) and temps, vendors and contractors (TVCs). In March, Google abruptly shortened the contracts of 34 temp workers on the “personality” team for ‘Google Assistant’, a voice-enabled personal assistant. The cuts, which affected contractors around the globe, reinvigorated the debate over Google’s extensive use of TVCs, amid a growing labour movement within the company. In recent months, Google employees have been increasingly vocal in protesting working conditions and the ethics of their employer. TVCs make up 54% of Google’s global workforce, and more than half of the people on the personality team, according to the letter. A spokeswoman for Google noted that temporary workers were allowed to apply for full-time jobs, had received a minimum of four weeks’ notice, and could potentially receive another assignment from their staffing agency. (The Guardian)

Campaigns & Activism

Global calls for boycott of Brunei-owned luxury hotels

Los Angeles city leaders have joined the call from a number of celebrities to boycott hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei, following the country’s move to make homosexuality punishable by death. L.A. authorities have pledged to work to implement formal measures that would discourage city residents and tourists from staying at two popular luxury hotels, the Beverly Hills Hotels and Hotel Bel-Air, which are both owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, an arm of the Brunei government. Celebrities including George Clooney, Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres have called for a boycott of nine hotels owned by the Sultan in the US, Britain, France and Italy. This includes London’s exclusive Dorchester. Previously, protests and boycotts were sparked in 2014 and 2015, when a first wave of criminal codes based on sharia law were implemented in Brunei. (Los Angeles Times)


*Subscription Required


Image Source: March of the Coke Bottles by alan.stoddard on Flickr. CC BY-ND 2.0