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Canadian oil producers CNRL, Cenovus plan new emissions targets, no pivot to renewables

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By Rod Nickel and Nia Williams

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) -Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNRL) and Cenovus Energy Inc, two of Canada‘s biggest oil producers, said on Tuesday they would set new goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but not pivot away from their core businesses.

Oil sands producers, which extract some of the world’s most carbon-intense crude, face investor pressure to reduce their environmental impact. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to raise Canada‘s carbon price steeply over time to position the country for carbon-neutral status by 2050.

CNRL’s corporate emissions-cutting goal will be announced in the second quarter, President Tim McKay said at the Scotiabank CAPP Energy Symposium, which is being held remotely.

The company cut carbon intensity per barrel by 18% between 2016 and 2020 and sees carbon capture as a way to further reduce its environmental toll, McKay said.

It does not plan major investments in renewable energy as European oil majors have done.

“The preference is to stick with what we know and what we’re good at,” McKay said. “There’s going to be a need for oil long-term.”

Cenovus is also planning new emissions-cutting targets and might invest in renewable power partnerships.

“Where we’re likely to remain is focused on oil and gas production,” Cenovus Chief Executive Officer Alex Pourbaix told the symposium. “But don’t look for us to become a late-entrant renewable-power developer.”

Suncor Energy Inc is on track to achieve its goal of cutting the emissions intensity of production by 30% versus 2014 levels by 2030, said Chief Financial Officer Alister Cowan, and is now talking about updating its target beyond 2030.

Imperial Oil Ltd could adopt technologies of parent company Exxon Mobil Corp like carbon capture and biofuel blending, Senior Vice President of Finance Dan Lyons said.

“When it comes to wind farms and solar farms, that’s not really in our wheelhouse.”

Sticking to fossil fuels will jeopardize the businesses long-term, said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada.

“They will go the way of Blockbuster Video once Netflix arrived,” Stewart said.

Canada‘s transition to a low-carbon economy could displace up to 450,000 oil and gas workers over the next three decades, TD Economics said.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Peter Cooney)

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U.S. labor movement looks for path forward after Amazon defeat

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By Timothy Aeppel

(Reuters) – Regina McDowell was not surprised that workers overwhelmingly rejected a union at an Amazon.com Inc warehouse in Alabama last week.

She spent 42 years working in a unionized electrical equipment factory in Indiana and was active in organizing drives — including traveling to the South to track down workers at their homes to make the pitch for her union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

“They’d sometimes shoo you off their property with a gun,” she said, adding that union dues were a sticking point for many.

“I think that gets them,” said the 63-year-old grandmother, “that it’s less money they’ll have.”

The landslide failure of the Amazon vote at the warehouse in Bessemer has sparked soul-searching in the labor movement over what went wrong and what unions need to do differently in the future to regain ground.

“Organizing in America is no longer a fair fight. Our labor laws are no longer an effective way to capture the will of American workers to form unions,” said Tim Schlittner, communications director for the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor federation.

“The sentiment this reinforces is that there’s an overdue and dramatic need for labor law reform in the United States.”

WORTH THE RISK?

Still, for many workers, labor experts reckon the decision whether to support a union campaign often boils down to a risk assessment.

“Once they know how strongly Amazon opposes them, and how much resources Amazon is willing to spend to defeat a union, then their fear sets in,” said Tom Kochan, a professor of industrial relations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.

Kochan has conducted surveys that show high, and even growing, support for unions among Americans. But when it comes to individual campaigns in a workplace, “the reality sets in –

when the employer campaigns so hard that you think you’re putting your job at risk.”

Changes in the economy have exacerbated the problem. Big companies like Amazon have operations dotting the country, making it easier for them to shift work. Compared to a steel mill or a car assembly plant, an e-commerce warehouse has fewer fixed investments in equipment, which also makes it easier to shift jobs.

“Why should I as an individual worker, earning $15 an hour, risk three years of a battle with my employer to get something done,” said Kochan, “and at the same time, risk losing my job?

The traditional view, shared by Kochan and many other labor experts, is that company measures to fight unionization, including tactics that would be illegal in other advanced countries such as requiring workers to attend meetings to hear anti-union arguments, need to be reined in.

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed legislation last month that would expand protections for labor organizing and collective bargaining.

But the measure faces a difficult path in the Senate, where the two parties are evenly split and most legislation needs at least 60 backers to pass. A block of Republican senators from anti-union, “right-to-work” states is set to oppose the measure.

DASHED OPTIMISM

There was optimism among activists in the final months of the Amazon campaign, as it drew high-profile endorsements and national and international media attention, including a speech by President Joe Biden criticizing Amazon for hindering union drives at its warehouses.

Biden, a Democrat, is widely viewed as the most pro-union president in modern times.

But none of that was enough to counteract the view of some workers at the facility that pay and conditions were relatively good on top of the everyday barriers that have combined over recent years to drive union membership in the United States to historic lows.

Only 6.3% of private-sector workers belong to unions, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The comparable rate is 15.8% in neighboring Canada.

One response in recent years has been new types of organizing, which sidestep many legal restrictions on formal union campaigns to gain collective bargaining agreements with employers.

The Southern Workers Assembly, for instance, is a group that organizes protests and conducts education campaigns aimed at promoting labor and other social causes. The group helped organize events in February across the country in support of the Amazon workers.

Michael Hicks, an economist at Ball State University in Indiana, said unions need to refurbish their image. Many workplace advances such as the 40-hour week were enacted decades ago. Recent years have seen waves of factory shutdowns where companies have blamed unions for making the operation uncompetitive.

“Here in the Midwest, every time a factory closed, it had a huge spillover to the rest of the community,” he added. “It caused restaurants and bars to close, so the loss of other jobs.”

Younger generations have little contact with unions, simply because the share of workers covered by contracts has diminished so greatly.

McDowell, the former electrical worker, has seen these forces play out in her hometown of Peru, Indiana. Her plant, owned by France’s Schneider Electric SE, closed last April after a battle by the local union to retain it. The company said it was a difficult decision to close but necessary to remain competitive. Part of the work moved to Mexico.

Many workers viewed the move as an effort to get out of a unionized operation, a charge the company has denied.

But it also has eroded the stature of the union in the eyes of some, said McDowell, who remains strongly pro-union. “There were people who felt the union should have done more” to save the factory, she said.

“But once the company said they were going to close it, what can we do? It’s their company.”

 

(Reporting by Timothy Aeppel; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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NATO allies to leave Afghanistan along with U.S

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By Robin Emmott and Sabine Siebold

BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Reuters) -Foreign troops under NATO command will withdraw from Afghanistan in coordination with a U.S. pull-out by Sept. 11, NATO allies agreed on Wednesday, pledging to mirror American plans to start removing troops on May 1 after two decades of war.

Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries, also from Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, outnumber the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but still rely on American air support, planning and leadership for their training mission.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking alongside U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, said the decision was tough.

“This is not an easy decision, and it entails risks. As I said for many months, we face a dilemma. Because the alternative to leaving in an orderly fashion is to be prepared for a long-term, open-ended military commitment with potentially more NATO troops,” Stoltenberg told a news conference.

U.S. President Joe Biden gave a speech on Wednesday in Washington announcing the U.S. withdrawal, saying that “it’s time to end the forever war.”

An integral part of NATO‘s current mission, Resolute Support, is to train and equip Afghan security forces fighting the Islamist Taliban, which was ousted from power by a U.S. invasion in 2001 and has since waged an insurgency.

With non-U.S. troop numbers reaching as high as 40,000 in 2008, Europe, Canada and Australia have moved in tandem with the United States in a mission also providing long-term funding to rebuild Afghanistan despite the resurgence of Taliban-led violence and endemic official corruption in the country.

“This is not the end of our relationship with Afghanistan but rather the start of a new chapter. NATO allies will continue to stand with the Afghan people but it is now for the Afghan people to build a sustainable peace that puts an end to violence,” Stoltenberg said.

Germany and Bulgaria were two of the 36 countries involved in Resolute Support to immediate announce withdrawal plans. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Biden discussed in a phone call the NATO military presence in Afghanistan and agreed to closely coordinate future steps, a German government spokesman said.

Sept. 11 is a highly symbolic date as it will be 20 years since al Qaeda attacked the United States with hijacked airliners, triggering military intervention in Afghanistan.

After withdrawing, the United States and NATO aim to rely on Afghan military and police forces, which they have developed with billions of dollars in funding, to maintain security, though peace talks are struggling and the insurgency is resilient.

A key reason for a coordinated withdrawal is the fact that NATO relies on U.S. airlift capabilities and shipping to move valuable equipment back home out of landlocked Afghanistan. NATO also wants to avoid any hardware falling into the hands of militants, as happened after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Will Dunham)

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Molson Coors’ JV Truss launches 6 pot-infused drinks in Canada

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(Reuters) – Miller Lite beer-maker Molson Coors Beverage Co’s cannabis joint venture Truss Beverage Co on Wednesday launched six pot-infused beverages in Canada, as it hopes that summer demand will offset recent sales hits from COVID-19 lockdowns.

Coronavirus restrictions in major provinces including Ontario have forced weed stores to shut for extended periods, and are expected to hit cannabis companies’ results for the March quarter.

The summer season, which tends to represent peak demand for beverages, will be crucial for companies to undo the damage.

Truss, jointly run by Canadian pot producer Hexo Corp, launched five CBD-infused beverage brands in August last year and claims to have already won a 43% market share in the category in Canada. (https://bit.ly/3wThh2D)

“Summer … is the biggest opportunity for the beverage category; it is the inflection point for consumers to try out our products,” Truss Beverage’s Chief Executive Scott Cooper told Reuters in an interview.

“Cannabis-infused beverages are still new and tend to be an impulsive purchase, so having the store open is important to the trial and awareness of the category,” he added.

Truss said its latest beverage line included watermelon, lemonade, sparkling tonic and honey green iced tea flavors, and are expected to be rolled out to retailers over the next few months.

 

(Reporting by Rithika Krishna and Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

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