News briefs: BlackRock activist now targets Vanguard

Plus, U.S., Japan roasted over coal, FedEx pumps $100 mln into Yale, and Iron Man's motor megabucks

Activist who chipped away at BlackRock now eyes Vanguard

The climate campaigner whose fierce lobbying was a big part of BlackRock’s (BLK) January decision to fully embrace renewables is now turning his attention to the world’s second-largest money manager, Vanguard. In particular, California-based Casey Harrell, who works for the Sunrise Project, an Australian organization fighting global warming, aims to get the 401(k) behemoth to divest itself from its huge coal assets, which are reportedly the largest by an institutional investor. According to Bloomberg, it’s also the largest funder of 350 companies that Global Canopy, a U.K. nonprofit, has identified as having the greatest exposure to tropical deforestation through such industries as palm oil and timber. But it’s a race against time for 42-year-old Harrell, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. “My diagnosis has put me on the ALS clock, which is a different clock than most people live,” he said.

U.S., Japan and German roasted over inaction on coal

The U.S. and Japan find themselves in an uncomfortable spotlight after UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for an end the world’s “deadly addiction to coal.” That’s because, unlike most advanced countries, the pair have no formal plans to phase out use of the fuel, use of which, Gutteres said, must be ended if the world is to “have a fighting chance to succeed” in meeting the Paris Agreement goals. According to Climate Change News, the UN chief made the comments at the first global summit of the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA), a joint U.K.-Canada. Also in the firing line is Germany, which has said it plans to continue burning coal until at least 2038, while other signatories to the Paris pact have pledged to halt its use by 2030 or earlier.

FedEx delivers huge carbon-capture gift to Yale

Despite its vast fleets of polluting planes and trucks, FedEx (FDX) has vowed to be carbon-neutral by 2040 — and is now gifting $100 million to Yale University to help it get there. The money will be used to establish the Center for Natural Carbon Capture, part of the Ivy League school’s Planetary Solutions Project, a campus-wide effort to “develop integrated, powerful solutions to Earth’s climate and biodiversity crises,” according to a press release. FedEx’s CEO, Frederick Smith, a 1966 Yale graduate, said his alma mater “has a deep reservoir of expertise and researchers working on this shared problem, which makes it the ideal place for this important work.” The gift will also support four new professorships in science and engineering as well as postdoctoral fellows and graduate students.

Downey and Gates pump cash into electric-motor startup

Robert Downey Jr., Bill Gates and iPod/iPhone wiz Tony Fadell are among the funders backing California start-up Turntide Technologies, which says it has invented an electric motor that uses less power. The trio have contributed to a $80 million bet that Turntide’s advances on what is a nearly 200-year-old invention will bear fruit, especially with the explosion in electric vehicles. The company says it has found a way to maximize the efficiency of the magnets used in electric motors as they turn current into a rotating energy force. According to Bloomberg, Turntide’s engines use up to 30% less electricity for the same amount of output. Said Downey: “They figured out how to use a 19th century technology and use software to make it do what it always had the potential to do.”