News and Notes

Magic Johnson Teams Up With Uncharted Power; Saudi Oil Giant New F1 Green Partner


Magic Johnson, one of the top 10 players in NBA history, recently joined the board of Uncharted Power, an innovative energy technology company and an early Green-Sports pioneer.

Meanwhile, Aramco, the Saudi mega-oil company, signed on with Formula 1 to be their new green partner, arousing greenwashing concerns.



Basketball superstar Magic Johnson has joined tech company Uncharted Power’s Board of Directors.

The Harlem-based renewable energy technology company was founded as Uncharted Play in 2011 by the then 19 year-old Jessica O. Matthews. She garnered the attention of Presidents Clinton and Obama as well as GreenSportsBlog during the company’s early days with the invention of the SOCCKET, a soccer ball that converts kinetic energy into three hours of power for lighting after an hour of play. Uncharted Play also launched PULSE, a jump rope that can generate an hour of light after 15 minutes of use.


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President Barack Obama heads a SOCCKET in 2013 (Photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)


Matthews renamed the company Uncharted Power in 2017 as it pivoted into the energy infrastructure and efficiency sectors with the mission of providing access to “clean, resilient, affordable power.” She said her motivation came from visiting family in Nigeria, where she was horrified by the severity of Africa’s energy availability crisis. According to the International Energy Agency, 600 million people remain without access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.


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Jessica O. Matthews (Photo credit: Uncharted Power)


Uncharted Power is responding to the crisis by, in their words, “building the internet for decentralized energy” and aims to create new energy sources by transforming sidewalks and roadways “into a smart, sustainable and accessible power network.” In Africa, solar and other clean energy sources are playing an increasing role in an decentralized, off-grid energy market that is valued at roughly $US24 billion, according to a report by consulting firm Kleos Advisory.

Magic Johnson’s role will focus on expanding Uncharted Power’s energy programs to underserved U.S. communities while helping the company establish new partnerships “and advise its executives on strategic market growth initiatives,” according to a statement.

“Many of America’s urban, multicultural communities are being left behind when it comes to basic human rights such as feeling safe in the community, providing for family, getting an education and, quite literally, keeping the lights on,” Johnson said in the statement.


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Magic Johnson (Photo credit: Magic Johnson Enterprises)


The legendary LA Lakers great, Basketball Hall of Famer and CEO of venture capital firm Magic Johnson Enterprises, initially invested in Uncharted Power during the company’s $7 million Series A funding round. According to the company, seven other current NBA players are anonymous investors.



Formula 1 recently announced a global partnership with Saudi Arabian oil giant Aramco.

The world’s biggest oil producer and the world’s most profitable company of any type, the state-owned Aramco will work with F1 to develop enhanced engine efficiencies and mobility technology. Part of the new sponsorship deal will include a collaboration to advance F1’s use of sustainable fuels as the series looks to reduce its environmental impact.


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Formula 1 had announced last year that it aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 as part of “an ongoing project to cut down on its carbon footprint.”

“We are delighted to welcome Aramco to the Formula 1 family as a long-term Global Partner,” said F1 CEO Chase Carey. “We look forward to sharing our combined expertise and working with Aramco on technological innovation and we will benefit hugely from its capabilities and expertise in the fuel and energy sector.”

“We have the ambition to find game-changing solutions for better-performing engines and cleaner energy.” added Aramco president and CEO Amin H. Nasser.


GSB’s Take: At first glance, having the biggest oil company in the world become the driving force for Formula 1 reaching carbon neutrality seems like a very good thing. If the state-owned giant decides to go carbon neutral beyond its F1 sponsorship by shifting its business from oil to renewables as quickly as possible, that would indeed be a game changer.

Unfortunately and not surprisingly, this is not the case.

The company certainly understands that the long-term prospects for fossil fuels are not good. Per a November 2019 article in The Conversation, “most countries are looking for ways to reduce their use of fossil fuels and many investors are trying to reduce the number of oil company stocks they hold.”

But Aramco’s approach is to pump and sell as much oil as possible rather than being saddled with stranded assets — oil reserves that will never be burned. That is because those assets will ultimately have a value of $0.

The price of oil, already low before the coronavirus hit, has now cratered. But Aramco continues to drill and pump, climate be damned. 

If F1 is really serious about taking on the climate crisis — a big if, to say the least — then why the partnership Aramco? 

It says here that the real rationale for the deal can be found in the persistent rumors about a potential Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with whispers suggesting that a 2023 race is already in the works. Formula E, the all-electric vehicle (EV) racing circuit, paved the way for open-wheel racing in the Kingdom by staging races there each of the last two years.

Here are two ways F1 could reduce GSB’s skepticism about its partnership with Aramco and its seriousness about climate change more broadly:

1. Publicly support — with high levels of media investment — carbon pricing legislation in every country in which F1 has races. If such legislation does not exist in a given locale, propose it.

2. Run PSAs on every F1 broadcast in which an Aramco executive and a leader of a climate-fighting non-profit discuss different issues around the oil giant’s decarbonization efforts. This cannot be staged. It has to be legit.








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