The hydrocarbon industry, which supplies about 80% of U.S. and world energy — compared with wind and solar combined which account for less than 3% — took big back-to-back hits from environmental activists last week.
In response to a legal filing led by the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth, a May 26 ruling by a district court in The Hague found Royal Dutch Shell partly responsible for causing climate change.
The court ordered the company to sharply cut its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 compared with 2019 levels. This mandate applies not only to lowering Shell’s own direct emissions from drilling and other operations, but also those of oil, gas and fuels eventually burned by their consumers.
That same day, on this side of the pond, Exxon Mobil Corp. lost a costly proxy fight in which two climate activist members were elected to its 12-member board; these two new members are bent upon ending Exxon’s drilling operations.
The challenge was led by Engine No.1, an upstart hedge fund owning only a tiny 0.2% of the Texas oil giant’s stock, which was joined by several major money management corporations, including BlackRock Inc., one of Exxon’s largest shareholders.
This culminated in one of the most expensive proxy fights ever. Exxon has spent at least $35 million, and Engine No.1 and its member group have spent $30 million.
Engine No. 1 said it wasn’t calling for Exxon to unwind its oil and gas business, but to gradually diversify itself to be ready for a world that will need less oil and gas. Nevertheless, the organization and its backers campaigned that Exxon should commit to carbon neutrality, effectively bringing its emissions to zero — both from the company and its products — by 2025.
Exxon, on the other hand, defended its strategy to expand drilling, saying that demand for fuels and plastics will remain strong for years to come. The company also pointed out that it has created a special business unit for emissions-reducing technologies, including carbon capture and storage.
Such an inside mutiny against Exxon’s core business and revenues would have been unimaginable less than a decade ago when the company led the U.S. in market capitalization.
The COVID pandemic, which crushed fuel demand and upended Exxon’s profitability, left the company with a $22 billion loss — its first ever — resulting in its delisting from the Dow Jones Industrial Average after nearly a century on the index.
Shares of Exxon Mobil Corp. have reportedly lost nearly half their value since the start of 2018. And although Exxon’s stock is recovering after the plummeting, it still trades at only about 1.5 times its book value, down from 3.5 book value.
Exxon’s loss of momentum and hedge fund concerns regarding the company’s future left an opening for anti-fossil energy activist groups to exploit the weakness.
Climate crisis premised industry regulatory threats following the 2020 election added to stockholder jitters.
On his first day in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden capped off the Keystone XL pipeline at the Canadian border along with about 11,000 jobs and 830,000 barrels of oil per day it would have delivered. That same day, he placed moratoriums on oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters.
Under this rampaging regulatory agenda, EPA, along with every federal agency, becomes a climate cop: the SEC will enforce climate-related investing; the Treasury Department will mandate banks to incorporate carbon reduction into lending portfolios; the Department of Agriculture will be empowered to cut emissions through farm and forestry policy; and every federal agency will suddenly have an energy portfolio.
Increasing numbers of major universities are capitulating to aggressive pressures from students and alumni donors to divest their endowment portfolios of fossil fuel stocks in the vain interest of ending climate change.
College fossil fuel divestment blows are hitting oil companies at a time when they are already reeling from a price crash and virtue-signaling pressures by powerful green activist organizations to invest in economically non-viable low carbon ”alternatives.”
Add to this that several major pension funds led by California had already been targeting Exxon’s core business model and revenues. Three of the country’s largest, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the New York State Common Retirement fund all supported Engine No. 1’s candidates.
Legal & General, Britain’s biggest asset manager which owns about $1 billion in Exxon shares, also supported the campaign.
Large money managers have been under strong international pressure to exert influence on their portfolios to do more about climate change.
In a 2019 meeting of business leaders with Pope Francis at the Vatican, the pontiff implored the CEOs and executives of Exxon, BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, BlackRock, State Street Corp., and others to accept moral responsibility to clean up the planet.
BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard, companies that collectively own more than 20% of Exxon’s shares, each signed a pledge supporting goals to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner.
The International Energy Agency said investment in new fossil fuel projects must stop immediately if the world is to achieve that goal.
Meanwhile, as President Biden re-ups the U.S. in the Paris climate accord where he called for slashing our greenhouse emissions by 50% or more by 2030 over the 2005 level, China, the largest CO2-emitter, gets a free pass to continue ramping up its coal development until 2030.
Last year, China built over three times as much new coal power capacity as all other countries in the world combined — the equivalent of one large coal plant per week.
On top of that, Beijing controls 80% of the global rare earth minerals, including lithium, that will be needed to supply those so-called green technologies to decarbonize industry and power.
Russia, one of the world’s three largest oil producers and second biggest natural gas exporter, will also be a big winner of the Biden administration war on American petroleum and pipelines while de facto condoning Moscow’s completion of its Arctic Gazprom Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea into Germany which will bypass and isolate the fledgling democracy of Ukraine from Western Europe.
All of these self-destructive actions bring new meaning to ”the enemy within” which America will pay for with energy disruptions, rampantly rising transportation and commodity costs, raging inflation and a regressive return to Obama-Biden era Solyndra-style subsidy handouts for solar and wind scams.