No More Investing In Oil Exploration

Written By: - Date published: 10:47 am, March 10th, 2019 - 21 comments
Categories: climate change, Conservation, energy, Environment, global warming, sustainability, transport - Tags:

Norway’s government has announced it is selling out of oil exploration. It will continue to invest in energy companies that have refineries and are engaged in distribution and retail sales of oil and gas products – with significant stakes in Shell, BP, Total and ExxonMobil, it’s nowhere near as strong a decision as it could have been. But this is a fund worth US$1 trillion and counting.

That is a market signal with global impact.

While Oslo said the move is based solely on financial considerations and that it does not reflect any particular view of the oil industry’s future prospects, it does provide a context Saudi Arabia’s late 2018 decision not to float shares in its own oil interests. Every major government social fund can see the horizon for investing in oil when your citizens’ future social welfare entitlements depend on it.

These are not signals that will halt climate change. Asian demand for oil appears pretty much insatiable. It’s too late to turn that around much. Even New Zealand demand for transport oil keeps trucking along so to speak. Our overall energy source mix and demand is here.

The New Zealand Superfund policies are all listed here if you’d like to compare.

New Zealand’s own fund currently excludes investments in companies involved in:

  • the manufacture of cluster munitions
  • the manufacture or testing of nuclear explosive devices (NEDs)
  • the manufacture of anti-personnel mines
  • the manufacture of tobacco
  • the processing of whale meat
  • recreational cannabis.

The NZSuperfund also states: “We also may decide to exclude individual companies for severe breaches of our responsible investments standards, such as the UN Global Compact, where we consider engagement is unlikely to be effective due to the context of the company’s operations or to a lack of responsiveness from the company to the issue.”

They should be firmer about the UN local Compact, as Norway’s fund is being. (You get even more detail if you are in the Kiwibank Kiwisaver fund, which lists every single company it’s into.)

McKinsey Group’s view of oil is that demand growth will stay healthy through to 2022 at least, demand growth will likely peak around 2030, and there will still be some need for shale and offshore exploration for 4-5% of new oil production sources.

But Norway is sending an almighty big political signal here, and it’s one we should heed. Oil exploration to meet demand may well continue, but governments don’t have to assist.

If in 2019 New Zealand does form a Labour+National agreement on carbon pricing in the upcoming legislation, there should be little argument against stronger direction from the government for NZSuperfund to divest itself from oil investment as a matter of policy, just like Norway. It will take across-House agreement on carbon taxes to do that, but that’s the outcome that Shaw and Ardern simply must deliver.

A policy for NZSuperfund that excluded oil and gas investment would be completely consistent with government policy stopping future blocks from exploration.

What we the public ought to expect from this government is a whole picture about its approach to carbon. We are already seeing the chaos that occurs because this government failed to manage NZSuper and NZTA’s low-oil transport initiative in light rail: NZSuper worked actively against NZTA’s own light rail proposal and stopped all progress this term. That simply can’t happen again.

We need this government to get in to NZSUperfund and get dirty. Send clear signals, and a lot stronger than they did with the Reserve Bank changes.

As part of coherent carbon policy, all our public funds including NZSuperfund, ACC Funds, EQC, and Parliamentary Super, must be part of forswearing investment in petroleum exploration.

The least we can do is be good followers.

21 comments on “No More Investing In Oil Exploration”

  1. RedLogix 1

    Good post Ad.

    We’re starting to see the big money end of town give more and more of these signals. By themselves they will not have a lot of impact, but they do represent a remarkable inflection point, a change of direction that we must hope and encourage to gain momentum.

    Don’t get me wrong here; the unreconstructed hippie in me still holds a candle for the kind of ‘low energy, high efficiency, organic inspired eco-technic’ future we dreamed about in the 70’s.

    But the realist in me understands quite soberly that real, dramatic change will come from the big energy and industrial corporates that have the collective funding and capacity to generate change on the scale and timeframes we need.

  2. Sam 2

    With out a price on carbon entrepreneurs can not borrow against a carbon price and grow and transform the energy sector into a more advanced one.

  3. Poission 3

    The Fund deleverage of exploration stocks is around 1.2% of the fund.

    The consideration (exit strategy) is due to the risk aversion of oilprice shocks of a negative nature ie price fall.

    The objective is to reduce the vulnerability of our common wealth to a permanent oil price decline. Hence, it is more accurate to sell companies which explore and produce oil and gas, rather than selling a broadly diversified energy sector, says the Minister of Finance, Siv Jensen.

    https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/excludes-exploration-and-production-companies-from-the-government-pension-fund-global/id2631707/

  4. greywarshark 4

    I thought that Bryan Gould discussing why he and neighbours are going solar showed the way to think about personal change. And he is thinking that he can recharge his car from his own home eventually.

    http://www.bryangould.com/combatting-global-warming/

  5. Darien Fenton 5

    Watch Occupied.

  6. Dukeofurl 6

    “with significant stakes in Shell, BP, Total and ExxonMobil, ”

    leaves out the elephant in the room for Norway , which is the part state owned Statoil.
    Thats how the fund has accumulated to $1 trill.

    Its the sort of thing they pretending to stop when in fact Statoil will continue on.

    Statoil has been renamed last year
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equinor

  7. Stuart Munro. 7

    I wonder myself if the financialization of government decision-making makes positive decisions even possible any more.

    Corporations are masters at ignoring shareholder preferences, false accounting either in terms of proceeds or service delivery, and misrepresenting their human and environmental impacts.

    I expect nothing good from government under a faux corporate model, and this is no exception.

  8. tsmithfield 8

    Technology is just around the corner that would make all transport and potentially power generation completely carbon neutral.

    https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/02/bill-gates-to-strip-c02-from-air-for-clean-fuel/

    This technology would make electric vehicles redundant as well. That is because this fuel could be used in all existing cars, meaning a much faster transition to carbon neutrality.

    The secret to making this technology viable is to power the production plants through renewable sources.

    • Andre 8.1

      Electric cars will take over from liquid fuelled cars even if fuel gets created from thin air using renewable energy.

      If for no other reason than they offer a much better driving experience. Seriously, you ever driven a modern EV? Most electric motors deliver their maximum torque instantly from zero speed, no lag whatsoever. Limited only by the controller’s current handling capability. Then at some point in the rev range, the back emf becomes large enough that it becomes the current limiting factor and from there the motor provides its maximum power all the way to its maximum revs. Almost dead silent the whole time.

      But with the vast improvements in battery technology and manufacturing, it’s very likely that soon a new battery powered vehicle will be cheaper than a similar internal combustion engine vehicle. Then the battery vehicle will use the renewable electric energy with much less loss than creating fuel from thin air then burning it in an ICE. Let alone the energy losses involved in turning the electric energy into chemical energy to create the liquid fuel.

      Once battery technology reaches a tipping point level for energy density and rapid recharge capability (which isn’t far away, BTW), the only users that will continue to be interested liquid fuels will be those that absolutely need the energy density of liquid fuel (long haul aviation) and the rapid refueling capabilities of liquid fuels (again long haul aviation and possibly long haul trucking).

    • WeTheBleeple 8.2

      From the same article, seeing as your wee blurb is misleading:

      “They are not an insurance policy; they are a high-risk gamble with tomorrow’s generations, particularly those living in poor and climatically vulnerable communities, set to pay the price if our high-stakes bet fails to deliver as promised,” Anderson says. If the technologies are not as successful as promised, “our own children will be forced to endure the consequences of rapidly rising temperatures and a highly unstable climate”

      It’s not ‘just round the corner’ at all. It is pie in the sky.

      They say they can (once scaled up, not now) produce fuel at $1 a litre. We currently pay what – 60c wholesale? So production cost will be considerably lower than that.

      Sounds like a real winner. We’re saved!

  9. gsays 9

    Thanks Ad for this post.

    One of the interesting points you make is a bipartisan approach needed here to make progress.
    What is there that Labour would give up or offer to get the other side to the table?

    Apart from Winstons head on a spike (metaphorically of course).

    • Ad 9.1

      We will never know what has been given up in the negotiations.

      There will be a lot of good policy concepts dead on the cutting-room floor with the Carbon legislation.

      And that’s a particular part of sausage-making that I don’t want to know.

      • gsays 9.1.1

        I know referring to a bigger picture, when discussing climate changey things is a misnomer, but CC is a great opportunity to get a working relationship between the two larger parties in parliament.

        I suppose it depends on who the parties put up to negotiate as to how successful these things progress.

  10. Anonymous 10

    Everyone benefits from cheap oil prices. Banning oil exploration will reduce the supply of oil and make it more expensive. This will hurt the poor and middle class the most. Green policies like this are not in the interests of the working class. New Zealand produces a third of its oil needs but sends 97% of it overseas.

  11. Dukeofurl 11

    is this story a fake news item ?

    The lead sentence says this
    ‘Norway’s government has announced it is selling out of oil exploration”

    An embedded link https://www.dw.com/en/norwegian-sovereign-wealth-fund-hits-milestone-valuation/a-40585412
    Says nothing about Norways government doing anything about ‘getting out’. Not a jot.

    I have found what should have been the embedded link-
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/08/norways-1tn-wealth-fund-to-divest-from-oil-and-gas-exploration

    The Guardian story is not balanced since it just gives the Funds point of view and ignores its controlling stake in Equinor- one of the worlds top 12 oil companies and the source of most of the funds wealth.
    But the facts are that Equinor has a deep sea drilling program in the Great Australian Bight in our part of the world.

    There are fudges if you read closely -“It will retain stakes in fossil fuel companies as long as they have ‘some’ involvement in renewable energy.”

  12. timeforacupoftea 12

    Death on the way for Norway.

  13. Ad 13

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12211652

    Greenpeace requests divestment for NZSuperfund, Shaw not clear .

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