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Alex Kimani

Alex Kimani

Alex Kimani is a veteran finance writer, investor, engineer and researcher for Safehaven.com. 

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Texas Takes a Stand Against the Radical ESG Agenda

  • Texas has barred state entities, including pensions, from investing in roughly 350 funds that oppose fossil fuel investing.
  • A growing number of red states are now pursuing similar legislation to boycott financial institutions over policies that appear to threaten their livelihoods.
  • Five of the largest underwriters namely Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Fidelity exited the market,  leading to lower competition for borrowing and higher borrowing costs.
TX Flag

Three years ago, Texas passed two laws in 2021 that restrict the state from doing business with companies that are deemed to be hostile to fossil fuels and firearm industries.The two laws are just a handful of the many new laws Republicans have been pushing that oppose environmental, social and governance aka ESG investing and financing. Many Republicans consider screening potential investments for their environmental and social impact as part of the left’s efforts to impose their “woke” political views on the masses and have labeled ESG investing as anti-capitalist.

ESG is just a hate factory. It’s a factory for naming enemies,” Republican mega-donor Peter Thiel has declared, while former Vice President Mike Pence has lamented that firms have been pushing a “radical ESG agenda.”

And, the effects of those controversial laws are now being felt across the ESG universe. Texas has barred state entities, including pensions, from investing in roughly 350 funds that oppose fossil fuel investing while other firms have been blacklisted for opposing firearms. To wit, the Republican-leaning state has banned Wall Street behemoths BlackRock Inc., Citigroup Inc. Barclays Plc and members of Net Zero Banking Alliance  that have committed to “financing ambitious climate action to transition the real economy to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.” Just days ago, Texas Permanent School Fund terminated its contract with BlackRock to manage $8.5 billion of state money due to the money manager’s hardline stance on fossil fuel investments.

Costing Taxpayers

The anti-ESG laws have also come at a considerable cost for the State of Texas and its residents. Five of the largest underwriters namely Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Fidelity exited the market shortly after the laws were enacted, leading to lower competition for borrowing and higher borrowing costs. Related: Why Do we Still Have Investor-Owned Utilities?

This is a really big rule for the municipal space. This is not the first time we’ve seen states use municipal markets as a way to enforce bank behavior they want to see, but this is new in its scale in that five large banks left Texas. [They] used to underwrite about 35% of the debt in the market, so they’ve left a really big gap,” professor Daniel Garret, co-author of a Wharton paper on the subject, has said. The study estimates that Texas cities paid an additional $303 million to $532 million in interest on $32 billion in bonds in the first eight months alone after the laws were passed.

But the implications go beyond Texas because a growing number of red states are now pursuing similar legislation to boycott financial institutions over policies that appear to threaten their livelihoods. Last year, a coalition of 19 states, led by Florida, created the anti-ESG alliance that’s opposed to using ESG criteria in government investing. The coalition claims the Department of Labor’s final rule permitting the use of ESG factors when selecting retirement plan investments prioritizes a political agenda ahead of financial returns and will end up costing Americans money.

The proliferation of ESG throughout America is a direct threat to the American economy, individual economic freedom, and our way of life, putting investment decisions in the hands of the woke mob to bypass the ballot box and inject political ideology into investment decisions, corporate governance, and the everyday economy,” they said in a joint statement.

ESG investing Losing Steam

Source: Visual Capitalist

ESG investing spiked in 2020 and 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic with low oil prices driving more investments beyond fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the latest oil price boom and political backlash against ESG led by Republican politicians have made ESG investing lose steam.

Indeed, LSEG Lipper data showed that in the first 11 months of 2023, ESG funds only managed to pull $68 billion in net new deposits, a sharp drop from $158 billion in 2022 and $558 billion in 2021.

Big Oil is also pumping the brakes on its ambitious decarbonization drive.

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A few days ago, Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE:XOM) announced that it will not move forward with one of the world's largest low-carbon hydrogen projects if the Biden administration does not provide tax incentives for natural gas-fed facilities. Current guidelines provide incentives for projects that produce "green" hydrogen by using water and renewable energy, but Exxon wants them extended to"blue" hydrogen from gas by trapping carbon emissions. That’s an interesting take because last week, at the CERAWeek conference in Houston, Exxon CEO Darren Woods expressed his doubts about the efficacy of carbon capture at lowering emissions because ‘‘…the technology works for high concentration streams of gases but is too expensive for low concentration streams.’’

Last year, BP Inc. (NYSE:BP) unveiled a new [less aggressive] decarbonization strategy that entails (1) a slower decline in upstream investments and scrapped former plans to shrink refining; (2)  focus more on higher-margin hydrogen and biofuels as well as offshore wind; and (3) higher spending in both oil and gas as well as low carbon. According to the company, the new strategy will offer higher shareholder returns, especially critical to the company after it severed ties with Russia’s Rosneft. BP’s nearly 20% stake in Rosneft helped to add several billion dollars to its bottomline.

By Alex Kimani for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on March 21 2024 said:
    Well done Texas. By barring state entities, including pensions, from investing in roughly 350 funds that oppose fossil fuel investing, Texas is standing up to the ESG which is trying to ram its discriminatory investment policies against fossil fuels down the throats of States whose livelihoods depend on them.

    A growing number of American States are now following suit with similar legislations.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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