The Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investment community is divesting in crude oil that provides products and fuels for consumers that did not exist in the decarbonized world of the 1900s and before.
Published May 6, 2022 in the May/June issue of Oilman Magazine https://oilmanmagazine.com/article/the-esg-community-lacks-an-understanding-of-what-crude-oil-is-used-for/
By Ronald Stein Pulitzer Prize nominated author, and Policy advisor for The Heartland Institute on Energy
Today, there is a lost reality that the primary usage of crude oil is NOT for the generation of electricity, but to manufacture derivatives and fuels which are the ingredients of everything needed by economies and lifestyles to exist and prosper. Energy realism requires that the legislators, policymakers, media, and the investment community begin to understand the staggering scale of the decarbonization movement.
Of the three fossil fuels, the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) community is unaware that crude oil is not used for electricity. In fact, crude oil is virtually useless, unless it is manufactured (by refineries) into oil derivatives that are the basis of more than 6,000 products in our daily lives that did not exist before the 1900s, and the fuels to move the heavy-weight and long-range needs of aircraft, cruise and merchant ships, and the military and space program.
Products from crude oil are the foundation of modern society and few consumers are willing to give up those benefits. Access to inexpensive, abundant and dependable crude oil has been the cornerstone of the Industrial Revolution and humanity’s achievements.
Pervasive ignorance about crude oil usage and divesting in the oil and gas industry could do irreparable harm to the industry, as well as inflict supply shortages and soaring prices upon consumers for the lesser number of products manufactured from crude oil, to meet the growing demands from society.
The renewables of solar and wind for the generation of electricity are unreliable because they are reliant on intermittent breezes and sunshine to work. To achieve continuous uninterruptible electricity, wind and solar need back-up provided by coal, natural gas or nuclear. Further, renewables CANNOT manufacture any of the products derived from crude oil, they can only generate intermittent electricity. In fact, renewables cannot exist without crude oil as all the parts of wind turbines and solar panels are made with oil derivatives manufactured from crude oil.
Banks and investment giants that are driving today’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) divesting in fossil fuels are all the rage on Wall Street these days, to divest in all three fossil fuels of coal, natural gas, and crude oil, just to reduce emissions. It is appalling that both President Biden and the United Nations support allowing the investment community to collude to reshape economies and our energy infrastructure.
Before divesting in all three fossil fuels of coal, natural gas, and crude oil, where is the replacement or clone for crude oil, to keep today’s societies and economies running?
Looking back a little more than 100 years, it’s easy to see how civilization has benefited from more than 250 leading-edge, hydrocarbon processing licensed refining technologies used by the more than 700 refineries worldwide that service the demands of the eight billion people living on earth with more than 6,000 products made from the oil derivatives manufactured out of raw crude oil at refineries. None of these products were available to society before 1900.
Getting off crude oil would reverse much of the progress made over the last few centuries. The inventions of the automobile, airplane and the use of petroleum in the early 1900s led us into the Industrial Revolution and victories in World Wars I and II.
The products from fossil fuels have reduced infant mortality, extended longevity from 40+ to more than 80+, allowed us to move to anywhere in the world via planes, trains, ships and vehicles, and virtually eliminated weather related fatalities.
As ESG progresses, banks and investment giants have short memories of petrochemical products and human ingenuity being the reasons for the world’s population increasing from one to eight billion in less than 200 years. Efforts to cease the use of crude oil could be the greatest threat to civilization, not climate change, and lead the world to an era of guaranteed extreme shortages of fossil fuel products, like we had in the decarbonized world in the 1800s, which may result in billions of fatalities from diseases, malnutrition and weather-related deaths trying to live without the more than 6,000 products currently benefiting society.
Efforts toward abandoning fossil fuels will further deprive and/or delay providing nine percent of humanity, or more than 689 million people, in this world that are living below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day, from enjoying the same products that benefit the wealthy and healthy countries. Depriving citizens of the more than 6,000 products that were non-existent before 1900, made from the oil derivatives manufactured from crude oil, appears to be immoral and evil as extreme shortages will result in billions of fatalities from diseases, malnutrition and weather-related deaths.
Bank boardroom decisions that are allowing the investment community to collude to reshape economies and lifestyles, so that they are in line with the preferences of banks and other financial institutions, is an extremely dangerous precedent. Consumers never voted to give banks this sort of control over our world.
The audacity is overwhelming that those ESG banks and investment giants, in the healthier and wealthier countries, insist that we should limit poor countries’ future access to the products from fossil fuels. Inexpensive, reliable, accessible power, and products from fossil fuels are lifesaving, and one of the best ways out of poverty.
Unintended consequences of the ESG rage ridding the world of crude oil usage would be the restricted supply and resultant inflationary pressures on the limited supply of products and fuels manufactured from crude to meet growing demands that support:
- Asphalt for roughly sixty-five million miles of roads in the world.
- Tires for the 1.4 billion vehicles in the world.
- Fertilizers to feed the eight billion in this world on an increasingly resource-stretched and crowded earth.
- Medical supplies that are primarily made from oil derivatives.
- Jets that comprise more than 50,000 aircraft for military, commercial, private and the President’s Air Force One.
- Merchant ships that comprise more than 53,000 vessels that move products throughout the world.
- Vehicles that are mostly made of plastics.
- Renewable components of wind turbines and solar panels that are made from oil derivatives.
The domino effects of tinkering with the supply chain of fossil fuels are supply shortages and soaring prices for the consumers, for not only electricity, but for the thousands of products that support the entire medical industry, all branches of the military, airports, electronics, communications, merchant ships, container ships and cruise liners, as well as asphalt for roads, and fertilizers to help feed the world.
It is time for the people to demand anti-ESG bills from their legislatures and put a stop to the banks that are colluding to reshape economies and lifestyles, and inflicting shortages and inflation on consumers.
Ronald Stein, P.E. is an engineer and Founder of PTS Advance, a California-based company. Founded in 1995 by Ronald & June Stein, Principal Technical Services (PTS) was designed to meet a gap in the market. Client organizations were seeking greater transparency and flexibility as they contracted specialized talent to augment key roles in their organizations. As a project manager in the industry, Ronald knew first-hand that success relied upon attracting and retaining great candidates with a full compensation package, including PTO and medical benefits – an approach not common for typical engineering staffing services in the ’90s.
Yes, we should begin to accept corporate ESG dictates when we see boardrooms with bare wooden floors, chairs covered with hemp, seagrass mats, bamboo cups, flax drapes, and chauffeurs waiting outside with their rickshaws.
As long as the items listed do not require any energy based on fossil fuels for manufacture, transport or maintenance.
They could check that by googling it on their abacus or wax writing tablet.
Or naturally harvested slate and chalk
When I search using the MS Money app for Green Energy companies I get 15 hits. 11 have current stock prices under $0.01. Only one has a stock price over a dollar at $7.28, down from a 52 week high of $14.71. So much for the ESG investment boom. Sorry, no sympathy for those virtue signalers who invested their retirement saving.
Stock price for a long time has nothing to do with real world. In previous year the price for Lithium raised 5 times. I was thinking it’s a good time to invest here for some retirement fund. For my surprise top 10 Lithium mining companies all losing in shares. I can’t imagine how it’s even possible to lose money when your product is up 400%.
stock prices are driven many times by a subjective opinion of the valuation of the companies assets, not by their sales figures. If you have high value assets that overrides the fact that the company simply sucks at using or selling the assets.
Here may be some good news:
For me, it’s a case of “trust but verify” given Larry Fink’s anti-oil stance:
Maybe the recent 25%+ drop in tech may be the real reason for the supposed “shift” from
someone who may be shifty. Wealthy clients instantaneously flee money managers who can’t
beat the market on a quarterly basis. For those who lose money, it’s even worse!
ESG investing was a morally convenient path as long as tech stocks delivered 20% a year in returns and fossil fuel stocks had lagged the market for many years. But now that script has been flipped. Watch those ESG funds change their stripes immediately when investor money starts repositioning into funds with fossil fuel stock exposure.
Who would have ever guessed that ESG would be inflationary?
The entire ESG investment premise is faulty, and will lead its practioners into big trouble. Investment managers have one and only one legal responsibility: maximize returns for those with whose money they are entrusted.
There is NO way to show that ESG investing could ever maximize returns. In fact, the opposite is likely the case as disinvesting in oil production has just showed. Environmental (E) and Social (S) stuff generally imposes legally UN-necessary costs on a business. Examples include (E) green energy and (S) higher wages and benefits.
The governance stuff is more complicated, because there are poorly governed corporations with ‘buddy boards’ and such. But good corporate governance has been an investment criterion for almost ever, so nothing new. It drives the leveraged buyout and private equity businesses—take over bad governance and management businesses, install good, then profit by taking the reformed business public again.
ESG is just another ‘righteous’ left signaling fad—maybe popular on the coasts amongst a certain social set,plus the AOCs of the world, but NOT viable in the real world long term.
The thing is that conducting business in a responsible manner from environmental, societal and governance perspectives is just common sense. Most companies were already doing this.
By creating an out-sized weighting on ESG, Wall Street tossed gasoline on the beginnings of an inflationary fire.
Yes. Your key word was ‘responsible’—meaning not overdone, as there are diminishing marginal returns to almost everything (but not everything, as VHS over Betamax, and Microsoft Office over everything else, prove).
In fact, these practices are very damaging to the public at large. While it is true that anyone should be able to do as he/she pleases with his onw property, the law recognizes there are actions that, while perhaps beneficial to the individual, are detrimental at large. I don’t know the details of such legal processes but the fact that many institutions are colluding with each other in this practice, and probably essentially strong-arming ones that are reluctant to go along, suggest criminal organization, which should be treatabley through RICO action in the USA.
Investment managers have multiple responsibilities (depending on the country) other than just maximising returns. If you set up a fund that promises investors to only invest in fossil fuels then you would not be able to invest in other companies even if those companies had a better return.
And surely if people want to invest their money using ESG criteria then they have every right to do so and to expect companies that they pay to do the investing for them to follow those criteria as well.
If you refuse to invest in companies that produce or use fossil fuels what is left to invest in? I don’t know of any company that doesn’t use fossil fuels to distribute their product. Even Tesla uses fossil fuels in their cars, body panels, steel frames, tires, etc.
It’s like John Kerry telling us to all return to the days of the pioneers on the Kansas plains while he flies around in his jet!
True, but not generally in common US retirement funds. And also true, people wanting to invest only in ESG can do so—but I do NOT want to support their retirement fund resulting poverty. (BTW, over the decades of my self directed ‘IRA’ I managed 12%—not quite Buffet level—but not bad compared to managed funds.)
I once did a real competition. I gave two soliciting retirement fund managers 1/3 of my retirement savings each, and myself 1/3. Deal was, after a year, winner got the whole thing.
Well, I won, by a lot. So they both got fired despite their sophisticated return pitches. Turned out one was trying to sell annuities, the other life insurance, and neither knew squat about stock investing, alpha, beta, and related then ‘new’ capital asset pricing model stuff simplistically taught at HBS before I graduated as number 1 Baker Scholar long go.
Should we start investing in whale oil and blubber? Got to to keep our rooms lit.
In a free society you should be free to invest in whatever companies you like for whatever reasons you like. And if enough people want to invest along similar lines then investment funds will be set up to take their money.
Is this the first time in WUWT history that an alarmist has said something we can all agree on?
As an alarmist, he should be quite versed on what people will throw money at for no apparent reason.
Should you be free to invest in a south of the border drug cartel? a firm dedicated to secretly dumping toxic wastes on private and public properties? a facitily manufacturing products in violation of legitimate patents? Need I go on? ‘Should be’ may be a philosophical viewpoint. Legal is somewhat different.
Isaac was talking about companies not cartels and I would not be investing in a company carrying out illegal activities
No, when it gets dark, close your eyes and rest. Chickens do it all the time.
Not sure you have ever lived primitively. Dark is when you come inside to continue your survival tactics. Mend clothes, wash clothes, make plans, study books on survival, prepare feed for the domesticated animals the next day, etc. Primitive man did this around a communal campfire. The invention of lamps and candles allowed this to move inside individual domiciles. There just aren’t enough daylight hours, especially in winter, to get it all done.
Ox Scapula spades, horn spoons, flint knifes, wood plates and bowls (carved using the flint knives), a wattle and daub or a “black” house, Hodden grey kilt made on a hand loom. Hey presto 17th century net zero living.
“In fact, renewables cannot exist without crude oil as all the parts of wind turbines and solar panels are made with oil derivatives manufactured from crude oil.”
Now isn’t that ironic. Another nail in the coffin of the attempts to rationalize and justify solar panels and wind turbines.
EXACTLY! All green energy stuff comes ONLY from fossil fuels.
The modern world has evolved with a large amount of contempt for that which sustains it. It does so at its peril.
As a Wisconsin dairy farm owner, I mildly disagree. The modern world of big US ‘Blue’ cities, yes as AOC demonstrates daily. But out in flyover country where stuff is real, not so much. Common sense tends to be a survival skill out there.
I grew up there, and on a farm to boot. I didn’t say universal contempt, but large, and you cannot deny that it is there.
Is Wisconsin really part of the “modern” world? I know Kansas is not! Even though there are those who advocate for it!
Being “modern” today is something completely different than being technically competent!
I bet there are not many farmers from Wisconsin infesting the halls of power in DC, New York or California.
USA is a basket case financially but it has a single privilege that no other country enjoys – US creates the global currency. US enjoys its current lifestyle due to that single privilege. It currently owes the world almost 12 months of its annual production and the indebtedness continues to grow:
The rate of going backward under Biden is alarming.
Looks like acceleration into a hockey stick
Everything is better than ever.
If we stopped with the idiotic renewable waste of $trillions and put everything into nuclear we could be off coal in decades, followed by gas (which would then primarily be used for manufacturing with oil) as our footprint on the world shrinks as everyone gets richer with cheap energy.
If we retire renewables including biofuel we could return the equivalent of entire countries to wild land as the land would not be required for fuel or food.
Instead we are doing everything exactly wrong and are making worse everything you proclaim to be worried about
RE: Efforts to cease the use of crude oil could be the greatest threat to civilization,…
Yes! A renewable truth! Excellent essay, Ronald Stein.
That effort is currently making hybrid vehicles an attractive option.
None of which would have been possible without the manufacturing and transportation infrastructure that had been built up over the previous 200 years by the use of coal as a fuel, coal gas as an energy source to provide light, coal tar as a chemical feedstock, and coke for smelting iron on industrial scales. The Industrial Revolution started slowly between about 1700 and 1775, and it really took off with the development of the high pressure steam engine in 1804.
You can call it “the second industrial revolution” if you want, but it took place on the back of the first, coal-based one.
Good report, Ronald Stein. But, that is way too much data and logic for a Woke, TQB$XOO&F Progressive, whose whole outlook is based on feelings.
Not unlike when I pointed out an article that was based entirely on government agency data, documents forced into the open through FOIA, and that referenced a number of journal papers that analyzed aspects of said data. The response I got was “I don’t pay attention to conspiracy theories.”
That is unlikely because these adults, who now think they are educated, were failed by their teachers at all levels.
Adult actually has two meanings. Physical age, and mental age. The ‘feelings rule’ age adult people never advanced much beyond the ‘terrible twos’ when that cognitive difference is first learned. Coddled they were, addled they are.
We need to have a massive Nuclear Build up, not to stop global warming, but to have the cheap energy we need when oil starts to become scarce and we need to synthesise the chemicals needed for the modern world.
You couldn’t be more correct! It also makes us energy independent and being cheaper it enhances our competitiveness in the global market. Anyone that thinks solar and wind are going to be cheaper than abundant nuclear either has an agenda to push or is ignorant beyond belief!
“Anyone that thinks solar and wind are going to be cheaper than abundant nuclear either has an agenda to push or is ignorant beyond belief!”
Or both, possibly?!!
ESG is just another attempt by Marxists to gain control. ESG proponents believe they can intimidate, threaten, and blackmail corporations into following their edicts. Unfortunately some are easily duped. Wait for the ESG house of cards to fall, it will be catastrophic and once it does there will be nothing left to finance their Socialist economy.
And I think the poverty and desperation will lead to wars. Large wars, small wars, wars never-ending.
Definitely not peace.
Same with coal. Can’t have steel without metallurgical coal
Thank you, sir! A fellow wallbanger, I see. I’ve not yet developed a callus on my forehead but I’m getting tired.
What is instructive to me is how everyone except the most committed looney tunes envirowhackjobs are backing away from so much of it at the first little bump.
Everyone with brain cells knew that the green new deal means real pain but I’m surprised at how much of the program has been suspended.
The renewables of solar and wind for the generation of electricity are unreliable because they are reliant on intermittent breezes and sunshine to work. To achieve continuous uninterruptible electricity, wind and solar need back-up provided by coal, natural gas or nuclear
And perversely diesel if you don’t understand the tradeoffs and get it wrong-
Gas generators switch to dirty diesel as prices soar and coal plants fail | RenewEconomy
Australia’s NEM is now a crash test dummy for the high penetration of wind and solar.
Whoever wins the Federal election is going to have to untangle the mess pronto as the AEMO are wisely staying quiet until then. I think Australians need a short sharp dose of a hung Parliament with a stitched together coalition of Labor Teals and Greens. Let’s get it over and done with once and for all as there’s no point stringing it out.
So many people are too stupid to realize what sorts of things were used in place of plastic and as liquid fuels (for lighting) before crude oil came into use. Let’s see….plastic substitutes included whale “bone” (whale baleen), ivory and tortoise shell. And for applications that required soft and stretchy materials, there was natural latex. For lighting, people used vegetable oils and whale oil. Keeping warm clothing-wise made use of real fur (synthetic fur only exists because of crude oil), wool and down. All of which are still used, but some, especially fur, run afoul of animal rights activists.
So yes, back then it was all natural (no dirty fossil fuels) materials used for every day items. Kind of like things are billed as “natural” these days, as if that is automatically better…
One could easily argue that fossil fuels (crude oil) saved both whales and sea turtles from what would have likely been the extinction of several species. They would have likely gone the way of the great auk and the thylacine.
And I won’t even get into medical devices….back in the day, hypodermic syringes (and needles) were sterilized and then re-used. The syringes were made of glass or steel, where as now they are plastic.
“For lighting, people used vegetable oils and whale oil.”
As if that doesn’t put CO2 and particulates into the atmosphere. Can you imagine the output if billions of people reverted to this just for lighting?
I year ago Sri Lanka banned all artificial oil-derived fertilisers and pesticides.
What could go wrong for the country’s 2m farmers?
Read and see life without oil.
The country ran out of gasoline yesterday. They were going organic on a national scale (without consulting the farmers or understanding what that meant).
Now, mass starvation. Watch this space in 6 months.
That’s our future if the Democrats remain in power pushing their current agenda.
Can anyone name one single thing in their life which hasn’t involved fossil fuels in it’s production or getting to them? The ignorance (lack of knowledge or information.) of people demanding that we stop using fossil fuels is incredible.
I do not believe divestors want a stop in oil production. I understand that ESG investors want to distance themselves from risk, partly under the pressure of regulators, and support a shift to renewables. But the oil industrie is not dependent on ESG investors. Russia, Saudi Arabia Venezuela and Nigeria could not care less, they just want to feed their population and earn money. There is a very small group of people in this world who can afford to worry about incease in greenhouse gasses.
I’ve tried to engage some climate change anti-oil nutjobs with the reality of what their life would be like if there were no fossil fuel derived products on the planet. Because of their religion, which is what the whole thing has become, they don’t listen nor want to hear about it. Its a “feelings” oriented, non-sensical, illogical train of thought religion. Try taking their ballpoint pens away and see what happens. Or their smart phones, computer tablets, etc.
All hell would break loose cuz most of them are unable to see the connection between those magical things and that which makes it all possible…fossil fuels, and, specifically, crude oil.
I live in the middle of the nation and don’t have to deal with those braindead morons everyday. Which is a good thing. For them and for me.
Thanks for the great article, Mr. Stein, I’ll forward it to anyone I can think of.
Take away their pens? You’ll see a temper tantrum that would do a two-year old proud. Most of these people have never matured past that of a two-year old.
E S G is not the prescription for sustainability; but rather a untenable, indefensible, Phobia to rid the world of fossil fuels and consequently send the world into decline, food shortages and starvation.
For modern life the importance of oil can largely be summed up in one word, “plastics” from “The Graduate” (in addition to energy, transportation, and a list of benefits too long to mention).
Uh don’t people get it? That’s what the people want, people to die. Not them of course, just the unwashed, uneducated and those who aren’t but won’t fall for it will be designated undesirable via social credit style systems coming into place.
“Today, there is a lost reality that the primary usage of crude oil is NOT for the generation of electricity, but to manufacture derivatives and fuels which are the ingredients of everything needed by economies and lifestyles to exist and prosper.”
A few decades ago, I remember making a fool of myself by trying to argue the opposite with a friend/aquaintance.
Many years ago I worked out the GDP to oil use ratio for all the countries in the World. It was a constant ratio for all the countries except the ones with messed up economies (due to mad policies or huge foreign subsidies). In 2007 UK got a better ratio than expected. Great I thought, the renewables are working; then the economy fell apart in 2008. It was based on unsustainable debt.
I haven’t done it recently but I expect that the ratio will be much the same across the World. No oil means no GDP. You have to make things out of stuff and that stuff tends to be oil based. Even if you make things out of wood, the money you earn gets spent on modern things that are made, sold and distributed using oil.
We have just come out of a period where people were subsidised using government debt but were not producing much (oil use dropped). This is going to hurt like 2008. We can’t go back to a 2020/21 economy. It is not sustainable.
the banks and investment houses that are propagandizing esg wouldn’t be in business if not for the technology afforded them by oil and gas derivative products.
A++, Mr. Stein!
And do not forget that, prior to oil’s dominance, many vital organic compounds came from – dare I say it? from COAL distillation for town gas and coke for steel. And steel still uses coke as the reducing agent. True that – inefficiently – you can produce iron by electrolysis – but what are you going to use for your anode?
ESG laws, policies, regulations and recommendations should receive the same official response as domestic terrorism or sabotage. They cause the same ultimate outcome – severe destabilizing harm to society.
You could get more mileage out of this with the young if you stated it would be the end of cellphones and tablets, which make significant use of plastics.
But the big thing in society would be the inability to use electricity, whether generated or by using batteries. There is no feasible substitute for insulating electrical wiring without plastic. Not enough spiders in the world for silk. Not enough cotton is grown and it’s expensive, and paper would have an extremely short life. Wood, glass, ceramics? Plant-based ‘plastic’ is mostly are mostly found only in labs (though I remember something about a car manufacturer trying it out. Had to replace it when rodents were discovered eating it).
Just what material would you coat wires with that is not synthesized from oil and gas?