Failure of basic fiduciary duties to investors is just the tip of ESG fraud iceberg
Warning: Your retirement fund may have been Shanghaied by BlackRock or other Wall Street asset managers who’ve unilaterally decided that the tens of trillions of dollars of other people’s money they control should be used to advance political causes they favor – to “make the world a better place.”
As most people know, ESG stands for Environmental protection, Social justice, and Governance of corporate and societal affairs. They’re all noble-sounding causes. However, under ESG they’re centered around progressive, woke agendas, with prevention of “manmade climate cataclysms” uppermost. Fund assets are used to drive “net zero” climate agendas and punish or de-fund fossil fuel companies.
That narrow focus creates serious problems. Those trillions of dollars are supposed to be passively invested in index and other funds, under fiduciary obligations to secure maximum returns in support of state, local, corporate and personal retirement and investment accounts. Under ESG, however, strong returns are too often sacrificed to serve politicized agendas, often in collusion with governments, activists and other financial institutions, and thus also in violation of antitrust laws and basic ethical principles.
That’s why Asset manager Vanguard recently left the UN-sponsored “Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero.” Meanwhile, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and other states are pulling tens of billions of dollars out of BlackRock, State Street and other Wall Street asset management firms, for violating fiduciary duties. It’s just the tip of the fraud iceberg.
Woke ESG practitioners also employ narrow ES&G definitions to virtue-signal, pontificate and impose prescriptive agendas with little or no regard for the consequences. When the “existential threat of manmade climate change” is the primary arbiter, enormous problems associated with replacing fossil fuels with “clean renewable energy” are simply ignored, suppressed and censored out of the analysis.
People and planet realities absolutely have to be included in any ethical ESG analysis.
Environmental protection. Rather than looking only at the temperatures, storms, droughts, rising seas and other environmental costs that climate models falsely blame on fossil fuel emissions – any accurate and honest ESG scorecard must also assess the enormous ecological impacts from wind-solar-battery (WSB) energy systems that will supposedly replace oil, gas and coal.
WSB systems and associated transmission lines do not appear spontaneously, via Materials Acquisition for Global Industrial Change (MAGIC). They require mining on unprecedented scales. President Biden’s initial batch of offshore wind turbines alone would require 110,000 tons of copper, refined from 25,000,000 tons of ore, after removing 40,000,000 tons of overburden – plus millions of tons of iron, manganese, aluminum, nickel, concrete, plastics and other materials … from billions of tons of ores.
Replacing all U.S. coal and gas electricity generation with WSB – plus gasoline vehicles and gas stoves and furnaces – would require tens of thousands of wind turbines, billions of solar panels, billions of battery modules for vehicles and backup electricity storage, and thousands of miles of new transmission lines. Has BlackRock calculated the ore body and mining requirements for that? For a global transition?
All those turbines, panels, modules, transmission lines, mines, processing plants and factories have to be located somewhere. Have the ESG potentates determined in whose backyards they will go? (Probably not Larry Fink’s or John Kerry’s.) Have they assessed the impacts on scenery, habitats and wildlife? the air and water pollution from the mines and other operations? the likelihood that endangered right whales would be driven to extinction by wind turbine installations off the U.S. Atlantic Coast?
Do all these WSB mines, foundries, factories and impacts even get (obviously negative) ESG scores?
Social justice. ESG theology holds that the poor and people of color suffer most from climate change. In reality, they benefit most from having abundant, reliable, affordable fuels and electricity – for cars, jobs, modern homes, cooking, heat and air conditioning. In fact, the poor and people of color are not faring all that well in Britain and Europe, where the “transition to green energy” is well underway.
Over seven million British households have fallen into “fuel poverty” this winter, and special “warm rooms” have been set up to help people survive freezing weather. Recent headlines warn that Britain could have nationwide blackouts and extensive factory shutdowns and layoffs this winter. In Germany, families are stocking up on candles, so that they can at least read while they shiver jobless in their homes.
People are dying – who would have survived illnesses and preexisting health conditions if they hadn’t been so impoverished, cold and malnourished. In the USA, 14% of seniors have skipped meals and 10% delayed or canceled medical procedures or rationed prescription medications in 2022 because of sharply rising energy, food and other prices. Honest ESG scores would factor all this in, as well.
Developing countries desperately need dependable, affordable electricity to create jobs, lift families out of poverty, modernize homes, schools and hospitals, provide clean water, and replace wood and animal dung for cooking and heating. Even today, millions of parents and children die from respiratory and intestinal diseases that are unheard of in wealthy countries, because they don’t have electricity.
ESG scoring ignores all of this, actively stymies investment in fossil fuel power plants in African and other countries, and attempts to limit financing to wind and solar energy and whatever jobs and living standards this limited, weather-dependent energy can support. That’s hardly ethical or socially responsible.
Governance of corporate and societal affairs. ESG activists and financial institutions coopt and collude with corporate, federal, state and local governments to serve the climate crisis agenda, and drive investment out of fossil fuel endeavors and into “renewable” energy. In essence, this is fascism, an economic system in which government doesn’t own the means of production, but controls them through laws, policies and arrangements with financial institutions, corporations, activists, media and academia.
Equally troublesome, ESG inevitably results in modern industrialized nations de-developing, as their factories and jobs migrate to China, India and other countries that are not obligated under climate agreements to reduce their coal and natural gas use anytime soon, have no intention of doing so, and are burning record amounts of coal to ensure reliable and affordable electricity.
This also raises disturbing national security concerns, as the United States and its allies become ever more dependent on Chinese factories and Chinese controlled supply chains for wind, solar, battery, transformer, communication, computing, healthcare and even defense/weaponry raw materials and technologies.
ESG advocates minimize these concerns, even as they ignore how soaring raw material demands under Net Zero agendas would trigger skyrocketing prices for increasingly scarce commodities, and thus imperil the energy infrastructures and economies of nations across the globe.
The words scam and fraud come to mind. But an even better term has its origins in China – Shanghaied: using trickery, intimidation or violence to force someone to serve your navy … or company. In this case, ESG pressures are forcing investors, companies and countries to serve the interest of China’s government and corporate sectors, which control supply chains and manufacturing for technologies of every description, especially in the energy sector. ESG scorecards pay no attention to this, either.
In fact, BlackRock, State Street, other ESG stalwarts, and their government and environmentalist allies seem intent on destroying our planet with “green” energy, to save it from fossil fuel calamities that exist in climate models and fevered imaginations (as in “Earth has a fever”) … but not in the Real World.
This Christmas or Hanukkah, let’s all give our friends, relatives and financial institutions the gift of wise, honest, accurate and insightful Environmental, Social and Governance principles.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy, environmental and human rights issues.