Oct 16, 2019 - Energy & Environment

Elizabeth Warren's plan to pressure Big Oil into breaking up

Sen. Elizabeth Warren after the fourth Democratic debate

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Warren's campaign says one of her existing policy proposals would create pressure on major oil-and-gas companies to splinter.

The intrigue: They pointed to her legislation that would require detailed disclosures from publicly traded companies about climate change.

  • Under her bill, filings with securities regulators would describe risks to the company from policies that would force steep emissions cuts consistent with holding global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

Why it matters: The campaign argues that this would lead to so-called stranded oil and natural gas reserves that would create big financial liabilities for energy companies.

Yes, but: The idea of stranded assets is controversial and beyond the scope of this blurb. And achieving emissions cuts consistent with 1.5°C is looking quite unlikely.

  • But those huge caveats aside, the campaign argues that this risk would push companies to break apart.

What they're saying: "If oil companies are required to disclose this information to investors, there will be enormous investor pressure on these companies to break up so that the non-fossil fuel parts of these companies would not be taken down by likely losses in the fossil fuel parts," Warren's campaign said.

The state of play: Warren touched on this goal in passing during Tuesday's Democratic debate when she was asked about her goal of breaking up tech giants.

  • "We need to enforce our antitrust laws, break up these giant companies that are dominating, Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Oil, all of them," said Warren.

The bottom line: Warren is now the co-frontrunner with Joe Biden. It's another sign of the aggressive posture Warren has staked out.

Go deeper: Elizabeth Warren wants a climate-friendly SEC

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