Apr 3, 2019

The shifting climate battle over Big Oil

Ben Geman, author of Generate

Royal Dutch Shell said it's quitting a major lobbying group, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers. Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

These are split-screen times for shareholder advocates pushing the world's most powerful oil companies to do more on global warming.

Driving the news: Axios' Amy Harder reported yesterday that the SEC granted ExxonMobil's request to throw out a shareholder resolution urging the oil giant to disclose targets for steeply cutting emissions.

The intrigue: Her story landed just hours after Royal Dutch Shell said it's quitting a major lobbying group, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, over differences on climate policy.

  • It's a move stemming from a review of trade group memberships, which Shell agreed to conduct in a wider agreement with activist investors late last year.

The bottom line: The developments highlight successes and hurdles facing activists seeking to use investors' stakes as leverage to force more aggressive steps on emissions and disclosure.

What's next: In the Exxon fight, the group shareholder advocacy group Ceres said yesterday evening that they're looking at several options after the SEC decision.

What they're saying: Ceres' Andrew Logan said in a statement that the investors behind the resolution will "make full use of their suite of rights." In a followup email, he told me they are mulling options, including...

  • Asking the SEC for reconsideration or even taking them to court.
  • Corralling support behind other proposals on the ballot for Exxon's annual meeting, such as one pushing for a climate committee on the board.
  • "Expressing displeasure" with Exxon's board by voting against re-election of one or more members.
  • Nominating alternative director candidates in 2020.

The big picture: Let's turn back to Shell's action. There's an argument that yesterday's splashy move really just affirmed the status quo.

  • Yes, sure, they dumped one trade group, but stuck with bigger ones — including the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — that aren't that different from AFPM on climate policy.

But, but, but: Jason Bordoff, head of a Columbia University energy think tank, said via Twitter that Shell's move is "just the beginning" and that he sees it spilling over into API, the industry's main lobbying group.

  • "The differences among API members on the key issue of climate are vast. That's going to reach a breaking point," he tweeted.
  • I asked Bordoff to elaborate, and he added in an email, "I think API is going to have increasing difficulty sustaining its coalition in its current form unless it is able to build more consensus among its members about what a constructive role for the oil and gas industry looks like to address climate change."

Go deeper: SEC throws out investor proposal pushing Exxon on climate change

Go deeper

Updated 1 min ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. enters 6th day of nationwide protests over George Floyd's killing

A protest in Philadelphia on May 31. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Local news footage captured a tanker truck appearing to drive toward protesters at a peaceful demonstration in Minneapolis, as demonstrators quickly got out of the way of the incoming vehicle on Sunday evening.

The big picture: Protests have continued across the country for six days, as demonstrators call for justice in response to the deaths of George Floyd and other other black Americans who have died in police custody or who have been killed in racist attacks.

Tanker truck appears to plow into Minneapolis protesters

A tanker truck appears to have driven toward thousands of protesters during a demonstration in Minneapolis, video from the scene shows.

Details: Minnesota Department of Public Safety tweeted, "Very disturbing actions by a truck driver on I-35W, inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators. The truck driver was injured & taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He is under arrest. It doesn’t appear any protesters were hit by the truck."

  • The incident happened as protesters gathered at the Interstate 35W Bridge across the Mississippi River just before 6 p.m. on Sunday, per CBS Minnesota.
  • Gov. Tim Walz had "ordered highways and interstates to start closing at 5 p.m.," according to the Star Tribune.

Editor's note: This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

Inside Trump's antifa tweet

President Trump at Cape Canaveral on May 30. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

As recently as Saturday night, senior administration officials told me that the designation of a violent cohort of far-left activists, antifa, as a terrorist organization was not being seriously discussed at the White House. But that was Saturday.

Behind the scenes: The situation changed dramatically a few hours later, after prominent conservative allies of the president, such as his friend media commentator Dan Bongino, publicly urged a tough response against people associated with antifa (short for "anti-fascist").