NYC sues 5 biggest oil behemoths, several pension funds to divest from fossil fuels
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has sued BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell for ‘together causing’ the release of 11% of all greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere through their product retails. Exxon and Shell have countered by saying their products contribute significantly to the world economy and “enable domestic life”.
The lawsuit, if upheld by the courts, could pave the way for several similar legal challenges to Big Oil’s – and coal’s – domination of the world’s energy economy.
Also, New York state’s pension fund – valued at nearly $200bn – and New York city (with five pension funds worth about $5bn in total) are looking to divest from their multiple fossil fuel holdings and reinvest in clean energy and organisations (such as Apple and Microsoft) that make greater use of clean energy. Divestment is also being considered by pension schemes in the UK (worth nearly £2trillion), and Llyods (London) – the world’s oldest insurance firm – will pull out of coal investments completely from April 1st.
Coal phase-out gathers steam in France and Chile
French President Emmanuel Macron has declared that France will shut down all of its coal-fired power plants by 2021 – earlier than his predecessor Francois Hollande’s target of 2023. While the phase-out will be relatively easier for France – coal powers only around 1% of its energy needs – the announcement follows France’s previous declaration to ban all oil and gas exploration and extraction by French oil firms by 2040.
The Chilean government has also declared it will replace its existing coal-fired thermal power plants with cleaner sources. The country is endowed with high solar insolation, wind energy and geothermal activity and is aiming to generate 70% of its energy from renewables by 2050, even though coal and oil currently account for over 50% of its energy mix.
Australian govt: Will not finance rail link for Adani coal mine
Amidst ever increasing opposition to Adani’s $16.5bn Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, the Australian government has said it will not finance the $900mn rail link between the mine and the Abbot Point port, from where Adani intends to ship the higher grade coal to India to ostensibly help India reduce its carbon emissions. The announcement comes as another blow to the project that has already been deserted by the Commonwealth Bank and by a number of Chinese investors.
Adani chairman Gautam Adani has also claimed that the Carmichael coal mine would help bring electricity to 18,000 Indian villages, and that the mine was essential to compensate for the lack of baseload power supply by renewables. Environmentalists are however opposed to the emissions from burning the coal to be mined, and the project’s potential to devastate surrounding ecosystems, including the already beleaguered Great Barrier Reef.
US: Carbon pricing could render coal uncompetitive
Despite all of Donald Trump’s efforts to revive the industry and his claim to have “ended the war on coal”, NextEra Energy CEO Jim Robo is quite confident that renewable energy will be cheaper than coal-fired electricity by the early 2020s, even with Trump’s heavy import duties on foreign made solar modules denting the US solar industry.
New Jersey and 9 other eastern states are already clamping down on carbon emissions by re-entering the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The move is supported by a recent study that found even a $20 price per ton of CO2 emitted renders coal-fired power economically uncompetitive when compared to renewables.
Also, coal was edged out by renewables in Europe in terms of electricity generation in 2017, coal trading plunged by as much as 42% for the region, and given the foreseeable economic advantage of renewable energy, US investors are already flocking to the sector to cash in, further marginalizing the fossil fuel.
Asia: Surging coal demand offers a lifeline to coal miners
Defying the global downturn in demand, coal consumption in Asia meanwhile is surging ahead. Coal India has posted record sales for January 2018, and the upcoming 10GW of coal-fired power plants in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are further expected to prop up exports from Australia, Indonesia and even South Africa.
Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) has also dispatched boilers to Bangladesh for its two 660MW super thermal power plants, which will add to the country’s China assisted expanding thermal power capacity.
Exxon: Oil demand could drop 25% by 2040
After being hounded by its shareholders to come clean on its future prospects, Exxon Mobil has predicted that – if strict climate regulations were enforced – global oil consumption could fall by 25% from current levels of 98 million barrels per day to nearly 78 million bpd by 2040.
A chunk of the reduction is expected to come from EVs and surging renewable energy capacity.
However, in a separate report – for investors only – Exxon has stressed (perhaps to keep investors from fleeing) that oil and gas will continue to provide 55% of global energy needs by 2040, even as coal’s share dips to below 30%.