Big Oil laggard Exxon faces a new climate threat from Wall Street

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KEY POINTS
  • Exxon Mobil has been a laggard in the oil and gas sector and has seen its market value decline by hundreds of billions of dollars.
  • Pension giant CalSTRS is supporting a new activist fund effort to replace Exxon board members.
  • Activists see this as a perfect time to seek short-term value creation in a better run company as well as more long-term support from investors if the company becomes clearer about its climate plan.

In this article

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CalSTRS’s Chris Ailman on calling for company overhaul at Exxon Mobil

Exxon Mobil is poised for a new role in a changing world it doesn’t want: target and test case for a new form of combined attack from activist hedge funds and long-term impact investors focused on sustainability and climate change. A newly formed activist investor group, Engine No. 1, announced plans on Monday to seek four board seats at the oil and gas giant, and underlying the effort are both short-term and long-term goals to change the way Exxon approaches the energy business at a time of rapid transition forced by fears about carbon emissions.

The activist firm — which includes founders from successful activist hedge funds including Partner Fund Management and JANA Partners — thinks the time is ripe for an overhaul of Exxon’s management. The market stats cited in its letter to Exxon’s board highlight a significant drop in operating performance and “dramatic” decline in Exxon’s stock value in recent years as many investors have lost faith in the company.

Source: Big Oil laggard Exxon faces a new climate threat from Wall Street

Exxon faces proxy fight launched by new activist firm Engine No. 1 | Reuters

“(Reuters) -A new investment firm is taking aim at one of corporate America’s most iconic brands, pressing energy giant Exxon Mobil Corp to overhaul itself by focusing more on clean energy to improve its financial performance.

Engine No. 1 is being supported by pension fund California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) as it pushes the battered energy company, valued at $176 billion, to spend its cash better, preserve its dividend, and refresh its board.

“The industry and the world it operates in are changing and … Exxon Mobil must change as well,” Engine No. 1 wrote to Exxon’s board, adding “given the company’s long-running underperformance and the challenges it faces, it is time for shareholders to weigh in.”

Exxon is reviewing the hedge fund’s letter, an Exxon spokesman said.

The U.S. oil company this year reversed course on a massive oil and gas expansion program, cutting 30% from its spending plan and proposing a budget next year that is $4 billion to $7 billion below its outlays this year. It also plans to reduce its workforce by 14,000 people over the next two years as losses this year reached $2.37 billion.

Engine No. 1 faces a tough road. Exxon has beaten back past activist efforts to change its climate stance and to split the roles of chairman and chief executive.

But industry analysts also said the time may be right for traditional activists’ interest to overlap with climate activists’ interest and force Exxon to act. “There is a need for a fairly active reset right now,” said Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at Ceres, a non profit organization that works with institutional investors and companies. “Everyone starts at the bottom of the hill with Exxon but Engine No. 1’s director nominees is not a list of flaky people.”

The activist investment firm, launched last week by two hedge fund industry veterans, said it plans to nominate four directors to Exxon’s 10-person board who have expertise in clean technology and running energy companies: Gregory Goff, Kaisa Hietala, Alexander Karsner, and Anders Runevad.

“Exxon’s refusal to adequately address climate risk is of serious concern to many shareholders and is a sign of significant governance issues. The company’s board needs overhauling. We’re looking forward to reviewing the slate of new directors,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, whose fund owns a roughly $300 million stake, according to Refinitiv data.” . . .

Source: Exxon faces proxy fight launched by new activist firm Engine No. 1 | Reuters

Chris Miller | Will Anything Stop Putin’s Pet Project? – The New York Times

Mr. Miller is an assistant professor of international history at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a co-director of the school’s Russia and Eurasia program. He has written extensively about Russia and is the author of “Putinomics.

“After the imprisonment this month of the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, punishing Russia is back on the agenda. On Monday, European Union foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions on Russian officials, with the final details to come.

Yet such measures are unlikely to satisfy the Kremlin’s critics. They have in their sights a pet project of President Vladimir Putin’s: Nord Stream 2, a pipeline under the Baltic Sea that would supply natural gas directly to Germany.

The project has already survived fierce opposition from many European countries and the United States. And Germany, for which the pipeline is part of Europe’s delicate geopolitical balancing act, is committed to finishing it. With fewer than 100 miles to go, construction is nearly complete. But the treatment of Mr. Navalny and his supporters has once again thrown open the question of the project.

The pipeline’s predecessor, Nord Stream 1 — which was completed in 2012 and also runs undersea directly from Russia to Germany — was controversial, too. Germany’s eastern neighbors feared that Russia might cut off their gas while continuing to supply Germany. In that case, Eastern Europeans would be left to face the Kremlin alone.”

Fascinating piece by Chris Miller. The big problem is that Germany has turned its back on nuclear energy, since the Japanese nuclear disaster. “The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was a 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.” – Wikipedia.

Germany, like most of the world, needs nuclear as a backup to sustainable energy systems. Bill Gates has a team which has re-invented the nuclear energy machine, so it runs on old nuclear waste, and can not melt down. It doesn’t require extreme temperatures. See the video, Inside Bill’s Brain, part three.

Editorial: CT right to reconsider future power needs – New Haven Register

“It hasn’t emerged as a major issue in the pending state legislative session, but a speech this month from Katie Dykes, the state’s commissioner of energy and environmental protection, could be a precursor to a major change on how the state procures its power supply.

As in many states, Connecticut talks a good game when it comes to climate change, and has enacted policies that aim to limit emissions while preparing resilience plans for coastal communities that are likely to be the hardest hit by rising global temperatures. But the state also continues to follow old policies that exacerbate the problem, whether by encouraging suburban sprawl by focusing transit plans on highways or by continuing to build power plants that rely on fossil fuels.

This is a pressing issue. A recently opened power plant in Oxford can generate up to 800 megawatts of electricity, but it relies on burning natural gas. Another gas plant underway in Bridgeport will be smaller but also work against the state’s long-term goals of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. And an approved but as-yet-unbuilt natural gas plant in Killingly has drawn protests from around the state, with opponents saying the project is outdated and unnecessary.

Dykes appears to agree, which is striking given that DEEP, under previous leadership, approved the plant.

Natural gas has been held up by many officials as a necessary improvement from dirtier coal and oil, but while the emissions from newer plants are not as severe as the older facilities they are replacing, the overall impact of natural gas is far from benign. From the hydraulic fracturing that frees it from under the ground to inevitable leakage along the way, natural gas may on balance be just as harmful in the long term as coal and oil. Any real move forward on limiting emissions must reckon with the harms of natural gas power plants.

Dykes said a big part of the problem lies with ISO New England, which oversees the regional power grid and holds auctions for new power generation. The facilities still need to be approved by local and state governments.

Source: Editorial: CT right to reconsider future power needs – New Haven Register

How Does Your State Make Electricity? – The New York Times

Overall, fossil fuels still dominate electricity generation in the United States. But the shift from coal to natural gas has helped to lower carbon dioxide emissions and other pollution. Last year, coal was the main source of electricity generation for 18 states, down from 32 states in 2001.

Top Source of Electricity Generation In Every State

Opinion | To Make Headway on Climate Change- Let’s Change the Subject – The New York Times

“. . . .  As the economic case for renewables grows more compelling, the issue becomes how much faster we can go in cleaning up the grid. The tactical goal for Democrats is not to get Republicans to admit they have been wrong about climate science; the only thing that matters is to pass measures to speed the energy transition.

Understanding all this, Democrats can still run hard on climate change in party primaries. But in general elections and upon taking office, they need to make the subtle shift from talking about the climate crisis to talking about the benefits of clean energy — something that Mr. Polis, for one, is skilled at doing.

The polls have told us, over and over, that right below the surface in this country lurks a powerful consensus to go all out on the energy transition. The falling costs offer a fresh opportunity to talk about competition and freedom of choice in the market for electricity, a language that many Republicans understand.

That unanimous measure in South Carolina tells you that for the right policies advocated in the right language, the votes are there.

No Pipelines- No Service: Con Ed Cuts Off New Gas Hookups – By Debra West – The New York Times

By Debra West
March 21, 2019

YONKERS — “Across the suburbs north of New York City, clusters of luxury towers are rising around commuter rail stations, designed to lure young workers seeking easy access to Manhattan. In all, 16,000 apartments and condominiums are in the works in more than a dozen towns, along with spaces for restaurants and shops.

But the boom unfolding in Westchester County is under threat — not from any not-in-my-backyard opposition or a slumping real estate market.

Instead, it is coming from something unexpected: a lack of natural gas.

Con Edison, the region’s main utility, says its existing network of pipelines cannot satisfy an increasing demand for the fuel.

As a result, the utility has taken the extreme step of imposing a moratorium on new gas hookups in a large swath of Westchester, including for residential buildings planned in Yonkers, White Plains and New Rochelle. The only other places in the country with similar restrictions are in Massachusetts, gas industry officials said.”

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Clean Energy Is Surging- but Not Fast Enough to Solve Global Warming – By Brad Plumer – The New York Times

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By Brad Plumer
Nov. 12, 2018

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WASHINGTON — Over the next two decades, the world’s energy system will undergo a huge transformation. Wind and solar power are poised to become dominant sources of electricity. China’s once-relentless appetite for coal is set to wane. The amount of oil we use to fuel our cars could peak and decline.

But there’s a catch: The global march toward clean energy still isn’t happening fast enough to avoid dangerous global warming, at least not unless governments put forceful new policy measures in place to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

That’s the conclusion of the International Energy Agency, which on Monday published its annual World Energy Outlook, a 661-page report that forecasts global energy trends to 2040. These projections are especially difficult right now because the world’s energy markets, which usually evolve gradually, are going through a major upheaval.

via Clean Energy Is Surging, but Not Fast Enough to Solve Global Warming – The New York Times

Affordable Solar Program Launched in Connecticut for Middle-Class Homeowners – Green Energy Tribune

Connecticut is one of the best places if you want to go solar – but only if you’re rich enough. Due to the steep upfront costs of around $32,000 in cash, only those upper-income families can afford to install solar arrays. Green Energy Tribune is, however, looking to change that. This new project hopes to help middle class communities see the sun in a different light.
The cost for the installation to the middle class families is little to $0 down. The homeowner gets solar panels on their roof and a new reduced electric rate. If interested you can sign up at SolarVisit.com. Green Energy Tribune predicts that it could save individual families up to $2,400 a year, which they hope could then be spent on other essential bills.

Source: Affordable Solar Program Launched in Connecticut for Middle-Class Homeowners – Green Energy Tribune