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Texas Is Leading The Fight Against ESG Investing

U.S. energy-producing states are at war with some of the world’s largest asset managers and banks over the financial institutions’ ESG-aligned investment policies, which, the states say, show that those financial firms are boycotting the oil and gas industry.  

Texas, the largest oil-producing state in America, is leading the campaign against this movement. Just last week, the Lone Star State published a list of financial firms that could be banned from doing business with Texas, its state pension funds, and local governments. 

At the core of the dispute lies the growing trend of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investment which many financial firms have embraced amid criticism from shareholders and investors that they sponsor fossil fuels. Texas and other Republican-led oil and gas states, however, see the ESG investment trend as an implicit attack on fossil fuels and a boycott of conventional energy resources, the revenues from which make up a large portion of state budgets in the oil, gas, and coal country. 

Texas blacklisted several financial firms last week, including some ESG funds managed by Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, and said they would be banned from doing business with the state. The blacklist includes the world’s biggest asset manager BlackRock, as well as BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse Group, Danske Bank, Jupiter Fund Management, Nordea Bank, Schroders PLC, Svenska Handelsbanken, Swedbank, and UBS Group. The list of funds is much longer. It includes nearly 350 funds, including Goldman Sachs Bloomberg Clean Energy Equity ETF, Goldman Sachs ActiveBeta Paris-Aligned Climate U.S. Large Cap Equity ETF, and JPMorgan U.S. Sustainable Leaders Fund. 

“My greatest concern is the false narrative that has been created by the environmental crusaders in Washington, D.C., and Wall Street that our economy can completely transition away from fossil fuels, when, in fact, they will be part of our everyday life into the foreseeable future. A complete divestment of the industry is not only impractical and illogical but runs counter to the economic well-being of Texas and our citizens,” Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said in a statement

The oil and gas regulator in the state, the Railroad Commission of Texas, welcomed the Comptroller’s move and said that “Texas is leading the fight to curb the expansion of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) movement, a woke investment strategy that places a priority on subjective environmental and social metrics instead of financial metrics that ensure quality returns for investors.”

“Texas is where ESG extremists will meet their match. We are sending a clear message to Wall Street: If you boycott Texas oil and gas, we boycott you,” Railroad Commission Chairman Wayne Christian said. 

“I’m thrilled to see my conservative colleagues join the defense against ‘woke’ Wall Street bankers,” continued Christian. “Rally the troops: Here in Texas is where we will draw the line against ESG’s detrimental impact on oil and gas.” 

BlackRock, the world’s top asset manager, reiterated its position it is not boycotting fossil fuels. 

“BlackRock does not boycott fossil fuels — investing over $100 billion in Texas energy companies on behalf of our clients proves that,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement to Texas Tribune

Early this year, BlackRock said in a memo that it is and will continue to be an energy investor, with $91 billion invested in fossil fuel companies in Texas alone. The asset manager looks to balance the message for Texas, following BlackRock’s increased focus on ESG. 

Texas is not alone in boycotting financial firms it sees as boycotting oil and gas. 

In January this year, West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore said the Board of Treasury Investments, which manages the state’s roughly $8 billion operating funds, will no longer use a BlackRock investment fund as part of its banking transactions.    

“Any company that thinks Communist China is a better investment than West Virginia energy or American capitalism clearly has a bad strategy,” Moore said. 

Last month, Moore said that five financial institutions were found ineligible for state banking contracts as they are considered to have engaged in boycotts of fossil fuel companies. The ineligible firms are BlackRock, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo.  

“Any institution with policies aimed at weakening our energy industries, tax base and job market has a clear conflict of interest in handling taxpayer dollars,” Moore said. 

In early August, the Attorney Generals of 19 states – including Texas, West Virginia, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, Idaho, and Ohio – sent a letter to BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink expressing concerns with the asset manager’s commitment to net-zero emissions across all its assets. 

“Rather than being a spectator betting on the game, BlackRock appears to have put on a quarterback jersey and actively taken the field,” the attorney generals wrote.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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