Shareholder tar sands backlash

I used to be quite dubious of people who depend on the stock market, particularly stocks in oil companies, for income; but I really shouldn’t “tar” them all with the same brush these days.

Socially responsible investor groups are springing up everywhere and we desperately need more of them to help force companies to lighten their environmental footprint.

For example, it was very pleasing to see a collaboration of investors recently taking Shell to task on their tar sands projects.

Co-operative Asset Management and dozens of other institutional and individual shareholders in Shell voiced their concerns about the company’s activities in the tar sands fields of Alberta given the associated risks associate with oil sands projects.

Their concerns include the cost of carbon capture and storage, effects of carbon regulation and the cost of cleaning up the locality (properly). While they have focused on cost rather than the environment for the sake of the environment, it’s all good – it’s about sustainable business practices.

The group said companies must be more rigorous and transparent with their investors.

I posted several rants about Shell last year after they dumped renewable energy investment due to its reported lackluster performance, but still managed to funnel a ton of cash into the tar sands. They lost $42m in three months on that; defending it with taking the “long term view”.  As I mentioned, what about the long term view for renewable energy?

And what about the long term view of the lands they’ll be wreaking environmental havoc on in Canada? Back in April 2009, the company was reportedly back-flipping on commitments to reduce its green house gas emissions at a Canadian oil sands project.

Has that changed? I hope so.

Extracting oil from these tar sands is an incredibly energy and water intensive process that strips and poisons the land. It’s far more destructive than traditional oil drilling.

Like the oxymoron of “clean coal” There can be no “clean” tar sands operations, only less filthy – and how much less filthy they can become remains to be seen.

Learn more about the looming environmental disaster of the oil sands of Canada.