It’s all over but the chanting, which seemingly will continue unabated until religious shareholder activists bring energy companies to heel. What the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility hyperbolically billed as “a watershed year” trickled into a puddle of disappointment yesterday for shareholder activists’ climate-change resolutions.

The chanting began outside Dallas’ Morton E. Meyerson Symphony Center and the Chevron Park Auditorium in San Ramon, Calif., prior to the annual shareholder meetings conducted, respectively, by ExxonMobil Corp. and Chevron Corporation. Real chanting, dear readers, which admittedly isn’t equal to Abbie Hoffman attempting to levitate the Pentagon, but it does indicate a certain religious zealotry applied to the contested scientific theory of manmade global warming:

2016 is a watershed year for the fossil fuel industry, in particular, oil and gas giants ExxonMobil and Chevron. Pressure is building in the wake of last year’s historic agreement at COP21 in Paris, where nations of the world, global corporations and leading investors achieved consensus on the need to limit global warming to below 2-degrees celcius to avoid catastrophic planetary impacts. Pending investigations by 17 State Attorneys General is also intensifying public pressure for action. The Papal Encyclical, Laudato Si’, continues to grow in significance, and has done much to underline the clear moral imperative to address the 2 degree warming scenario.

Simultaneously, fossil fuel companies face both a moral and business imperative to rethink their long-term business strategies, as these company face impending regulation that will soon force them into compliance. Faith-based and values investors and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility have been pressing for this transition for nearly 40 years. This year, proponents of shareholder proposals at both Exxon and Chevron (both on May 25) will be making their cases at the annual meetings of both companies in the hope that shareholders will broadly join them in pressing the companies to change.

Would that the priests, nuns, clergy and other religious affiliated with ICCR exert similar spiritual and physical energy toward championing what philosopher Alex Epstein calls “the moral case for fossil fuels.” Instead, they increase their carbon footprint immeasurably by traipsing around the globe in their buses and planes in efforts to pull the plug on cheap and plentiful energy while lecturing the rest of us on the evils of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and energy-company lobbying. At the same time ICCR extols the imperative of limiting global warming to 2-degrees C by deploying measures that will increase costs – especially for the poor for whom higher prices devour a greater percentage of household assets – while making little to no difference on global temperatures. (more…)

This past Friday, I blogged about the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s recent decision to allow a vaguely worded proxy resolution proceed to a vote. The resolution was submitted by, among others, members of the religious shareholder activist group the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

The ICCR resolution calls upon ExxonMobil Corporation to take action intended to mitigate climate change. ExxonMobil requested the SEC deny the ICCR resolution on the grounds it was based mainly on nonspecific greenhouse-gas reduction targets and unclear strategies to achieve them.

Since that post, I received an email from a subject matter expert that helps place the SEC’s decision in perspective. Legal Director Allen Dickerson from the Center for Competitive Politics, a free-speech nonprofit, commented:

The SEC’s decision was routine. It is extraordinarily easy, under U.S. securities laws, to put a proposal before a company’s shareholders, and politically active groups have done so with increasing frequency in recent years. But these policy proposals are seldom adopted. Shareholders generally want corporations to maximize the value of their investment, as management is legally obligated to do, and rebuff attempts to turn the annual meeting into an extension of the broader political arena.


NUNReligious shareholder activists egging on a federal investigation of ExxonMobil include the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, which counts the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, New Jersey, among its faith-based members. The narrative promulgated by the activists is that the energy giant conducted climate-change research and buried the results when the data inconveniently proved burning fossil fuels was a major contributor.

All this might be a tempest in a teapot if not for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) pressing U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to prosecute ExxonMobil under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act following the so-called “revelations” reported by the Los Angeles Times and, to a more sensationalistic extreme, Inside Climate News. As noted in a previous post, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley also are on board, not to mention former Vice President and inconvenient truth teller Al Gore. Of course, this onslaught aimed at ExxonMobil is timed to coincide with the upcoming United Nations Conference of Parties (COP21) in December.

The Tri-State Coalition’s website admits as much: (more…)


All eyes seem to be directed toward Rome last week as the Pope weighed in on climate change. As anticipated, there has already been a lot of spinning by the whirling dervishes of the zealous variety– doubling down on their over-the-top, pre-release spin.

Yes, it’s a given both sides of the climate-change debate are spinning, but as your writer is on the skeptical end of the spectrum it seems the other end is receiving the majority of media coverage. Skeptics? We’re castigated as “deniers,” “Republicans,” and, of course, “anti-science.” Ouch! No worries, however, as we skeptics have grown accustomed to ad hominem attacks, not to mention pseudo-science, false claims of a scientific consensus agreeing on human-caused global warming, and accusations we’re performing the bidding of Faux News. Hoo boy, as Boris Badenov used to say.

Allow me a bit of schadenfreude when I report the consistent defeat of so-called religious-based shareholder activism deployed against oil and gas companies – on which more below. I take pleasure in these persistent defeats not because I dislike my loyal opposition as much as they dislike skeptics but because I’m convinced the best way to lift the poor from poverty and incumbent disease, hunger and illness is cheap and readily available fuels. It’s not about winning an argument from my point of view inasmuch it’s about enabling the world’s poorest to attain self-sufficiency, health, and comfort – mostly because I recognize the world’s poverty has been halved in the past 20 years, largely due to affordable fuels.

And yet… Elizabeth Douglass at InsideClimate News reports religious shareholders are persistent in their failed efforts to deep-six economically the companies in which they invest. Douglass trots out the usual suspects: Timothy Smith of Boston-based Walden Asset Management; Sister Patricia Daly of the Roman Catholic Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, N.J.; and Rev. Michael Crosby from the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order in Milwaukee. Daly and Crosby, notes Douglass, “have worked together for years as active participants in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a New York group whose members manage more than $100 billion in assets.” Douglass continues:

For the past few years, several climate resolutions at Exxon have won more than a quarter of the shareholder vote, and sometimes nearly a third. The vote count reached a remarkable level of backing for proposals opposed by management, according to Heidi Welsh, executive director at the Sustainable Investments Institute, a Maryland-based nonprofit that provides impartial analysis of social and environmental policy shareholder resolutions.


Screen-Shot-2014-12-16-at-4.09.38-PMIt could be argued that Exxon is actually an energy company, but it’s still an energy company that knows where its bread is buttered. Oil and gas is the winning game for this company, not solar.

Thus wrote Jeff Siegel this week on the Energy & Capital website. Siegel was referring to Exxon Mobil Corporation’s thumping of shareholder resolutions by As You Sow, the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility and other religious groups intended to push ExxonMobil into naming an environmental scientist to the board and issue a report on the environmental impact of the company’s hyraulic-fracturing operations. Another study to be pitched on the growing pile of fracking reports issued regularly by industry and regulators?

Siegel is as clearheaded a liberal writer as I’ve come across on these matters. He writes:

Again, I don’t see the benefit here for shareholders.

Those who oppose fracking have plenty of this data, anyway. So to mandate such a report seems like a waste of time, particularly if the report indicates no negative side effects. You think anyone who opposes fracking would believe anything included in that report?


The nuns who taught environmental science at the high school your writer attended would preface discussion of natural disasters as “acts of God.” Apparently much has changed in the past few decades as Sr. Patricia Daly, OP, is declaring recent hurricanes and tornadoes the result of greenhouse gases. In other words: “acts of Exxon.”

Daly, a member of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, N.J., is the spokesperson for her order, which is among several groups that submitted proxy shareholder resolutions to ExxonMobil Corp. to adopt greenhouse gas reduction goals.

The resolution failed, but that didn’t prevent Daly from a parting shot in The Washington Post: “‘I had to evacuate a lot of old nuns because of Superstorm Sandy,’ Daly said. She said that with rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, ‘we’re in desperate territory right now.’”

One is tempted to roll one’s eyes and exclaim, “Oh, brother!” Or, more appropriately in this instance, “Oh, Sister!”