Big energy must defeat the eco-warriors

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It is the same argument that Ben van Beurden has given for refusing to bow to demands from Dan Loeb’s Third Point to split Shell’s oil exploration arm from its gas operations and fledgling renewables business.

Besides, it isn’t as clear cut as “a separation between carbonised and decarbonised assets”, as Bluebell puts it. As the World Bank points out, “a green technology future is materially intensive”.

It takes twice as much ore as 10 years ago to yield the same amount of copper, for example, and cobalt is largely in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where child labour is widespread. So activists like Bluebell should be careful what they wish for.

The debate is far more nuanced than financially motivated investors would have us believe. Walking away from fossil fuels comes with an impact on society, particularly in low income countries. Coal is the backbone of electricity generation in China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and other parts of the developing world, and in many places use is increasing. 

To suddenly remove it from the energy mix would threaten economic growth and well-being.

Bluebell reveals more about its intentions when it talks about a “40pc to 45pc” uplift in Glencore’s shares if the company was to implement its ideas. It wouldn’t be the first to use climate change as a cover to try to make a quick return.

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