U.S. offshore ambitions reckless, sustainable investors say

The Trump administration wants to open up nearly all of U.S. federal waters to drillers even as shale alone puts the country in a leadership position.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  March 16, 2018 at 7:00 AM
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March 16 (UPI) -- U.S. efforts to tap oil and natural gas reserves offshore are reckless and out of step with efforts to address climate change, sustainable investors said.

A federal five-year lease program called for 19 lease sales offshore Alaska, seven in the Pacific Region, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico and nine in the Atlantic. Overall, it would open up 90 percent of U.S. territorial waters to oil and gas drillers as part of President Donald Trump's efforts to ensure U.S. energy dominance.

For oil alone, the United States is already on pace to become the world's largest producer. Most of the oil and gas produced currently comes from shale basins in the Lower 48 states.

The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, which said it represents investors with more than $30 billion in assets, said in a letter to the Department of Interior the lease plan, as proposed, is irresponsible.

"The global investor community recognizes that in order to prevent average global temperatures from rising to more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, roughly 80 percent of proven fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned," the letter read. "It is therefore reckless to invite oil and gas companies to increase their sunk costs in what are likely to be stranded assets."

A review of global energy sector momentum found the pace at which renewable resources are adopted is far below the level necessary to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius, the threshold at which climate change becomes most destructive.

Signaling his intent to pull out of the landmark Paris climate agreement, U.S. President Donald Trump in his National Security Strategy said there was "an anti-growth energy agenda" that conflicts with U.S. economic interests.

Momentum may be shifting organically, however. In December, U.S. shale company Pioneer Natural Resources said it would take a proactive approach to managing its environmental footprint. This week, Norwegian energy major Statoil said it would change its name to Equinor, removing "oil" from its name to reflect a changing energy landscape.

"As investors and financial professionals and organizations, we believe the draft proposed program should not move forward and ask that it be withdrawn," the sustainable investment group said. "Expanding offshore drilling is bad for our economy and bad for the environment."

The International Energy Agency said that, by 2023, global oil demand will be around 104.7 million barrels per day, an increase of 7 percent from last year. The pace of growth will slow, however, as economies start to look beyond oil.

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