Corporate virtue-signaling is the new black. In this era of hyper-connectedness and social media shaming campaigns, global mega-companies no longer battle over who can offer the best products for the best price. Instead, they fight to see who can sound the greenest.
The trend is fueled by environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing, which pressures corporations into adopting politically correct stances on issues from climate change to gender equality — on pain of total divestment if companies don’t toe the line.
But a new ESG report from an oil and gas pioneer is turning the anti-fossil fuel financing movement on its head. What if, instead of apologizing for needing fossil fuels, we instead celebrated the role of affordable, reliable energy in ending poverty around the world?
After all, if banks and investment firms want to prioritize investments that provide the most benefit to society, they can surely do no better than oil, gas, coal, and nuclear.
Nothing improves human lives like access to affordable, reliable energy. Without it, even the most mundane tasks involve physically demanding labor. Things like washing clothes and cooking meals require serious elbow grease without modern appliances and safe cooking fuels (and most household labor primarily falls on women, severely limiting the potential of half of society). Electricity offers the gift of time—freedom and comfort to pursue higher goals than just getting through the day alive.
That’s no hyperbole. Perhaps the biggest benefit of electricity to humanity is the gift of modern medicine. Life expectancy globally has more than doubled since the Industrial Revolution. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, where less than half the population has access to electricity (and “access” is defined to include even the smallest window of functioning power), one in every 13 children dies before reaching the age of 5. Those lucky enough to survive childhood face the threat of communicable diseases that are either unheard of or almost totally benign in the developed world. The common cold and bouts of diarrhea are grave danger in impoverished countries. It’s no wonder life expectancy in these countries lags so far behind the global average.
Although incredible progress has been made, it’s clear there is much more work to be done to end poverty and promote human flourishing around the world. Misguided pressure campaigns to vilify fossil fuels could stop or even reverse that progress — but will have no effect on climate change whatsoever.
If the Green New Deal were enacted today, global average temperatures by 2100 would be less than two-tenths of a degree lower. The same goes for the Paris Agreement, even in the unlikely scenario every participating country met its emissions pledges until the end of the century. If global action wouldn’t move the needle on climate change, divestment campaigns by even the largest and most vociferous banks and investment firms certainly wouldn’t either. Ironically, the ESG movement would come with significant collateral damage to the environment it claims to defend. Denying financing to American energy producers means their costs will be higher — and so will ours, placing an even greater strain on impoverished Americans who already struggle to afford their home energy bills. Worse, we’ll be forced to get more of our energy from overseas. This not only weakens our economy and national security, it also puts power directly into the hands of irresponsible foreign conglomerates with lax environmental standards. Divesting from fossil fuels would result in more pollution, not less.
ESG in its current form would be better described as energy discrimination than environmental protection — and Liberty Oilfield Services’ “Bettering Human Lives” ESG report creates a new opportunity for energy. Instead of apologizing for their own existence, fossil fuel producers should celebrate their positive impact on the world by providing affordable, reliable energy that improves our lives every day and is helping to end poverty around the world.
This commentary originally appeared in The Epoch Times on June 14, 2021.