By Tom Kool of OilPrice.com
In his annual letter to businesses, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink emphasized that climate risk remains a major investment risk, but stated that the company will continue to support the oil and gas industry as part of a low-carbon energy transition.
In what sounds like a change of tune, Fink recognized the role of oil and gas in the energy transition, stating that “Different countries and industries will move at different speeds, and oil and gas will play a vital role in meeting global energy demands through that journey”.
The CEO of the $10 trillion behemoth said that BlackRock would “work with energy companies globally that are essential in meeting societies’ energy needs” and this would include fossil fuel and natural gas companies, provided they are taking steps to mitigate their emissions.
While energy transition-focused investments will clearly remain a priority for the asset manager, the message is much more in line with what we have seen in both the financial world and the energy industry in recent months, a focus on shareholder value creation and energy security.
Oilprice.com’s Irina Slav recently wrote that the growing backlash against ESG investing has become a material risk for the profits of asset managers and private equity firms active in that sort of investing.
Last year, BlackRock received letters from the Attorney Generals of 19 U.S. states, including some large hydrocarbon-producing states such as Texas, West Virginia, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, Idaho, and Ohio. In these letters, the representatives of the beforementioned states were concerned about the fund managers’ aggressive fund allocation plans. In recent months, multiple U.S. states have withdrawn billions of dollars in state funds from Blackrock. Lousiana’s State Treasurer John Schroeder summed up the concerns by saying that “This divestment is necessary to protect Louisiana from mandates BlackRock has called for that would cripple our critical energy sector.”
As it stands, BlackRock will have to continue to walk a tightrope between ESG-minded activist investors and return-focused Republican lawmakers, and even as it acknowledged the importance of ongoing investment in oil and gas, it will not ignore climate-related risks to its trillions of dollars in managed investments.