According to the CDP Carbon Majors Report released in July of 2017, “investors in fossil fuel companies carry influence over one fifth of industrial greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.” There’s a very good chance your investment portfolio includes the ticker symbols of some of the biggest contributors to climate change, and with the largest greenhouse gas emitter, Saudi Aramco, opening up its initial public offering to foreign investors, it’s time you knew the ramifications of giving these companies your money.
Of the 30.6 gigatons of equivalent carbon dioxide of operational and product greenhouse gas emissions from 224 fossil fuel extraction companies, 41 percent are either public- or private-investor owned. While another 59 percent are state-owned, there’s not much you can do about those emitters unless you live in those countries. But you can withhold funding from publicly-traded companies looking to use that money to further sully the Earth, and 20 percent of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions comes from companies owned by public investors, which will grow significantly with the addition of Saudi Aramco as a publicly-traded entity. Saudi Aramco was responsible for 4.6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.
The best way you can curb climate change is to not give or loan your money to these carbon-emitting companies. If you can’t afford an electric vehicle, you still have to fill the tank, but perhaps instead of filling your tank at the nearest or cheapest gas station, you fill it at the gas station owned by the company that emits the least carbon, which is likely Conoco in the United States.
According to the CDP report, ConocoPhillips was responsible for 61 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, half the emissions of BP, and emitted 40 percent less carbon dioxide than Chevron in 2015. So buy your fuel at ConocoPhillips’ stations if you can and Chevron if you can’t. If neither are available near you, Shell seems to be working the hardest toward a low-carbon, energy policy globally. Phillips 66 is doing the least.
With enough people boycotting the purchase of shares in corporate carbon emitters, these companies will be forced to change their approaches. So here are the publicly-traded companies to avoid supporting financially.
Saudi Aramco is responsible for almost twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as the next biggest emitter in the CDP report. When it comes to polluting the Earth and warming the planet, no one does it like Saudi Aramco.
But even Saudi Aramco is planning for life after oil, investing $20 billion to construct the largest chemicals facility in the world. The move is in tune with the wishes of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who would like to see the country wean off its “dangerous addiction to oil.” Still, investing your money in what is likely to be the biggest initial public offering in history is an investment in the destruction of Earth.
Gazprom is the largest natural gas company in the world and is tasked with providing most of Russia and some countries of the former Soviet Union with natural gas. It controls one quarter of the world's known natural gas reserves and accounts for eight percent of Russia's gross domestic product. But international sanctions have cut into the success of Russian energy companies since the country’s annexation of Crimea, so Gazprom isn’t exactly a safe investment. It certainly isn’t a safe investment for Earth.
Coal combustion is generally more carbon intensive than burning natural gas or petroleum for electricity, which is why Coal India easily makes this list. Although coal accounted for about 70 percent of CO2 emissions from the electricity sector, it represented only about 34 percent of the electricity generated in the United States in 2015. In India, more than 75 percent of electricity came from coal in 2014 -- up from 67 percent in 2011 and at an all-time high.
India is working its way off coal just as Saudi Arabia is looking to lessen its dependence on oil. Research from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) suggests that India can cut its CO2 emissions by up to 10 percent or 600 million tons after 2030 if renewable energy and batteries become less costly than coal within 10 years. An investment in Coal India is a sucker bet.
Shenhua Group is a Chinese coal company, where 72.63 percent of electricity came from coal in 2014 -- down from an all-time high of 80.95 percent in 2007. It’s another sucker bet, as China is ahead of schedule when it comes to curbing carbon emissions.
Rosneft is a Russian oil and gas company. Again, sanctions have limited the success of Russian energy companies, so you wouldn’t want your money behind them regardless of their damage done to Earth.
ExxonMobil is selling itself as an innovator in energy solutions and biofuels, but it also spent almost $31 million supporting organizations that spread climate change denial propaganda between 1998 and 2014. ExxonMobil reportedly spends $27 million annually to oppose climate policy as of 2016. It’s the largest carbon emitter amongst the gasoline companies and that should be all you need to know.
Shell was second to ExxonMobil in dollars spent to oppose climate policy with a $22-million annual budget. It even made a film warning of climate change in 1991 but did not heed its own warning so it could reap the benefits of increased profits. Of the energy giants, though, Shell and Total are the only companies to receive a “D” rating from InfluenceMap when it comes to transitioning to a low-carbon, energy policy globally. ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron all received “E-” ratings.
We all know BP for spilling 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and killing 11 people at Deepwater Horizon -- the largest oil spill in history and eight to 31 percent larger than the next largest. In September 2014, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that BP was primarily responsible for the oil spill because of its gross negligence and reckless conduct, and in July 2015, BP agreed to pay $18.7 billion in fines -- the largest corporate settlement in U.S. history.
Peabody is a coal company based in St. Louis, and as less and less American energy is produced by coal, Peabody’s stock price will fall more and more. Just 34.34 percent of America’s energy production came from coal in 2015 -- down more than five percent over the course of a year.
Petrobras is Brazil’s largest oil and natural gas company and is dirty in more than one way. It paid $2.95 billion to settle a U.S. class action corruption lawsuit at the beginning of 2018 -- the largest settlement paid to the United States by a foreign entity. The settlement was six times more than it has received so far under a Brazilian probe into bribery schemes that involved company executives and government officials.
Shares of Chevron have increased nearly 30 percent in the last six months, so there will be no bargain for buyers of CVX now. Worse yet, its $34-billion project in Western Australia could face tougher emissions curbs, which would increase costs and sink shares.
Gross profits of the state-run, Malaysian oil and gas company have decreased over the last three years in all divisions -- gas processing, gas transportation, utilities and regasification. And its Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline transporting liquid natural gas sprung a leak on Jan. 10. A 2015 report found that there’s enough natural gas leakage to outweigh the climate benefits of using natural gas instead of coal.
The Democratic Republic of Congo forced Glencore’s billionaire head of copper into a smaller role after a review raised questions about accounting and management, but Congo’s doubling of taxes on cobalt will hurt Glencore even more.
How much Koch Industries actually pollutes Earth is difficult to determine, as Koch is privately owned and exempt from risk disclosures required of publicly-traded companies. Multiple estimates have Koch Industries at 300 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, but the Kochs do more to obstruct policy addressing climate change than anyone.
InfluenceMap ranked Koch Industries dead last in its readiness for a transition to a low-carbon policy globally. The Koch Brothers also contribute more to climate-change-denying candidates than anyone else. They budgeted for $889 million in campaign contributions to Conservative candidates in 2016 and are planning to spend up to $400 million during the 2018 midterm elections.
You can avoid giving Koch Industries your money by avoiding the companies it owns, like Vistra Energy Corp. (VST), of which it holds nearly five million shares. Vistra is a Texas energy company.
The Australian-English company is the world’s largest mining company.
The French, multinational, “Supermajor” oil and gas company was fined $313,910 for air emissions violations at its Port Arthur refinery in Texas just under a week ago, and this after the Clean Power Plan was mostly repealed.
Arch Coal is an American coal mining and processing company. They burn coal.
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During my commute home, listening to 105 The Vibe as I always do, I learned that more than 40 percent of all litter and 28 to 33 percent of all litter in America is cigarette butts. That’s 1.69 billion pounds of non-biodegradable, toxic trash, and over 65 percent of cigarette butts end up littered. I was immediately disgusted because while I now know cigarette butts account for more than 40 percent of all litter, there’s still a couple billion pounds of litter on top of those cigarette butts.
Thankfully, tax increases have been effective in decreasing the number of smokers in America, from roughly 21 percent of the adult population in 2005 to 15 percent in 2015. The same approach should be taken with litterers.
Littering is bad for everyone. No one wants to live in a dump, so why do people leave garbage on the streets and sidewalks? Well, because no one likes to carry trash with them. I have a solution, though, that would end America’s litter problem once and for all. Littering should be added to the list of federal misdemeanors, and litterers should be fined an exorbitant amount or forced to do an unreasonable amount of community service picking up litter.
Think about it. Littering literally affects everyone in the nation and world. We all breathe the same air and share the same water, so making littering a federal offense makes sense, especially if 81 percent of all littering is done with intent. If tampering with mail is a federal offense, littering can be a federal offense, too. Littering would also be more likely to be enforced if it was a federal offense rather than a municipal ordinance or state statute.
Cities and states don’t issue enough littering citations and don’t collect nearly enough in fines for littering. While Maryland has a maximum fine of $30,000 for littering, that’s for over 500 pounds of litter. I guess that would apply if you left a broken-down car on the side of the road. Very few states have minimum fines in place. In Colorado the minimum fine is just $20. In Delaware it’s $50. In North Dakota and Utah it’s $100. In Alabama the minimum fine is $150.
State and municipal littering laws are all well and good if enforced, which they’re not. The one time I’ve seen them enforced was on the night of my friend’s 21st birthday. With his sober girlfriend driving, he saw a cop car drive by and screamed the lyrics to a popular N.W.A. song out the window, and followed that up by throwing a gallon of water out the window. Well, the very next car (and the one after that as a matter of fact) was a cop car. We got pulled over, and my friend did his best not to puke on the hood of the cop car. He was issued citations for littering and...littering and….invalid registration. I think he said the littering ticket was $20, and he got out of the registration ticket because he renewed it immediately.
But how many people would litter if they were required to pay a $500 fine to the federal government on top of the state’s fine or do an equivalent amount of community service cleaning up litter along interstate highways? I’d venture to guess you’d rarely see someone flick a cigarette out of a moving car or throw a fast food wrapper on the ground. Even though cops can’t be everywhere at once, just the idea of paying for a DUI keeps people from driving drunk. Why would littering be any different?
You might be thinking the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Well, there are a lot of punishments that don’t fit the crime in this country. In Minnesota, a seatbelt violation can cost you over $100, and that’s a law enforced to protect you. Why should a law enforced to protect your health be any different? Both laws are technically improving the safety of all Americans.
If you’re a smoker littering is probably a part of your DNA at this point. You don’t put your cigarette butts back in the pack to throw away later, which is exactly what you should do if you’re not near a trash can or ash tray. You should treat every street in every part of the world like a trail in a national or state park. If you don't litter in a national or state park, why should any other place be any different? Just because a national or state park has natural beauty that hasn’t been destroyed doesn’t mean you should destroy the places lacking natural beauty. One way to get around this is to start rolling your own cigarettes. Unlike pre-rolled cigarettes, roll-your-owns are biodegradable and filter-less. Cigarette filters pose the biggest risk to our environment. If you’re worried about tar and need a filtered cigarette, just get a few reusable filters. TarGard makes good products. I’ve tried them, and they work. They also make the cigarette filter made famous by Hunter S. Thompson.
Most smokers have a specific brand, though, and getting them to change is like asking them to stop smoking. I have a friend who has been smoking Camel filters for over a dozen years, and he couldn’t tell you why. It was just the first cigarette he tried.
There are items that can keep you from covering your community in litter, though. The Bell automotive “Butt Bucket” is a cigarette butt receptacle that looks a little too much like a coffee cup, but it keeps butts off the streets. My friend has one of them in his truck, and the smell is surprisingly subtle.
So if you’re going to smoke, please make sure your butts end up in the trash. Gutter butts collect in storm drains and then into waterways, and can clog storm drains and sanitary sewer systems, leaving the streets covered in toxic, cigarette-smelling water. Worse yet, that toxic water kills the transparent crustacean Daphnia, a planktonic animal that occupies a key position in aquatic ecosystems.
Basically, until everyone stops smoking, we have to stop littering cigarette butts, because it’s the easiest way to nearly cut the litter in half.
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