This is some serious inside baseball. But it IS October:
If your basic theory of ESG investing is “we will avoid bad-ESG stocks in order to drive up the cost of capital of bad-ESG things,” it seems to be working:
Years of awful returns and pressure from clients to exit from the oil-and-gas business have left fewer and smaller firms able to take advantage of rising prices and help boost production. The unwillingness of some banks to make energy loans has compounded the challenges to boosting energy supplies.
Those left are moving to increase production, but they are relatively small players who won’t be able to make a significant impact on output. Investors are steering capital away from fossil fuels and toward companies that rank high in environmental, social and governance, or ESG, measures.
“Oil-and-gas has seen the worst returns of any sector over the past five years; the returns are volatile and investors feel ESG pressures,” says Wil VanLoh, who runs Quantum Energy Partners, which manages $18 billion, making it one of the few remaining big energy private-equity funds. “There’s been a huge retreat in available capital.”
That’s from Matt Levine’s Bloomberg daily newsletter, talking game about the game. But the idea that ESG investing is maturing, as he says, is an interesting one. If companies and the courts are no longer going to just line up on the side of fiduciary responsibilities as a way to protect shareholders – and hence, the companies that may continue to pollute and spew for profit – that’s at least a change.
Image: Abraham Lincoln: Baseball Theme Currier & Ives Cartoon, 1860.
We’re mostly still just trying to do that, as if there’s a first, as if THAT’s the opportunity:
Sustainable investing is one of the hottest trends on Wall Street. Trillions of dollars are rushing in as consulting firms and private foundations spread the gospel. But no one is entirely sure what ESG is beyond the literal (environmental, social and governance) or exactly how to define it. Metrics are self-reported and often hard to measure, tracking everything from carbon emissions to boardroom diversity. Greenwashing is a perennial concern.
Profits, however, are very much measurable. Bloomberg’s fourth annual ranking found that the biggest ESG funds are beating the market. If you do happen to have $1 million to spare and a soft spot for the future of planet Earth, here are some investment ideas for you. How does the intersection of AI, blockchain and climate sound?
We also reported this week on emerging technology such as carbon capture, and less environmentally damaging rocket launches. While not as sexy as spaceships, dirt is also important to the future health of the planet. Global agriculture has come to rely on annual crops and heavy fertilizer use, which inhibit soil’s ability to sequester carbon.
So we’ll call it ESG or whatever, and we do. Predictions about how this will affect THAT, about where to place your future-of-energy bets is till going to lead to many near-term flareups and dead-ends. Reckoning with the ultimate dead-end may not be appealing, prospectus-wise, but acknowledging that we’re doing it anyway, that doing it the old way got us right to here, is the thing we will always still need to do until we do it.
Waiting. Adaptability Funds are going to scare the investor class for about one-half of a news cycle.
Probably not the kind of story you were looking for – though it’s flattering, until it isn’t. A.S. Byatt on Ragnarok. The nugget is in there – see if you can find it.
Myth comes from muthos in Greek, something said, as opposed to something done. We think of myths as stories, although, as Heather O’Donoghue says in her book From Asgard to Valhalla, there are myths that are not essentially narratives at all. We think of them loosely as tales that explain, or embody, the origins of our world. Karen Armstrong writes in A Short History of Myths that myths are ways of making things comprehensible and meaningful in human terms (the sun as a chariot driven by a woman through the firmament) and that they are almost all “rooted in death and the fear of extinction”.
Nietzsche, in The Birth of Tragedy, sees myths as dreamlike shapes and tales constructed by the Apollonian principle of order and form to protect humans against the apprehension of the Dionysian states of formlessness, chaos and gleeful destruction. Tragedy controls the primeval force of music by presenting us with beautiful illusory forms of gods, demons, men and women, through whom apprehension is bearable and possible. He wrote: “Every culture that has lost myth has lost, by the same token, its natural healthy creativity. Only a horizon ringed about with myths can unify a culture. The forces of imagination and the Apollonian dream are saved only by myth from indiscriminate rambling. The images of myth must be the daemonic guardians, ubiquitous but unnoticed, presiding over the growth of the child’s mind and interpreting to the mature man his life and struggles.