Will Shell Leave ALEC? An Executive Hints At An Exit

, Research Director, Center for Science and Democracy | May 27, 2015, 9:07 am EST
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Ask and you shell receive? (Sorry. Had to take that one.) It may be so. Last week, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden hinted that the company may leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) by not renewing its membership, according to an interview with the Guardian. The statement comes after increasing pressure on Shell to leave the climate-misinformation-spreading lobbying organization.

In a recent interview, Shell CEO suggested the company may leave ALEC soon. Will Shell finally leave the climate-denying lobbying group? Photo: Flickr/. Shell

In a recent interview, Shell CEO suggested the company may leave ALEC soon. Will Shell finally leave the climate-change-denying lobbying group? Photo: Flickr/. Shell

Shell leaving ALEC is overdue

And that pressure has been building for some time. Starting last fall, UCS and its supporters and allies have been asking Shell to leave the ALEC, sending more than 130,000 messages in counting to Shell decision makers.

As I’ve noted (here and here), it’s high time Shell left an organization that spreads misinformation about climate science, and affiliates with groups that harass climate scientists. We expect better. In particular, I would expect better of a company like Shell, which has already taken several steps in the right direction on climate change policy, including signing the Trillion Tonne Communique and becoming a leader on carbon pricing. Despite their (disappointing) recently approved plans to drill for oil in the Arctic, I nonetheless expect Shell to join the growing number of companies that have declared ALEC too far from reality on climate change.

And that group of companies is growing. Shell must be feeling pressure as the ALEC exodus of companies continues. After a wave of high-profile tech firms left the lobbying group last year, and BP announced it would leave ALEC last March, our eyes are on Shell to make the next move.

Shell’s investors have spoken

At Shell’s annual general meeting (AGM) last week, shareholders overwhelming voted in support of a resolution asking the company to better disclose climate-related risks. To be a clear, a 99% positive vote on a shareholder resolution like this is relatively rare. Shell’s shareholders have spoken and they want a company that is responsible on climate change.

And Shell’s shareholders weren’t just satisfied with the passing vote. Shell’s AGM was dominated by shareholders with inquiries on how Shell is addressing global warming. Shell executives faced questions about their decision to drill in the Arctic, the potential for stranded assets if carbon is restricted in the future, and membership in ALEC and other lobbying efforts.

As I’ve laid out, responsibility on climate change should include dissociation from groups that spread misinformation on climate change. BP, for example, had a similar resolution pass at its shareholder meeting this year, and BP still saw the necessity of leaving ALEC.

An end to the shell game?

An ALEC Spring Taskforce meeting held in Savannah, Georgia, this month also made headlines. A hard-hitting investigative report by Atlanta’s local 11 Alive station, recently shed further light on the extent to which ALEC is undermining our democracy—arranging for corporate lobbyists to fund legislators’ meeting attendance and gaining access to the lawmakers behind closed doors.  A responsible company should have no part in such activities.

And with BP leaving ALEC and Shell signaling it is likely to join, other big companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron find themselves increasingly isolated as they head into shareholder meetings where climate change and ALEC will be on the agenda.

I hope that Shell follows through on its CEO’s suggestion that the company may finally leave ALEC. In the meantime, I’ll be eagerly waiting the end of this shell game.

Posted in: Global Warming, Science and Democracy Tags: , , ,

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  • KennethMDavidson


  • Thanks for your comments, all. Shell’s decision to move forward with drilling in the Arctic is indeed unfortunate, and could have a significant impact on emissions; however, the largest determinant on our emissions will be how soon and how comprehensive of a climate policy we can get at the international and national levels. This is what will determine emissions from all companies and all sectors in the future.

    So while we certainly should monitor and try to influence individual company actions, my view is that one of the most important things we can do is eliminate obstructions to getting comprehensive emission-cutting policies in place. ALEC and its affiliate, the American City County Exchange (ACCE), unfortunately remain one of those obstructions. The less backing–both politically and financially–they have from companies, the less they will be able to influence policies on climate change. If there are other groups you think also deserve some attention in this regard, I’d love to hear about it.

  • js121

    What difference does it make if they leave now? They have already gotten all the ALEC laws implemented in Red States. They can and probably already are in Koch’s new group…ACCE which is mandated to takeover our city/counties. Leave; but, the damage is already done.

  • Richard Solomon

    One must view a decision by Shell to leave ALEC as a very limited positive step at best. As long as it pursues ventures like drilling for oil in the far northern Arctic Sea where a disaster is sure to happen at some point its so called shift to more openness about climate change is little more than a PR gambit, in my humble opinion.

  • ALEC is a rats nest on a sinking ship, and everyone’s abandoning them, for good reason … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXUPDAMc_6o

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