“Extreme fossil fuels” are those that come from the most difficult and dangerous sources, and generate the worst pollution. Big banks upped their investments in such projects last year.
You’d think they’d do the opposite, considering Europe’s nascent carbon-neutral economies, and Millennials’ avowed interest in saving the planet. Despite political, moral, or scientific arguments, the risk profile of fossil fuels — the cap ex and operational costs of extraction, generation, and distribution, over time — should be getting less attractive to lenders and investors, not more so.
What’s going on? Here are three theories that aren’t mutually exclusive, and none of them are good:
Crumbling Global Consensus on Climate Change
According to the Financial Times, financing of extreme fossil fuel projects declined in 2016, which was the year the Paris climate accord was signed. Only a year later, American and Canadian banks were leading the upsurge, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that North America’s extreme projects include tar sands, deep offshore wells, drilling in the Arctic wilderness, and pipelines.
Perhaps financiers are relying on continuing favorable political support (and/or betting that pressure for further global limits won’t be forthcoming)…
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