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« Climatologists and moral choices | Main | Rusbridger asks my question »

BBC joins Guardian divestment campaign

With Alan Rusbridger's divestment campaign being relentlessly hammered in the Guardian, it's no surprise to see Roger Harrabin answering the call to arms with an article at the BBC on the same subject. It's quite funny in parts:

Are we approaching the twilight of the fossil fuel era? A few years ago that question would have seemed absurd. But a combination of forces is squeezing carbon assets like never before.

The oil price remains stubbornly low.

And of course we can't burn the fossil fuels, blah blah.

The oil price is of course low because of a surge in production. I'm struggling to see oversupply of a commodity as the herald of its downfall. Readers should also rest assured that the consequences of divestment for the Third World are not addressed. For the BBC and the Guardian and their fellow travellers it is morally wrong to consider such unpleasantness.

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Reader Comments (72)

This is slightly OT, but I may have been half asleep eating my breakfast & munching on my cereal, but on the BBC Breakfast show this morning, I had this weird dream that they had an American guy on from the fracking industry, saying things like there was nothing wrong with fracking, & that fossil fuels are going to be around for a long time yet, or words to that effect. I am sure I was dreaming, was I?

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Do those who urge the corporates to divest of fossil-fuel stock, themselves relinquish of the use of fossil fuels? Now. 100%.

If not, they're bl@@dy hypocrites.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

It was only a year or two ago that the Twilight of the Fossil Fuel Era was being heralded by high oil prices.

Now it's being heralded by low oil prices..

Oil prices, eh? Is there nothing they can't do?

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterkellydown

Grauniad and BBC fail simple Economics question, about supply and demand, and instead try price rigging.

In hindsight, Pryce rigging evidence, is more apt.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

It's all a joke as none of the climateers are serious about it, according to the FT.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:54 PM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

You did not mishear, the guy goes by the name of the 'Frack Master' ( and he did make a solid defence of fracking. Must have caused the BBC staffers to choke on their meusli in the subsidised canteen

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered Commenteranon

To be fair to Harrabin, he did also tweet
"Why we should NOT divest from #fossilfuels. Excellent piece from @johngapper "
linking to Fossil fuel campaigners play charades in the FT.

One interesting comment towards the end of the Harrabin piece is
"one industry source told me the oil giants simply don’t expect governments to keep their promises to cut carbon emissions."

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:56 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

It is another example of BBC environmental activists being allowed to write half-baked political articles for the business pages. Rusbridger is departing the Guardian. Would that we were approaching the twilight of the Harrabin era.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Our modern system can only exist as it is because people have chosen to abandon rationalism. There is no possible way to justify the type of polices that the greens advocate because they are based on ignorance of reality. Ironically, many of the cheerleaders for fracking have the exact same problem. While they are correct about the safety and environmental issues they ignore the fact that the shale production has been enabled by cooperation between the central banks, which keep adding liquidity into the financial markets, and the financial sector, which is happy to ignore the economics of shale production and make profit from the underwriting fees as it seeks to find a greater fool to take the high yield bonds that will never be repaid at the maturity date or redeemed at anywhere close to face value.

The simple fact is that shale is not economic outside of a few small core areas in good formations. Instead of destroying capital the free markets would have allocated energy investments in areas where it makes sense to explore. Given the mechanisms that create oil and gas it is a virtual guarantee that most oil producing areas have abundant undiscovered gas supplies that could be exploited. The reason that they are undiscovered has to do with marketing. When the oil was first discovered drilling the deeper formations for gas made no sense because the gas would be stranded and had no economic value. That has changed and the next global gas powerhouses should be the very nations that are the oil producing leaders at this time with the exception of the US and Canada, where gas exploration has been extensive.

The solution is free markets, not economic activity managed by state capitals.

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterVangelV

"I'm struggling to see oversupply of a commodity as the herald of its downfall"

NIce comment Andrew, the sarcasm is dripping darkly from your fangs dear thing and well said!

Like all lefties and 99.9% of economists come to think of it, whether they be of red or blue hued - Harrabin is totally discombobulated by anything related to the dynamics of basic demand and supply economics, when it comes to the intricacies of free markets, they haven't a clue and really that's why Britain is up s*&7 creek and no paddle.

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Funny how everyone on this site, now seems to care about the 'Poor Africans'. Keep up the good work.

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Yes, free markets are the rational answer to almost everything. Politicians hate them because market mechanisms create 'winners' and 'losers'; losers tend to blame politicians for letting them lose, and retaliate by not voting for the politicians they deem responsible - so politicians always want to manipulate markets to make losing painless as possible or indeed make it seem to losers that they are not actually losing! Professional self-interest trumps everything.

Perhaps someone could remind Comrade Rusbridger what percentage of the country's pensions Shell's dividends alone account for? Or perhaps he thinks that people should only have the State pension (while permitting himself to be an exceptional case, of course).

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Steve 2:51 it is lucky that someone cares about Africans (and others suffering from fuel poverty) because Global Warming Scaremongers only express concern, if their deaths can be linked to rising CO2. They have given up on Global Warming, as it was going nowhere.

Apr 16, 2015 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Roger Harrabin " Are we now approaching the twilight of the fossil fuel era?"

No Roger, we are emerging from the darkness of the Global Warming Scare Story era.

The Dark Age of Science is over. Long live enlightenment.

Apr 16, 2015 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Golf Charlie...sadly not many people do care.

Apr 16, 2015 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Sadly, the only truly sane party with regards to climate change (UKIP), does not have a history of supporting poverty reduction across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Apr 16, 2015 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Steve: sadly not many people do care.

Maybe not in the West. But a lot of people in Africa care. Here's one:

“It is hypocritical for western governments who have funded their industrialisation using fossil fuels, providing their citizens with enough power, to say to African countries, ‘You cannot develop dams, you cannot develop coal, just rely on these very expensive renewables’. African countries will not listen.”
Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank (LINK)

Apr 16, 2015 at 3:47 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

You missed my point Robin...I was more meaning not many people care about 'Africans' in the West.

Apr 16, 2015 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

@Anon: It made me choke on mine! I couldn't believe what I was hearing & no Lucie Speigel droning & moaning (or should that be moaning & droning?) on about how "we all know that we must out carbon footprints!"

Apr 16, 2015 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Steve: not many people care about 'Africans' in the West

Maybe. But there are signs of change. Here for example is Yvo de Boer (erstwhile UN climate chief):

Coal will be a “necessary part of the energy mix for decades to come,” The polluting but cheap fuel is a “logical choice” for emerging economies like India, China and South Africa. “You really have to be able to offer these countries an economically viable alternative, before you begin to rule out coal.”


And here's an extract from the 'Ecomodernist Manifesto' mentioned by His Grace yesterday when referring to an article (amazingly) in the New York Times:

Climate change and other global ecological challenges are not the most important immediate concerns for the majority of the world’s people. Nor should they be. A new coal-fired power station in Bangladesh may bring air pollution and rising carbon dioxide emissions but will also save lives. For millions living without light and forced to burn dung to cook their food, electricity and modern fuels, no matter the source, offer a pathway to a better life, even as they also bring new environmental challenges. ... Absent profound technological change there is no credible path to meaningful climate mitigation.

Perhaps the tide is turning.

Apr 16, 2015 at 4:17 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Common views in the global development world.

Apr 16, 2015 at 4:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Those BRICs were just muttering to themselves for their own amusement. Where has Steve been, that he thinks concern for the third world is something new?

Apr 16, 2015 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Like all lefties and 99.9% of economists come to think of it, whether they be of red or blue hued - Harrabin is totally discombobulated by anything related to the dynamics of basic demand and supply economics, when it comes to the intricacies of free markets, they haven't a clue and really that's why Britain is up s*&7 creek and no paddle.

It is a lot worse than that my friend. The actions of the politicians on both the left and the right show that there is little disagreement about the wisdom of a planned economy. The reason why we have so much trouble in this great world of ours is because the disagreements are minor and technical. How can anyone argue that we should let the markets work as s/he supports central banking as a viable institution? How can we celebrate shale production when it is created by the destruction of productive capital that was enabled by liquidity that made possible the financing of uneconomic oil and gas production? Anyone who has looked at the SEC filings, listened in on the conference calls, and paid attention to the sector knows that the total energy cost of directly producing shale oil is almost equal to the energy content of the oil that is produced. The difference is insufficient to pay for the royalties and indirect costs. Expect to see a collapse in the sector as the bond problem attracts more attention and the depreciation cost issue finally sees the light of day.

Apr 16, 2015 at 4:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterVangelV

Kim, it's been lacking to be fair but as I said earlier, the only party in the UK to have a sensible policy on AGW is UKIP and sadly they care little about global development.

Apr 16, 2015 at 4:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

The picture must be all of the Gardian staff and the canteen staf of the BBC. Impressive !! /sarc

Apr 16, 2015 at 5:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards


What planet have you just descended from ? I suggest an early return.

Apr 16, 2015 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

If the greens want to divest of their fossil fuel stocks that's absolutely fine by me. It means the stock can be bought and enjoyed (hopefully at a low price as a result of this divestment surge) and held by those of us who believe in the economic and moral benefits of supplying cheap fossil fuels to the third world.

I'm buying!

Apr 16, 2015 at 5:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Steve, your comments concerning UKIP may be reasonable, but I take the view that we have to get our house in order economically in order to be strong enough to help others in the world. Dumping the climate change act here and removing the stupid restrictions on third world development imposed by climate nutters are both positive actions which are also attractive because they are reducing spending. What's not to like?

Another way I like to think about third world support is by way of analogy to the oxygen masks on airplanes. In the event of cabin pressure failure the masks will drop down. Make sure you fit your own mask before helping others. Why? Because if you pass out helping someone else first, and fail, you both die.

UKIP is the only party pointing at the other elephant in the room in terms of UK fiscal policy: the deficit is small beer compared to the national debt. And I think most of the punters (and most of the politicians want us to) think that the deficit IS the national debt. While the deficit remains our borrowing requirement is STILL increasing. Currently the average taxpayer pays around £2,000.00 per annum in tax just to service the annual interest on the national debt. And the f**kers still want want to borrow more, such as the Greens and Labour.

Apr 16, 2015 at 5:35 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

If the greens want to divest of their fossil fuel stocks that's absolutely fine by me. It means the stock can be bought and enjoyed (hopefully at a low price as a result of this divestment surge) and held by those of us who believe in the economic and moral benefits of supplying cheap fossil fuels to the third world.

But you forget step two, my friend. After they divest from the companies the greens will propose taxing away all the profits of outright nationalization. Profiting from their stupidity is not as easy as it should be because we do not have a free market to punish the fools and reward the wise.

Apr 16, 2015 at 6:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterVangelV

The funny thing is, is that we are approaching the end of fossil fuel use, but not for the usual reasons given.
See Industrial Heat's 1 MW LENR plant here now ~3 months into a full one year trial.
I forecast this cheap, clean, safe way of getting energy will largely replace fossil fuels in 1 - 3 decades.

Apr 16, 2015 at 7:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdrian Ashfield

Lots of people with real world experience and household bill paying in that picture.


Apr 16, 2015 at 7:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterATheoK

I thought Harrabin had moved on to some spruiking lobby group?

What is he doing with a taxpayer funded BBC megaphone?

Apr 16, 2015 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

thinkingscientist - Glad we agree that UKIP are not a party who is on the side of the 'Africans'. Personally, I am not of the persuasion that 'charity starts at home'...more about both personally. Also, don't mean to be a pedant but 'Third World' is so 1982!

Apr 16, 2015 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Are Harvard freshman dorms a wise iconic choice or the Bish ?

The university's president has repeatedly said No to divestment.

Apr 16, 2015 at 8:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Cooey, Bono? Where is the Crown Prince of Sanctimony when you need him?

Apr 16, 2015 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Steve: why should anyone in this country be too concerned about “poverty reduction” in other countries? That, surely, is the remit of that country’s (or those countries’) politicians, not ours – particularly when there is claimed to be so much poverty growing in this country. Of course, poverty is relative; odd how the pols of the countries you seek pity upon travel in long, well-armed convoys of flash cars through the villages of the starving.

Or are you one who thinks that it is only the white man who can solve the ills of the poor brown people? After independence from Britain, all those in the empire had an infrastructure of roads, railways, water, electricity, telephones and radio/TV. Some countries built upon it, others just p1$$ed it up against a wall, and are still trying (and, in cases like yourself, succeeding) to blame it all on the white man.

Apr 16, 2015 at 11:08 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Radical Rodent. Apr 16, 2015 at 11:08 PM


If people become dependent upon foreign aid, weaning these same people off handout dependency is the mother of all jobs, as it is.......and thanks to open door unlimited immigration - I will throw you a few figures:

According to the 2011 Census, a staggering 8,750,000 Asians now live in Britain. They now make up almost 14% of the population!

One in seven UK citizens are of Asian ethnicity. Alarmed? We’ve only just begun...

Over 3,750,000 people identified themselves as either Black or Mixed Race – another 6% of the population. If you add in 2.3 million identifying themselves as European/Eastern European = ± 25% of UK population on 2011 figures [which incidentally are way out - imho].

Some of them, mainly though not exclusively the Europeans work damned hard and are entitled to free schooling and all the benefits the UK can offer, the NHS is held up as some role model - "where would we be without all the foreign doctors and nurses?" the refrain often goes - to which I would retort - should not these doctors and nurses be better employed in their home countries such as; India, Bangladesh and the republic of Philippines etc?
Yes lots of immigrants are gainfully employed and good luck to them. However, some ethnic groups are between 75-80% unemployed and that's a very big problem - for all UK taxpayers, Again, "we" or HMG are borrowing £90 billion this financial year - I shall not linger on the lunacy of such wanton fiscal and monetary mismanagement.

Indeed, back to the point - no longer can there be any moral justification for borrowing to give it away - doling out £billions in foreign aid - when we are dishing out £billions in 'foreign aid' here in the UK.

On the near horizon, a double storm starts to coalesce and just as the UK HMS scuttlebutt is navigating towards the straits between Scylla and Charybdis.

Double trouble, a problem the political claque refuse even to acknowledge. That, many of these new arrivals seem to have the idea that we must accommodate their ways and even for us to adopt and adapt our country to suit their culture and creed - that's probably the biggest threat to our identity - perhaps even, it is a greater threat than is the financial drain and chaos of the green agenda.

I really do fear for this nation, even those strange bod's called eternal optimists [and I like to think I believe in the eternal and infinite promise and optimism of science and of the human spirit], but reading the runes would probably conclude that here in the UK the omens are not at all promising.

Apr 17, 2015 at 1:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

I tried posting a comment on the Al Gore article in the Grauniad citing the most recent evidence that human activity is unlikely to be the cause of warming to any worrying degree, which, of course, was taken down immediately. The fact that the emminent climate scientist Murry Salby, famed for his greenhouse gas knowledge and discovery, was sacked from his job for daring to suggest that fossil fuel burning has had little or no effect on CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere there appearing to be an inbuilt balancing mechanism in the process. Facism was this extreme but science and the media?

I want a clean planet for the right reasons and not to foster the cause of alternative power sources.

Apr 17, 2015 at 1:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterA D Am

I posted this over at Nature a few minutes ago, writing from India.
For the last 20 years fossil fuel use has been growing at almost exactly seven times the rate of non-carbon forms of energy. The 40% increase in global energy use has allowed the number of middle-class people in the world, i.e. those with white goods in their homes, to double to 3B. BP estimate a further increase in energy use by 40% over the next 20 years as the global middle class reaches 5B, half of that increase in and around India where I am writing from. Fully seven-eigths of that growth will be based on fossil fuels. Alan Rushbridger should get real. The foundations should be encouraged to work on new alternative energy technologies that will actually power the megacities where half the people will live by 2050, and where the current renewable energy systems have precisely nothing to offer. Above all patience will be the key; only nuclear fusion and solar photovoltaic energy systems have been invented since biblical times

Apr 17, 2015 at 4:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterMJK

I have no idea why idiot politicians from the three major parties in the UK weep crocodile tears for the 'poor Africans' while allowing disgraceful lunatics like Mugabe to drastically impoverish his own country and countryfolk to the point of them literally having to include soil as a part of their diet. But I guess it's okay, as he is an old Marxist 'Freedom Fighter', a breed beloved of the politicians of the Green and the Left. Greens are determined to reduce the surviving portion of the world population to eating dirt and living in caves after they have wrought their own brand of madness.
Frankly, let the Africans get on with building power stations, etc, as that seems a lot more sensible than teaching them how to make films glorifying subsistence farming at the expense of the UK taxpayer.

Apr 17, 2015 at 5:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

“… a combination of forces is squeezing carbon assets like never before … The oil price remains stubbornly low …”.
The useful idiots seem to be muddling up the commodity price and the share price.
Despite their campaign Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell seem to be holding up, but even if they do have an effect it will simply provide an opportunity for astute buyers.

Apr 17, 2015 at 5:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

#GreensDontCare #GreenHypocrisy #GreenStupidity #AlinskyTactics #DoomsdayCult #UnintendedConsquences #GreenWorldNotRealWorld

.... Skeptics care about : logic, truth, justice, science, reality, freespeech, poverty, opportunity

Apr 17, 2015 at 7:44 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

@Steve @Athelstan
TRADED : Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, etc.
AIDED : Africa, Haiti etc.

So history shows 'trade not aid' is a valid tool for global development, thus parties like UKIP are the ones with practical solutions. In response to @Steve's points
- "the only truly sane party with regards to climate change (UKIP), does not have a history of supporting poverty reduction across Sub-Saharan Africa."
- "the only party in the UK to have a sensible policy on AGW is UKIP and sadly they care little about global development."

..BTW guess what the NoDashForGas camp uses for cooking ? Ans

Apr 17, 2015 at 7:55 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

It is people's basic right to divest and encourage others to do so.

Happily this right is available in the case of fossil fuels. And the Guardian.

But not the BBC. This must change - we need to scrap the licence fee and the the special BBC political privileges.

Apr 17, 2015 at 7:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterTuppence

The oil price remains stubbornly low.

That is a worry if you work in the oil industry, especially for those involved in exploration to discover new oil fields. Is that what the BBC had in mind?

Apr 17, 2015 at 8:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

RadicalRodent - Agree with you re white men being a long way from knowing what's best for 'brown people'. The rest of your response, kind of backs up my original comment.

Apr 17, 2015 at 8:09 AM | Unregistered Commentersteve

"The oil price remains stubbornly HIGH." is a phrase the BBC failed to use in the last 30 years of high oil prices
yet it dropped only after the Scottish referendum in September, 7 months ago ..and BBC describe 7 months as stubborn

Apr 17, 2015 at 8:11 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

To show you really believe the CO2 output of individuals is bringing catastrophe and change can stop it.
You :
#TakeResponsibility - go offgrid yourself for 365 days/year ..
or #BlameSomeoneElse - go on a demo against oil companies 1 day/year

... smart students make easy choices ?

Apr 17, 2015 at 8:21 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

I also saw that interview with the 'Frackmaster' - where, to my mind, he missed a golden opportunity to rubbish the BBC's graphic. This of course showed the horizontal drilling section as though it was only a few feet below the aquifier layer, and subsequently that fracking could permeate the aquifier layer. In fact of course, fracking takes place about a MILE underground (six times the height of The Shard) - so this concern is completely impossible.
The BBC ALWAYS show fracking graphics like this - and never makes ANY attempt to clarify the distortion of scale.
The 'Frackmaster' also missed the opportunity to clarify that fracking, far from being some new, dodgy process, has been in use worldwide since the 1940's and in the UK since the 1980's...

Apr 17, 2015 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Radical Rodent

You ask why we should worry about poverty reduction in Africa. Well ignoring the obvious basic morality for a moment, the best reason is because they would then be less inclined to move here in droves. A second reason is population stabilisation which is clearly linked to prosperity. A third reason is the control of hellish diseases that may one day arrive at our shores and wipe us out. Lastly there are a lot of useful resources there that could be used for the betterment of all of us should they be persuaded to throw down their guns and pick up shovels instead: At the moment the Chinese are grabbing all the best stuff.

That African governments are (for whatever reason) obviously more corrupt and inept than western governments is obvious and we don't need to worry about the white mans burden or political correctness to just recognise that fact. But blaming the plight of ordinary Africans for the inadequacy of their leaders is extremely unfair. The common UK citizen cannot be blamed for the Iraq debacle, the financial crisis, industrial decline, the housing shortage or any of the numerous bl##dy stupid consequences of UK government policy of both left and right.

We have enough dogma from the faux-greens so we don't need another dose from you free-marketeers. Just study the results of free market experiments rather than quoting the musings of a couple of deluded Austrian academics. Free markets may theoretically reward the wise and punish the fools but real experience tells us they reward the criminals and punish everyone else. Even if this means that we can roughly equate the wise to the criminals and the fools to the rest of the population, it's not particularly surprising but neither is it sound economic policy. Man is not the rational economic unit of simplistic models, he is too often ruled by fear, greed, hate, sheer ignorance or blind dogma.

Apr 17, 2015 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

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