blackrock building
The recent decision by officials in Louisiana and Missouri to liquidate their states' investments in Wall Street heavyweight BlackRock reflects the growing recognition that the interests of the financial elites are at odds with the aspirations of ordinary Americans.

Louisiana will be yanking its $794 million investment in BlackRock by the end of the year, and Missouri will follow suit by terminating its $300 million account with the firm.

At stake is more than just the financial security of pension plans for state employees. The political agenda pursued by investment houses, such as BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard, are increasingly being seen as posing a threat to a way of life for people far removed from Wall Street boardrooms.

"Your blatant anti-fossil fuel policies would destroy Louisiana's economy," State Treasurer John Schroder wrote in an Oct. 5 letter to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink. "This divestment is necessary to protect Louisiana from actions and policies that would actively seek to hamstring our fossil-fuel sector."

"In my opinion," Schroder continued, "your support of ESG [Environment, Social, and Governance] investing is inconsistent with the best economic interests and values of Louisiana. I cannot support an institution that would deny our state the benefits of its most robust assets. Simply put, we cannot be party to the crippling of our own economy."

"Quixotic Climate Agenda"

A few weeks before Louisiana and Missouri announced they were pulling the plug on their investments in BlackRock, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and 18 other state attorneys general sent their own letter to Fink. "The time has come for BlackRock to come clean on whether it actually values our states' most valued stakeholders, and current and future retirees, or risk losses even more significant than those risked by BlackRock's quixotic climate agenda."

While Louisiana and Missouri divested from BlackRock, other states considering sending a message to ESG funds could cast their proxy votes against the investment house's management. This would raise a public stink and draw attention to the many perils of ESG investing.

Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) problems are not limited to BlackRock. Bloomberg (Oct. 24) reports that the sector is coming under increased regulatory scrutiny and enforcement globally. Widespread suspicions that ESG asset managers sell products that promise more than they can deliver in terms of being truly "sustainable" investments have tarnished ESG's name. "That's raised questions about the ESG credentials of the funds, and fed concerns about widespread greenwashing," Bloomberg noted.

At a deeper level, ESG asset managers, who might fancy themselves the vanguard of a planet-saving transition to green energy, seem oblivious to what the Manhattan Institute's Mark P. Mills calls "immutable energy realities." The digital age, with all of its snazzy gadgetry, has fundamentally altered our relationship with energy.

"Historically, the energy costs of manufacturing a product roughly tracked the weight of the thing produced," Mills wrote in a recent Manhattan Institute report. "A refrigerator weighs about 200 times more than a hair dryer and takes nearly 100 time more energy to fabricate. But it takes nearly as much energy to make one smartphone as it does one refrigerator, even though the latter weighs 1,000 times more. The world produces nearly 10 times more smartphones a year than refrigerators. Thus, the global fabrication of smartphones now uses 15% more energy as does the entire automotive industry, even though a car weighs 10,000 times more than a smartphone."

Equally immutable are the barriers standing in the way of achieving "net-zero" carbon emissions over the next couple of decades. For example, the transition from gasoline-powered vehicles to EVs, wherein mining for minerals would replace extraction of crude oil, would entail environmental degradation on a scale that can't be captured on an ESG asset manager's spreadsheets. Mills cites a seminal May 2021 report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that estimated that just a partial decarbonization of the world's energy use "shows the need to increase the supply of minerals such as lithium, graphite, nickel, and rare earths by 4,300%, 2,500%, 1,900%, and 700%, respectively."

Degradation of another kind will result from efforts to reduce atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2). Today's gradually rising levels of CO2 have been highly beneficial to plant life, including crops, and efforts to lower CO2 in the air — whether by government decree or by ESG investment strategies — pose a threat to all forms of life. "Life begins to fade at half of today's CO2 levels and dies almost completely at one quarter of today's values," notes William Happer, professor of physics, emeritus, at Princeton University. "Geological history has demonstrated that life flourishes abundantly at double or quadruple the CO2 levels of today."

For Thee but Not for Me

"ESG-style decarbonization is a fraud whereby its proponents design a system to constrain our lives, but not theirs," says Scott Shepard, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project.

"People who live in mansions and fly to Davos in private jets have no business pushing carbon restrictions that will hobble living standards and future prospects for the rest of us," he added.

Bonner Russell Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.