Royal Dutch Shell recently announced that it would be cutting ties to the conservative lobbying group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC has been around since the early 1970s, and ever since the organization has been lobbying for less government regulation of industry and the economy. Lately, this desire for less regulation has caused serious friction with environmentalists, as ALEC has been lobbying against incentive programs like cap-and-trade, emissions-reduction programs like Pres. Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and subsidies for alternative energy sources such as wind and solar.
For years, Shell has gone on record stating that they acknowledge that climate change is real, and that they are taking steps to clean up their industry and make the switch to alternative energies as soon as it is feasible. For as many years, environmentalists have called their words hollow, pointing at Shell’s continued risky behavior (such as their recent plans to drill in the Arctic). The split with ALEC could be Shell’s way of demonstrating that they are more than just talk. Whether Shell will heed the advice of countless environmental groups and halt their exploration of the Arctic remains to be seen, but splitting with ALEC could be a sign of progress.
The move to cut ties with ALEC is a response to both external and internal impetus. Last fall, the Union of Concerned Scientists (the group which released their “climate deception dossiers” last month) ran a campaign asking Shell to make the split. Even Shell’s own shareholders have asked Shell to review and manage its climate change risks.
Shell follows in the footsteps of such corporate giants as BP oil, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook in severing ties with the lobbying group. As the consensus on climate change is becoming more and more accepted by the public, actions directly counter to climate change solutions are translating into lost revenues for ALEC. If the trends continue, ALEC will need to change its tune vis-à-vis climate change, or lose its privileged spot as a leading lobbying group.