Texas Lt. Gov. vowed to punish a firm for discriminating' against fossil fuels — but was a shareholder: report

Texas Lt. Gov. vowed to punish a firm for discriminating' against fossil fuels — but was a shareholder: report

In 2021, Republican Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick angrily railed against Wall Street investment firms that he claimed were unfairly discriminating against fossil fuels and showing a bias for green energy, and he vowed to support legislation that would require Texas’ state government to stop doing business with such firms when it came to retirement programs for state employees. Patrick, a vocal supporter of Texas State Senate Bill 13, singled out BlackRock as “the worst offender.” But according to a report in the Texas Monthly, Patrick continued to own BlackRock shares for months after he vowed to take on Wall Street firms he claimed had decided to “boycott” fossil fuels.

Moreover, Patrick “also owned BlackRock mutual funds, along with shares in other companies that have pledged to stop using oil and natural gas,” journalists Russell Gold and Dan Solomon report in a Texas Monthly article published on September 8.

“In recent years,” Gold and Solomon explain, “Wall Street has started to embrace socially responsible ‘ESG’ — environment, social, and corporate governance — investing. In general terms, this means considering factors beyond financial performance, such as commitment to sustainability and good working conditions. BlackRock and its chief executive, Larry Fink, are leading voices in the movement. In a letter to shareholders on January 17, Fink argued against the notion that ‘going woke,’ as he wrote, was the driver of the movement. Rather, he suggested, gradually moving investments away from fossil fuels and toward green industries such as wind and solar power is a sound investment strategy for growing resilient businesses that are viable for the long term.”

READ MORE: 'Or we can listen to the scientists': Bernie Sanders torches Joe Manchin's 'dirty' fossil fuel 'side deal'

According to Gold and Solomon, Patrick “hoped that through SB 13, which charged the Comptroller’s Office with compiling a list of offending firms, Texas could use the weight of its large retirement funds — the Teacher Retirement System of Texas has nearly $200 billion under management — to turn Wall Street against ESG investing.”

On January 19, Patrick wrote to Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar and specifically asked him to include BlackRock on the list of firms he considered anti-fossil fuels. Patrick told Hegar, “As you prepare the official list of companies that boycott energy companies, I ask that you include BlackRock…. BlackRock is capriciously discriminating against the oil and gas industry…. Texas will not do business with those that boycott fossil fuels.”

But according to Gold and Solomon, Patrick has not practiced what he preached.

“At the end of 2021, according to annual financial disclosures Texas Monthly obtained from the Texas Ethics Commission, Patrick owned between one share and 100 shares in BlackRock, potentially worth as much as $91,000,” the Texas Monthly journalists report. “On top of that, Patrick and his wife owned shares in three BlackRock mutual funds, which together, were worth between $15,000 and $58,000. The lieutenant governor also owned, either directly or with his wife, shares in several other companies that have taken pledges to use only renewable energy in the near future — including Apple, Meta, Microsoft and Walmart.”

READ MORE: Global warming will 'substantially exceed' 1.5 degrees Celsius unless fossil fuel production plummets: study

Gold and Solomon continue, “At the end of 2021, these holdings were worth between $92,000 and $460,000. Why such a wide range? Despite multiple attempts to ask for more details about how Patrick’s personal investments diverged from the laws he championed, no one from his office or campaign returned Texas Monthly’s calls. We also asked if he still owns those shares, or if he sold them at some point in 2022, but did not receive an answer. We may find the answers when Patrick’s next disclosure is filed, but that won’t be until next January…. (Patrick) seems to have decided that what was best for Texas wasn’t necessarily best for him.”

READ MORE: Paul Krugman: The US Supreme Court is promoting a climate change ‘apocalypse’

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