UPDATED: A pleased environmental front has been celebrating some progress in getting Statoil to pull out of its Canadian oil sands project following the company’s AGM in Stavanger, Tuesday. At the same time, Statoil’s board voted to pour billions of kroner into owners’ pockets.
Money for new rope
According to Greenpeace, this year’s share value vote for withdrawal was almost twice that of 2011’s. 2.14 percent of the shareholders this year (equivalent to a share value of 7.6 billion kroner) voted in favour of pulling out, an increase of almost 0.9 percent. In addition, stakeholders with shares to the value of 15 million kroner abstained from voting.
“The WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) and Greenpeace are pleased that support for our cause is increasing among private and institutional shareholders,” said head of WWF Arild Skedsmo, and Greenpeace leader Truls Gulowsen in a joint statement.
Amongst those who voted against were Nordic insurance companies Norway’s Storebrand and Sweden’s Folkesam.
Following the massive 97.86 percent vote in favour of continuing with the oil sands, the Norwegian Church also sold its 15 million kroner’s worth share portfolio as previously threatened.
Majority shareholder the government owns 67 percent, but says it will not engage in corporate governance, however.
Skedsmo and Gulowsen added, “It is particularly disappointing that the government still does not listen to the clear advice to pull out that it has received from broad walks of life including the Sami Parliament and the Norwegian Church.”
Shareholders and the Norwegian state will be receiving an increased dividend payout this year of 20.7 billion kroner (approximately 3.45 billion dollars) thanks to the board’s decision.
The Foreigner spoke with Greenpeace’s Truls Gulowsen prior to the AGM, Tuesday. Whilst he thought that the shareholders would listen to what environmentalists had to say, he accused the company of possessing “a deep arrogance” regarding the oil sands project.
Greenpeace wind players at the protest
©2012 Michael Sandelson/The ForeignerIllustrating his point, he said Statoil had launched an “aggressive personal attack” on Canadian Indian chief François Paulette of the Dene Nation, who also spoke yesterday. The Chief has recently been on a tour of Norway, and has spoken to the Sami Church Council, which finds oil sands unacceptable in areas inhabited by indigenous people without their prior consent.
“Statoil questioned his competence to comment about the oil sands and have tried to undermine his position as leader. They argue his people are not living in Statoil’s areas, but they are still being affected.”
An unusually high cancer rate has been reported, according to the Council.
“Moreover, Statoil has the Norwegian decision-makers fooled and is employing media tactics to mislead both them and the media about world energy requirements justifying the need for oil sands.”
Gulowsen points out that part of the problem is the company claims its technology is environmentally “so much better than everyone else’s, and that Norwegians want to be proud of the fact that Statoil achieving extracting oil sands in this way.”
Oil sand extraction requires a lot of energy and emits copious amounts of CO2. Statoil claims it will manage to reduce these greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2025.
“It’s pie in the sky. The communications department has invented this figure. The more criticism the company receives, the more creative its stories become and the harder it sticks to defending its project,” he said.
“Oil sands will only contribute to global warming of six degrees, four above the two-degree target set at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009.”
Asked whether he thought environmentalists’ actions would sway the shareholders, Gulowsen replied, “both the [Norwegian and Sami] Church and the Nordic insurers represent very important moral and legal arguments for change.”
“The trouble is, many of the big money stakeholders would have made up their mind already beforehand, and most shareholders won’t be in the room. Statoil has no history, no direction, and is burying its head in its own oil sands,” he concluded.
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