Oil Giant Shell Dumps ALEC Over Climate-Change Position

The move by one of the world's biggest energy companies is the latest in an exodus of corporate heavyweights from the controversial conservative group.

The Shell logo is shown at a Shell petrol station April 23, 2003 in London, England. (National Journal)

Royal Dutch Shell said Friday that it's severing ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a coalition of companies and conservative state lawmakers, over differences on climate change.

"ALEC advocates for specific economic growth initiatives, but its stance on climate change is clearly inconsistent with our own. We have long recognized both the importance of the climate challenge and the critical role energy has in determining quality of life for people across the world," Shell said in a statement.

Shell, which has faced pressure to dump ALEC from groups including the Union of Concerned Scientists and Common Cause, said it would let its association with ALEC lapse when "the current contracted term ends early next year."

It's the latest major corporation to bolt ALEC, which is under pressure from liberal activists over its stance on global warming and attacks on state green-energy standards, among other issues. Over the last year, a number of major corporations including Google, Facebook, BP, and Occidental Petroleum have abandoned the group.

The website Responding to Climate Change first reported Shell's decision.

ALEC, in a statement, criticized activists' portrayal of the group as climate-change "deniers."

"ALEC is opposed to government mandates and subsidies of all types. Climate change activists have conflated our opposition to the government picking winners and losers as climate change denial, and in turn, have pressured companies to part ways with the largest and most effective group of free-market legislators in the United States," the group said.

ALEC, in pushing back against the "denier" label, has recently pointed to its standing position that "human activity has and will continue to alter the atmosphere" and "may lead to demonstrable changes in climate, including a warming of the planetary mean temperature." Those phrases are found in "model legislation" ALEC has developed that also says: "Such activity may lead to deleterious, neutral, or possibly beneficial climatic changes."

However, ALEC's stance on climate change breaks with the scientific consensus that human activities, notably burning fossil fuels, have been the primary driver of global warming since the mid-20th century, and that it poses major dangers.

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a major 2013 report, concluded: "It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century." ("Extremely likely" means at least a 95 percent chance.) Reports by scientific organizations including the National Academy of Sciences have reached similar conclusions.

Shell has recently upped its profile on climate change, joining several other Europe-based global giants including BP and Statoil in calling for policies that impose a price on carbon-dioxide emissions.

ALEC says it's expanding despite the high-profile departures. "ALEC continues to grow rapidly because the American people want less government, less regulation and more opportunity to govern themselves," the group said.