They did it again! The smart people at Fossil Free Indexes published the new 2016 Top 200 fossil fuel companies by size of reserves — click The Carbon Underground 200. This is the list used by most divestment campaigns as the point of departure for the discussion of how to define fossil fuels when considering divestment.

Before we jump into the highlights from the new list, please note that access to the full 200 names must now go through the Fossil Free Indexes webpage. The annual public list will continue to be available for downloading at no charge to asset owners and divestment campaigners.

Campaigners will continue to be able to get the list for free, just a couple more hoops to go through (checking terms and conditions boxes, etc.). However, like most lists of stocks to avoid, if you want to use the list for commercial purposes, as in you are an asset manager who would like to use this data for investment decisions, then the list will have to be purchased. This new process is to prevent financial professionals from selling or profiting from this information without legally licensing it from Fossil Free Indexes. We’ll post the top 20 and the link to the full list here.               

So, what should we know about the new 2016 list?                

First, you should note that since the last report in February of 2015, 49 new companies – 35 coal companies and 14 oil companies were added to the CU200 list             

The other big news is that “the potential emissions owned by companies on the list declined by almost 15% from last year.” There are several reasons for this decline in emissions, but the largest factors were the “conditions facing coal companies, including, coal mine suspensions and closures.” Social pressures, like the divestment movement, are likely to have played a role in that too, as companies like Peabody Energy have cited Divestment as a material risk in their annual reports.                                

An exciting addition is that for the first time this report also provides carbon footprint data for the CU200, produced by The South Pole Group. It shows that a $100 million investment into the CU200 would be like owning 111,664 tons of GHG emissions per year or roughly 23,600 cars driving around for one year.                                     

When you open the list, you’ll again see that he top 10 companies account for 70% of the Oil and Gas 100 total. That level of consolidation and centralization is a sign of a stressed and vulnerable sector. In the wake of the plummeting oil price, Big Oil seized the opportunity to double down on more unburnable carbon by acquiring debt-stressed smaller companies.                  

The coal industry remains concentrated at the top as well, with 50% of the Coal 100 emissions sitting in the reserves of the top 10 companies. I would suggest reading through the report if you are particularly interested in coal,  the analyses on the coal industry are broad and interesting.         

For example, they explain why over the past year coal mine closures and suspensions, rather than coal company bankruptcies, have been the primary factor in the 15% emissions reduction referred to earlier — as declaring bankruptcy does not necessarily result in the suspension or closure of operations. Peabody Energy declared bankruptcy in April and is still number 10 on the coal list.

Exxon is number 4 on the list, after Russian and Chinese State-run oil and gas companies, sitting on almost 8 billion tons of potential CO2. Exxon just announced their quarterly profit from producing oil and gas fell about 85%. As Reuters put it, “reflecting the broad malaise in the energy sector.” This follows over 6 years of Exxon under-performing the stock markets, not to mention the broader fossil fuel industry under-performance.
I hope you find the new list helpful and it proves a helpful resource in your campaigns’ divestment discourse. Please feel free to connect with the good folks at Fossil Free Indexes if you or your institution has questions about the list. Happy divesting.