Global Financial Giants Swear Off Funding an Especially Dirty Fuel

Even large international oil companies began pulling out of the oil sands, including Shell in 2017.

A Shell representative said the company left because other companies with more oil-sands experience were better able to work there. But Andrew Leach, a professor of energy economics at the University of Alberta, said Shell was also responding to pressure from its own investors to pull out, given the high levels of greenhouse gases associated with oil extraction there.

“They were under significant pressure from their shareholders to pull out,” Dr. Leach said.

The latest blow came in December, when the rating company Moody’s downgraded the creditworthiness of Alberta’s debt to its lowest level in 20 years, citing, among other concerns, the province’s dependence on the oil sands and the environmental costs of extracting the oil.

In response to that pressure, Alberta has only increased its support of the oil sands.

Mr. Kenney, Alberta’s premier, has publicly vilified investors that left, complaining that some of those same investors also finance oil production in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, which have lower greenhouse gas emissions per barrel but far worse human-rights records.

Mr. Kenney also promised to strip government contracts from companies such as HSBC and also threatened to put up billboards in the London subway, where the bank is based, intended to embarrass it for investing in Saudi Arabia while spurning Alberta.

Spokeswomen for HSBC and for Mr. Kenney both declined to say whether Alberta had canceled government contracts with the bank.

“I refuse to allow us to be lectured to by European banks and insurance companies” that do business with Middle Eastern oil producers, Mr. Kenney said in October. “We’re going to take that right to their doorsteps in Europe.”

After Moody’s downgraded the province in December, Mr. Kenney lumped it in with other global finance companies as biased, misinformed, or both.