The figures, being revealed today by the Sunday Herald, are the first authoritative and detailed account of the bank’s controversial financing of the companies blamed for causing global warming.
Among the 66 companies backed by RBS are well-known names like BP, Shell, ConocoPhilips, Tullow Oil, Trafigura and Cairn Energy. The bank has helped them raise many hundreds of millions of pounds to finance oil exploration, extraction and development around the world.
To environmental groups and the hundreds of climate protestors currently camped on RBS’s lawn near Edinburgh, the revelations prove that the bank is guilty of an unforgivable crime against the planet.
But to the bank, which does not dispute the figures, they just show that someone has to raise the money to extract the fuels on which we all depend before we can work out how to phase them out.
According to figures from the financial information company, Bloomberg, RBS has directly loaned nearly £3.6 billion to fossil fuel companies since the bailout on 13 October 2008. At the same time, the bank has helped raise equity finance worth £9.3 billion.
The biggest amount has gone to the US oil giant, ConocoPhilips, which gained access to £917 million thanks to RBS. The Dutch company, Shell, got £909 million, while Britain’s BP netted £633 million (see table below).
Another of the major beneficiaries of the bank’s efforts has been the British-based multinational, Tullow Oil. Over the last two years, RBS has helped raise £448 million for the company.
But its activities in Uganda and the Congo have recently attracted fierce criticism. Production of up to 200,000 barrels of oil a day is scheduled to start soon in one of Uganda’s most environmentally sensitive areas.
“Tullow has colluded with the government to avoid a genuine assessment of the risks,” alleged Taimour Lay, a campaigner who has investigated what’s been happening in Uganda.
“Ugandans are still waiting for a strategic environmental assessment of the risks of drilling at Lake Albert and in the national parks. They are struggling to find ways to hold the company to account.”
In the Congo, Tullow has been trying to convince the government to do a deal on oil exploration by offering generous “signature bonuses”. The government, however, seems to have ended up awarding the licenses to two companies registered in the British Virgin Islands.
RBS has also helped the contentious company, Trafigura, raise £210 million. Last month the London-based oil trader was fined £840,000 by a court in the Netherlands for illegally exporting tonnes of toxic waste which allegedly made 30,000 people ill on the Ivory Coast in West Africa.
“It’s outrageous that bailed-out banks like RBS are using public money to finance some of the most controversial fossil fuel companies in the world,” said James Marriott from Platform.
“The fossil fuel industry depends on injections of private finance to drill more wells, build longer pipelines and dig new mines. RBS has prided itself in specializing in this sector, so it's no surprise that it's now facing a backlash from an increasingly climate conscious public.”
Campaigners claimed that less than ten per cent of all RBS funding for the energy industry goes to help non-polluting technologies like solar, wind, wave and tidal power. But the bank suggested the figure was more like 20%, and pointed out that 40% of its project finance in the last five years had helped renewable energy.
"As a major international bank we provide support for businesses working across many industries and reflect the make-up of society and the economy,” said an RBS spokesman.
“Just as society as a whole has to make a transition to renewable energy sources so will banks like RBS. In fact in recent years, RBS has been one of the most active banks in the world in providing funding for renewable energy projects.”
There has also been controversy over Cairn Energy. The Edinburgh-based company received £117 million in loans and equity from RBS in 2009. Almost half of that directly helped it start exploratory drilling off Greenland in July this year.
Greenland is frontier territory for the oil industry because it hasn’t been exploited before. As well as potential wealth, it will inevitably bring new environmental risks, all too obvious since BP’s disaster at the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico.
The area in which Cairn is drilling has been nicknamed ‘iceberg alley’. Earlier this month, an iceberg four times the size of Manhattan broke off the Petermann glacier in north western Greenland, probably because of the rising temperatures caused by climate pollution.
Experts point out that the melting ice will make exploration for oil easier in parts of Greenland – an irony that has been seized upon by the protestors. "Companies like Cairn are despicably exploiting climate change by drilling for oil in areas that have only become accessible by glaciers melting,” claimed Sharon Condry.
She is one of the many climate campers who are expected to take part in a mass action to try and close down RBS headquarters tomorrow. “We are targeting RBS on Monday in order to throttle the flow of finance that enables fossil fuel companies like Cairn to trash the climate and endanger more catastrophic offshore oil spills," she said.
Adam Ma’anit, a researcher from the campaign group, Platform, who has been investigating Cairn’s activities, called on the UK government to stop “reckless” lending by RBS and to promote a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the fragile Arctic.
He said: "Companies like Cairn couldn't drill in the Arctic without the support of financial institutions such as RBS. Time and again, RBS has shown itself to be the oil and gas industry's best friend.”
Cairn Energy said it was grateful for assistance from RBS. Its move into Greenland waters had been triggered by the decision of the country’s government to open up areas for exploration, not by melting icecaps.
“Through its operations globally, Cairn has demonstrated the ability to develop and manage complex exploration and drilling projects successfully, while striving to minimise the negative impact on local communities,” said a company spokesman.
“The biodiversity and environment offshore Greenland mean that Cairn has a particular responsibility to ensure Cairn’s operations do not present unnecessary risks.”
The response from Tullow Oil was more terse. "Both the decision by RBS to invest in Tullow and whether it is an ethical investment for them are questions for RBS and not for Tullow,” said a company spokeswoman.
When this week’s demonstrations are over and the campers have been arrested or gone home, RBS is likely to remain under pressure. Environmental groups have just launched a “people’s charter” in place of the bank’s widely advertised “customer charter”.
The people’s charter challenges the bank to pull out of environmentally damaging projects. “RBS continues to invest heavily in the fossil fuel industry and deny any responsibility for the climate change and human rights implications of these activities,” said Mary Church from Friends of the Earth Scotland.
“This position is untenable: if you sell someone an AK-47 rifle knowing full well what they are going to do with it, you clearly bear some responsibility for the consequences.”
The money that RBS has put into the oil and gas industry
Company / total loan and equity funding from RBS since 13 October 2008
1. ConocoPhillips / £917m
2. Shell / £909m
3. BP / £633m
4. Consol Energy / £588m
5. ENI / £487m
6. MOL Hungarian / £505m
7. Tullow Oil / £448m
8. Citgo Petroleum / £433m
9. Lukoil / £423m
10. Fayetteville / £353m
11. KazMunaiGaz/ £321m
12. Kinder Morgan / £321m
13. Enterprise Products / £313m
14. Targa Resources / £275m
15. Hess / £268m
16. International Petroleum / £257m
17. Dolphin Energy / £244m
18. Statoil / £243m
19. Trafigura / £210m
20. Williams Partners / £200m
21. Regency Gas Services / £191m
22. Midcontinent / £171m
23. Polski Koncern / £167m
24. BG Energy Capital / £167m
25. DCP Midstream / £160m
26. Energy Transfer / £160m
27. Sprague Energy / £155m
28. Tatneft / £154m
29. Linn Energy / £146m
30. Vitol / £146m
31. Anadarko Petroleum / £144m
32. El Paso Pipeline / £139m
33. Ruby Pipeline / £139m
34. Crimson Exploration / £128m
35. Devon Energy / £128m
36. Energy XXI Gulf Coast / £128m
37. Noble Energy / £128m
38. Gibson Energy / £120m
39. Cairn Energy / £117m
40. Dana Petroleum / £108m
41. Continental Resources / £107m
42. ONEOK / £107m
43. Enbridge Energy / £107m
44. Pertamina / £106m
45. Western Refining / £96m
46. Parker Drilling / £96m
47. Energie Beheer / £88m
48. Total / £85m
49. Coffeyville Resources / £80m
50. Southeast Supply / £80m
51. Gulfstream Natural Gas / £64m
52. Wales and West Utilities / £62m
53. Berry Petroleum / £60m
54. Pioneer Natural Resources / £58m
55. Colonial Pipeline / £56m
56. Spectra Energy / £48m
57. Tesoro / £48m
58. SandRidge Energy / £47m
59. PMI / £46m
60. SBM Holdings / £44m
61. Tennessee Gas Pipeline / £40m
62. Plains Exploration / £39m
63. Reliance Industries / £32m
64. Venoco / £24m
65. Oil Search PNG / £17m
66. Bow Energy / £0.9m
Total / £12,882m