There is quite a power struggle going on in the upper reaches of Royal Dutch Shell. This week the FT revealed that four senior executives had left, or were leaving, adding that “several other top executives in the clean energy part of the business also plan to exit in the coming months.” Outsiders cannot know exactly why they are going, and Shell’s PR machine merely smoothed the usual guff about how wonderful everything is, but the battle lines are clear enough: is Shell an oil and gas company, or is it going to attempt the painful transition to a green energy business?

That the transition would be painful is surely not in doubt. To displace the value of the hydrocarbons Shell produces today requires investment on an almost unimaginable scale. Many of the technologies needed are in their infancy, and the returns on investment highly uncertain, but almost certainly marginal. Since the prime minister’s pie-in-the-sky green energy speech, we’ve been treated to plenty of pretty pictures of hydrogen cars, heat pumps, magically insulated houses, solar panels and stories of North Sea windmills capable of running a house for a day with each turn of the blades.

All very fine, except when we get cold, cloudy, windless weather – like this week – those beastly CO2 generators are needed to keep the lights on. No matter how much is spent on turbines and solar panels, there will be more days like these.

This week the National Audit Office estimated the cost of reaching zero carbon at “hundreds of billions of pounds”. We shall have to wait until next year to discover whether the Committee on Climate change will reveal its workings to get to its figure of £50bn, when it is due in front of the Information Tribunal. This figure is so low as to be laughable, and appears to be driven by political necessity rather than plausible projections. National Grid, which would need to supply all those cars, heat pumps and all-electric houses, puts its own costs at £3 trillion.

Which brings us back to Shell. The oil giant has had an awful year. In March, confronted by the spectre of the oil price going (briefly) negative, its board panicked and slashed the dividend for the first time in half a century. When it became clear that the death of oil had been much exaggerated, it raised the cut divi (if you follow) and promised to keep doing so.

The share price has recovered from the depths, and was barely stirred by this week’s pruning of the greenery at the top. It is politically impossible for a business of this size, which provides the lifeblood of the world’s economy, to follow the example of Petrobras in Brazil, and double down on doing what it does best, producing hydrocarbons. Lip service, at least, must be paid to what promises to be a money sink for years to come.

The internal argument is about how much the company needs to do to look green enough, while oil and gas provides the cash flow, profits and raison d’etre. On this week’s evidence, the pragmatists are winning.

An absolutely awful return

With luck, you are not an investor in the Jupiter Absolute Return fund. Most of those who were have fled. From £1.2bn a year ago, the fund had shrivelled to £164m by the end of last month. Those who got out early saved themselves a great deal of financial pain, as the price of the units in the fund had been falling for years, culminating in a 21 per cent collapse this year.

There are worse-performing funds around, but not many, and now Jupiter is throwing in the towel, while the manager, James Clunie, is departing, after seven years where he turned every £1000 of investors’ money into £800, on Morningstar’s figures. We are not told the conditions of his departure, or indeed much else, and the shuttering of the fund does not appear to have yet reached its website, which still cheerfully explains: “As careful stewards of client funds, our absolute return managers continually strive to gain an ‘edge’ in markets.”

Continually striving and continually failing would be more accurate. In an email sent to advisers, seen by New Model Adviser, Jupiter’s head of UK, Mark Thomas, said that the Absolute Return fund has been through a ‘’challenging few years’’, although why they should have been more challenging for this wretched fund than for others is not explained. Perhaps it is the challenge of persuading investors to keep paying the 1.47 per cent annual fee while they watched their capital shrink. As for Mr Clunie, he has proved beyond reasonable doubt that fund management is not his forte. It’s just tough that the investors have had to learn this the hard way.

Siriusly overpriced

Nobody can say they are not a stubborn lot in North Yorkshire. They are trying to work out how to reopen the Sirius Minerals project – not the mine itself, which is years away from production, but the rescue by Anglo American in the spring, after the government refused to throw £450m down the shaft. At least some of the 85,000 former shareholders in Sirius feel that 5.5p a share was too low, and are trying to construct a case for more.

That case looked pretty thin at the time, and has not improved since. The mine will produce polyhalite, a sort of fertiliser. Its nearest rival, potash, is abundant and cheap, which is hardly a good start. The cost of fertilisers in the UK has fallen by over 10 per cent a year since 2015, helped down by the weak oil price.

Developing the Woodsmith mine is obviously better for the region than digging huge holes and filling them in again. However, it is not the former Sirius shareholders but those in Anglo who have the better case to argue that the £405m they paid was a bad deal.