[Editor's note: A version of this story appears in the October 2021 issue of Oil and Gas Investor magazine.]

In a Monty Python skit, two East End London gangsters try to shake down a British army colonel with a not-so-subtle threat. “This is a real nice army base you got here, colonel,” one of them, wearing a pin-striped suit and dark sunglasses, says. “Be a shame if something were to happen to it.”

This is essentially the same pretext given for Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s surprise decision to sell off its Permian Basin assets. But many questions arise.

The backstory: In May, a Dutch court ordered Shell to abide by stricter rules in lowering its greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. Articles by Reuters have since given this as the explanation for the Dutch-Anglo company’s willingness to sacrifice what it once called the “heart of Shell’s shales portfolio” that was to set the stage for growth across the Americas.

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