Divestment: Hypocrisy That Hurts the Consumer

The latest trend among some radical environmentalists is to encourage organizations (especially universities) to sell their holdings in traditional energy companies. The argument is that these organizations should want to divest from traditional fossil fuels because possession of those assets are contrary to the mission of the organizations.

Their effort has met with mixed success.  Harvard University, among others, has refused to divest, while Stanford’s response was so nuanced as to be almost a caricature:  it pledged to divest its holdings in coal, but not those in oil and natural gas.  Some universities (College of the Atlantic!) have already taken the leap; some have taken a pass.

But let’s face it- this isn’t just about investments, it’s about an agenda that is based on fiction, not fact. Unfortunately, the disease is now spreading to the States.  Both Connecticut and Massachusetts are now considering proposals at both the state and municipal level to require their pension funds to sell assets in companies that bring affordable and reliable energy to their citizens.

Let’s make this simple.

First, the divestment campaign is rank hypocrisy.  These institutions – and those that are advocating for divestment – choose to completely ignore that nearly every facet of their lives is touched by fossil fuels. Unless an organization is prepared to get rid of its holdings in everything that is transported by boat, train, truck, automobile or plane (or even by bike!), it is not truly disentangling itself from fossil fuels and has just as much interest as the rest of us in making those forms of energy more affordable and reliable.

Similarly, unless a university is prepared to divest itself from medical supplies, food packaging, cell phones, computers, electricity, and so on, it will continue to utilize many of the products that are made or generated from the very fuels whose companies they divest.

It is telling that politicians held their fire on divestment of home heating oil and natural gas companies during winter months, instead using the time to urge funding increases for programs that help low income households buy those products — all without any sense of irony.

In truth, divestment is a diversion from the radical environmentalists’ real goal, which is to increase energy costs to reduce usage.

As reported recently in Greenwire prominent divestment advocate Naomi Oreskes has acknowledged that the objective “is not directly running coal, gas and oil businesses into the ground but inciting a discussion to generate the political atmosphere to pass bolder climate policies.”

“How do we get the will to pass a carbon tax?” she asks, suggesting that the divestment campaign “could be a way.”

She could not have made it any clearer.  The divestment campaign is directed now at institutions, but the real targets are consumers: the families, businesses, schools, hospitals and communities that depend on affordable and reliable fuels to survive.

The next time you hear about divestment, know that its advocates really want to make your energy more expensive, less reliable and less plentiful.   The reality is that those pushing this agenda are ignoring the reality of how fossil fuels impact their lives – and the lives of those they are encouraging to divest.

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