I recently received an invitation to sign a petition from students at my Alma mater urging divestment from fossil fuels. Colorado College is one of more than 200 campuses that have taken a stand against endowment investments in fossil fuels. The movement started on Swarthmore’s campus in 2010 and is designed after the 1980s anti-apartheid campaigns. Students argue that universities are investing in the future through education, so they should keep that mission in mind when investing for their endowment.
A recent study by the research firm S&P Capital IQ for the Associated Press found that divestment will not hurt endowments. In fact, the study shows that a $1 billion investment 10 years ago excluding fossil fuel investments would be worth $2.26 billion today; whereas, the same $1 billion investment including fossil fuel stock, would only be worth $2.14 billion today.Other feedback suggests otherwise. Analysis by those who oversee the endowment at Swarthmore college found that fossil fuel divestment would cost $11 to $14 million a year. Furthermore, as Harvard Professor Daniel Schrag suggests, it may not be fair to solely target fossil fuel companies as many of us (if not all of us) “bear some of the blame for continued use of fossil fuels.”
Although I ultimately signed the petition for divestment, I too have my reservations. As I recently read in a transcript of an interview with Billy Parish, founder of Mosaic, the divesting movement has been great for building pressure, however, there has been no corresponding investment movement. Should college boards start investing in Tesla stock? Would solar investments be too risky? I sincerely hope that the divestment movement continues to gather steam; however, I hope even more that those instigating the movement can discover a socially-responsible yet profitable alternative.
The divestment campaign has even begun to spread to religious networks. On May 22nd, E&E News’ Climate Wire reported that the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City became the first Unitarian Congregation in the country to vote in favor of divesting from oil, gas, coal, oil sands, and oil shale. Reverend Tom Goldsmith commented, “We did the math, and we realized that the difference between green investments and fossil fuels is minuscule.” The church has already invested in multiple solar panels. To better understand the topic, church members gathered to explore the question, “What would Jesus divest?”
Original article available from The Salt Lake Tribune.
*CGC is not religiously affiliated.