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Students Push Colleges To Divest Energy Stock

From a cheering New York Times:

To Stop Climate Change, Students Aim at College Portfolios

By JUSTIN GILLIS | December 4, 2012

SWARTHMORE, Pa. — A group of Swarthmore College students is asking the school administration to take a seemingly simple step to combat pollution and climate change: sell off the endowment’s holdings in large fossil fuel companies. For months, they have been getting a simple answer: no.

As they consider how to ratchet up their campaign, the students suddenly find themselves at the vanguard of a national movement.

In recent weeks, college students on dozens of campuses have demanded that university endowment funds rid themselves of coal, oil and gas stocks.

The students see it as a tactic that could force climate change, barely discussed in the presidential campaign, back onto the national political agenda.

“We’ve reached this point of intense urgency that we need to act on climate change now, but the situation is bleaker than it’s ever been from a political perspective,” said William Lawrence, a Swarthmore senior from East Lansing, Mich.

Students who have signed on see it as a conscious imitation of the successful effort in the 1980s to pressure colleges and other institutions to divest themselves of the stocks of companies doing business in South Africa under apartheid.

Somehow The Times neglects that there is a similar "national movement" to make colleges divest their endowments of any ‘pro-Israel’ investments, as well. Which is probably being run by the same people.

(By the way, has anybody checked to see who well South Africa is doing lately?)

A small institution in Maine, Unity College, has already voted to get out of fossil fuels. Another, Hampshire College in Massachusetts, has adopted a broad investment policy that is ridding its portfolio of fossil fuel stocks.

“In the near future, the political tide will turn and the public will demand action on climate change,” Stephen Mulkey, the Unity College president, wrote in a letter to other college administrators. “Our students are already demanding action, and we must not ignore them.”

And yet these same students will be the first to scream bloody murder when their tuition goes up even more to cover the lost investment income.

But at colleges with large endowments, many administrators are viewing the demand skeptically, saying it would undermine their goal of maximum returns in support of education. Fossil fuel companies represent a significant portion of the stock market, comprising nearly 10 percent of the value of the Russell 3000, a broad index of 3,000 American companies.

No school with an endowment exceeding $1 billion has agreed to divest itself of fossil fuel stocks. At Harvard, which holds the largest endowment in the country at $31 billion, the student body recently voted to ask the school to do so. With roughly half the undergraduates voting, 72 percent of them supported the demand

Which shows you the value of a Harvard education these days.

Several organizations have been working on some version of a divestment campaign, initially focusing on coal, for more than a year. But the recent escalation has largely been the handiwork of a grass-roots organization, 350.org, that focuses on climate change, and its leader, Bill McKibben, a writer turned advocate. The group’s name is a reference to what some scientists see as a maximum safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, 350 parts per million. The level is now about 390, an increase of 41 percent since before the Industrial Revolution.

The radicals at 350.org even opposed the 2009 “cap and trade” bill because it was not extreme enough. And, for the record, Mr. McKibben is not a scientist. He has no scientific training.

He is a graduate of Harvard, where he was the president of the student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson. Upon graduation, McKibben became a writer for The New Yorker. Apparently, this is enough of a background to make you an expert in any field of your choosing.

Mr. McKibben’s goal is to make owning the stocks of these companies disreputable, in the way that owning tobacco stocks has become disreputable in many quarters. Many colleges will not buy them, for instance.

Mr. McKibben has laid out a series of demands that would get the fuel companies off 350.org’s blacklist. He wants them to stop exploring for new fossil fuels, given that they have already booked reserves about five times as large as scientists say society can afford to burn. He wants them to stop lobbying against emission policies in Washington. And he wants them to help devise a transition plan that will leave most of their reserves in the ground while encouraging lower-carbon energy sources…

In sum, McKibben wants to put an end to the lifeblood of any economy. Wonder why? (By the way, his ideal country is Cuba.)

Most college administrations, at the urging of their students, have been taking global warming seriously for years, spending money on steps like cutting energy consumption and installing solar panels.

The divestment demand is so new that most administrators are just beginning to grapple with it. Several of them, in interviews, said that even though they tended to agree with students on the seriousness of the problem, they feared divisive boardroom debates on divestment…

In other words they don’t want to have to take a cut in salary. But they have been hoisted on their own canard (sic).

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Students Push Colleges To Divest Energy Stock”

  1. GetBackJack says:

    My attorney is deep in the energy business and I would love to copy his email on this story but ala, in the Age of Total Surveillance it would get him, me and probably Steve called in for questioning.

  2. Astravogel says:

    Perhaps these concerned students (warts on the ass of progress)
    should take their arguments to China. I’m sure the Chinese will
    give them the benefit of the doubt (ignore, shoot, etc.).

  3. canary says:

    College students assignment here is live in card boxes on campus for a week to learn how the hungry and homeless live.

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