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Al Gore claims investing in fossil fuels hurts profits

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Al Gore is warning you: Investing in fossil fuels will hurt your bottom line as countries begin to issue tougher regulations to fight global warming.

The Gore-founded Generation Investment Management put out a report saying that investing in fossil fuels will not be as profitable going forward because of political pressures to fight global warming.

In order to meet the United Nation’s target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, Generation says that about two-thirds of unextracted fossil fuels — such as coal, oil and natural gas — must stay underground. This means that fossil fuel assets like coal mines or oil and gas wells must lower production, reducing revenues.

“It is no longer prudent for investors and asset owners to treat climate change as a peripheral issue,” said David Blood, who co-founded Generation Investment with Gore. “Investors and asset owners should capitalize on the opportunities emerging from the transition to a low-carbon economy. The competitive landscape for fossil fuel-intensive companies is losing its attractiveness at an accelerated rate.”

Gore and Blood have an investment strategy that seeks to “embed sustainability into the mainstream capital markets.” Five percent of the company’s profits go toward the Generation Foundation, which promotes “sustainable capitalism,” which “maximize long-term economic value creation by reforming markets to address real needs while considering all costs and stakeholders.”

“My advice to Al Gore, if he is confident that a carbon bubble will bring down big oil, is to put his money where his mouth is and start taking some short positions,” writes Robert Coleman for the Motley Fool. “My advice to investors, on the other hand, is to look elsewhere for guidance. The global energy mix is without a doubt evolving, but these are gradual changes that will reflect supply, demand, and pricing rather than the arbitrary predictions of politicians.”

It may be hard to convince investors to ditch fossil fuel investments in the midst of a U.S. oil and gas boom. U.S. oil and gas production has been breaking new records in recent years and the country is expected to become the world’s top oil and gas producer.

“Oil is still where the money is,” writes Coleman. “According to the same … report that warns against consuming more than a third of fossil fuel reserves, oil prices are expected to rise to $125 a barrel by 2035 — and that’s adjusting for inflation. If there’s a bubble forming, it sure doesn’t look to be popping anytime soon.”

Gore, along with other environmental activists, have been pushing divestment campaigns in order to hit fossil fuel companies where it hurts by taking away their investors. Environmental activists have been targeting universities and colleges in particular.

Activists tout a study commissioned by the Associated Press that found that, “An endowment of $1 billion that excluded fossil fuel companies would have grown to $2.26 billion over the past 10 years, but an endowment that included investments in fossil fuel companies would have grown to $2.14 billion”

However, Harvard University recently rejected the idea of divesting from fossil fuels — because it provides one-third of the funds the school spends every year.

A study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute found that oil and natural gas investments are a huge boon to universities. The study found that oil and natural gas stocks made up 2.1 percent of university endowments, but generated 5.7 percent of all endowment gains in between 2010 and 2011.

Furthermore, oil and natural gas stocks showed 53 percent returns — outperforming endowments as a whole, as well as the performance of the S&P 500.

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