Anti-Fossil Fuel Crusaders Label Divestment Critics As Big Oil Lackeys

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A New York University anti-fossil fuel group labeled divestment critics as defenders of the oil industry in an open letter, but failed to mention crucial details such as the fact that NYU’s own Board of Trustees called divestment “primarily a political action or statement.”

NYU Divest, a group pressuring the school to purge its massive oil investments, believes the author of a recent article titled “Divestment: More Controversial than You Think” is not credible because the person used research from oil trade association Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPA) to explain why divestment does not help reduce carbon emissions.

The divestment crusaders, however, neglect to point out the litany of research conducted by groups not affiliated with the oil industry showing divestment is largely ineffective in reducing carbon emissions.

Research from Tufts University conducted in 2014 shows that its endowment would bleed out more than $75 million in value over five years, which could go toward stipends for 125 Ph.D. students, or fund the university’s entire medical school.

NYU Divestment Working Group, which has no direct connections to the oil industry, claimed the divestment movement was mostly a political ploy.

“NYU can have an impact” on global warming through the school’s research, an previous campus-wide email from Martin Dorph, the school’s executive vice president for finance and information technology, stated. “It was in these areas that the Working Group concluded that NYU can have its greatest impact on global warming.”

California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the country’s largest retirement pension, mirrored NYU’s position, telling The Daily Caller News Foundation in April that the group would not be able to influence change if it sold off its oil assets. It would also be unable to adequately protect retirees’ public pensions were it to divest.

CalPERS owned $1.2 billion in Exxon in 2013.

NYU, likewise, has a $3.4 billion endowment — $1.3 billion of which is tied up in assets either directly or indirectly linked to the oil industry.

NYU Divest jumped over these reports and went on at length explaining why people who rely on research financed in part by oil trade associations are unreliable.

IPA and its subsidiaries do their best, the letter stated, “to misrepresent and belittle students in the fossil fuel divestment movement.” What is worse, the group continued, anyone relying on IPA’s research ignores “the wealth of reputable research on returns to carbon-free portfolios and other divestment strategies.”

NYU Divest argued the author too easily dismissed research showing “evidence that fossil fuel divestment would improve affordability rather than hindering” the costs associated with going to school at NYU.

Financial institutions such as the Bank of England, the letter pointed out, have suggested in the past that fossil fuels are a risky investment. In fact, the group adds, oil stocks are “overvalued because the reserves they include as assets are vulnerable to climate policy.”

The group said research from media outlet Corporate Knights, which has advocated for carbon taxes in the past, showed that New York hemorrhaged $5.3 billion by keeping fossil fuel stocks over the last several years.

Corporate Knights data was a snapshot on how well oil assets were doing over the past three years in the state. Market forces have forced the price of oil down during that period of time, which was the culprit for New York’s losses.

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