Green Crusaders Pressure U. California To Divest Fossil Fuels, School Won’t Budge

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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The University of California absolutely will not make “blanket divestments” of its fossil fuel assets, or any other assets, no matter the antics or protests of anti-fossil activists, a spokeswoman for the university told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Anti-oil protesters can spend as much time as they wants pressuring the university and its Board of Regents into selling the school’s oil assets, but the university system will not budge, Dianne Klein, the school’s director of media engagement, told TheDCNF. She added that the school’s investment office makes divestment decisions on a case-by-case basis.

“We look at each asset individually, and we have absolutely no desire to enforce a blanket divestment for the whole school system,” Klein said, adding, “The chief investment officer has a responsibility to ensure the assets are on firm footing.”

Klein’s comments come as the University of California, San Diego Academic Senate announced a resolution calling on the Board of Regents to jettison the school’s assets in fossil fuel companies.

The resolution buoyed the spirits of the university’s fossil free community, especially from activists like Professor Eric Halgren, who led the Fossil Free UCSD, and who warns of an apocalyptic-type scenario in the event the school does not nix the assets.

“We must build a global consensus behind becoming fossil free in the next 20 years if we want to avoid flooding major cities, massive famines, and mass extinctions,” Halgren told reporters. “And it was UCSD scientists who discovered that fossil fuel burning is causing climate change and needs to end.”

The cost of keeping money and assets from fossil fuels is too high, Halgren added. The faculty in the Academic Senate’s decision is the correct one, as it protects “both our retirement investments, and our planet’s future.”

The university sold off more than $200 million of its endowment’s coal and oil sands assets in 2015. Despite releasing this relatively small number of assets, the university still has about $10 billion sunk in the energy industry, which is about 10 percent of its $100 billion or so it holds in assets.

The resolution comes shortly after the California legislature mandated the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), one of the largest pension funds in the world, to rid its coal assets from the portfolio. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS, the second largest pension fund in the U.S., was also directed to purge its coal investments.

The moves were relatively painless, as the funds had hemorrhaged more than $840 million from coal stocks in 2015, and $5.1 billion in fossil fuel stocks overall.

CalPERS, for its part, managed to defray pressure from Democratic legislators for it to sell its Exxon Mobil assets in April. The pension fund claimed divesting its assets would make global warming worse, as it would make it more difficult for the group to influence the company’s decisions on renewable energy policies.

The fossil fuel divestment campaign has seen a number of failures recently, especially over the past several months.

“Keep It In The Ground” groups championing an anti-fossil fuel campaign embarked on a two-week long Break Free 2016 rally in mid-May in hopes of pushing and prodding institutions into giving up oil. Infamous environmentalist and divestment campaigner Bill McKibben called the rally the “greatest civil disobedience for climate action in history.”

Other universities have refused to bow to fossil fuel divestment campaigns, and essentially told activist that there is nothing intrinsically immoral or unethical about oil assets.

Stanford’s Board of Trustees established an Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing (APIRL) made up of faculty members, students, and alumni to help the trustees determine whether to purge the university’s oil assets.

The group concluded, “That it could not evaluate whether the social injury caused by the fossil fuel industry outweighs the social benefit it provides”– advising the school not to divest its fossil fuel assets. The board agreed with APIRL’s position.

Even the White House and President Barack Obama have advised against the anti-fossil fuel movement.

The U.S. cannot wave a magic wand and wipe fossil fuels away willy-nilly, the White House explained in response to a February petition from anti-fossil fuel activists requesting federal lands stop being used to develop fossil fuels. The petition asked Obama to keep his anti-fossil fuel promises and act to halt “all new drilling, fracking, and mining on public lands and waters.”

“Even as we move full steam ahead towards cleaner energy, the United States will still need to use fossil fuels in the near term,” the White House wrote in a post on its website.

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