Survey: Retirees Don’t Want Their Pensions ‘Politicized’ By Anti-Fossil Fuel Crusaders

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A new survey shows that former public employees do not want their retirement pensions “politicized” by fossil fuel divestment crusaders, in fact, they would rather have their pensions invested in organizations that do positive work on the environment.

The survey, which was conducted Monday by business advisory firm FTI Consulting at the behest of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), found that 64 percent of pensioners want their pension fund manager “maximizing returns” on the money they’ve invested.

The survey polled 791 retired public employees age 55 and older. It found the number of pensioners who wanted to maximize returns ratcheted up among respondents in important election year states where fossil fuels are produced, suggesting the results could play a role in how voters vote this election season.

More than 96 percent indicated to the researchers that they are “likely to cast a ballot in the upcoming presidential election.”

Nearly 74 percent of respondents from Pennsylvania, as well as 71 percent of subjects from Colorado, agreed that maximizing investments should be a pension managers only job. Additionally, the survey found that 55 percent of respondents in those groups also say they don’t want their investments to be politicized.

Colorado, a swing state, more than quadrupled its oil production from 2004 to 2014 – in fact, during that 10-year stretch, the state’s natural gas output spiked by 51 percent, according to data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The Centennial State also generates more than 60 percent of its electricity from coal, 22 percent from natural gas, and 18 percent from renewable energy. A very small amount – less than 10 percent – is generated from renewable resources.

Wealthy environmentalists and divestment crusaders have tried their level best for years to force states such as Colorado to purge oil and coal assets.

California green billionaire Tom Steyer, for his part, dumped more than $8.5 million on states during the 2014 elections in unsuccessful attempts to get a slew of anti-fossil fuel candidates elected to office.

Former Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall was unable to resist the allure of Steyer money during his re-election bid in 2014; he accepted more than $4 million from Steyer during his unsuccessful reelection bid. Udall was later caught on tape telling constituents that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, “keeps us locked into the old system.

The National Taxpayers Union (TPU) President Pete Sepp told The Daily Caller News Foundation that it’s hard to argue with the survey’s results. People appear to hold wholly different views on issues such as divestment when their own money is on the line.

“In the end,” Sepp said, “when people have to put up their own money — and in this case retirees are the ones putting forth the case — they are more likely to put politics aside for the sake of their pensions.”

It would be interesting to see how taxpayers, in general, view divestment of fossil fuels among public pensions, Sepp added, especially considering the fact that taxpayers are on the hook if the pension loses money once oil assets are gone.

To that point: A majority of the respondents in the survey outright opposed divestment.

Nearly 88 percent of respondents in Texas, for example, told researchers they would actively oppose divestment. The same view holds true among 77 percent of respondents in Pennsylvania, as well as 72 percent of retirees in New York, who think divestment is a raw deal for public pensions.

New York is a curious case, as the state’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially banned hydraulic fracking last June, claiming it used too much water and could potentially contaminate the state’s drinking source. So even though the state appears to be generally opposed to fracking, the FTI survey indicates New Yorkers change their tune when personal finances are factored into the equation.

Matt Dempsey, a spokesman for IPAA told TheDCNF he thinks the survey illustrats how the media are giving short shrift to public sector retirees who risk getting hosed if their pensions purge fossil fuels.

The media love to talk about how courageous anti-fossil fuel protesters are, and how they are taking brave steps toward ending the U.S.’ addiction to oil, Dempsey explained. “But for some reason the folks whose actual savings and investments might actually be put at risk by divesting haven’t gotten the same treatment from the media.”

He added: “It’s a message that the people who manage these funds, as well as the politicians who in many cases oversee them, should probably pay attention to.”

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