A new environmentalist report misleadingly claims that fossil fuel divestments are on the rise even as historically low oil prices rebound.
Nearly 688 institutions across 76 countries have committed to divest from fossil fuels, according to a new analysis released Monday by Arabella Advisors. The report claimed institutions controlling $5.197 trillion in assets pledged to purge their oil assets in 2015.
The report uses tricky language and sleight of hand to make it appear as if nearly $7 trillion in oil assets was jettisoned by nearly 700 institutions last year. The actual number of oil assets divested is much smaller — perhaps as low as $200 or $300 billion.
Still, environmentalists are championing the report as a feather in the hat for those working in the “keep it in the ground” movement, which stresses divesting the world of all forms of fossil fuels.
“Divestment has permeated every sector of society: from universities and pension funds, to philanthropic and cultural institutions, to cities, faith groups, insurance companies and more,” May Boeve, executive director of environmentalist group 350.org, said in a press statement announcing the report.
He added: “Now at $5 trillion, the movement is unstoppable. Institutions and investors must choose whether to be on the right side of history.”
Environmentalist Bill McKibben, a co-founder of 350.org, spent a lot of time in 2016 trotting out statistics showing that 500 institutions representing over $3.4 trillion in assets pledged, in some form, to purge their oil assets.
Critics meanwhile torpedoed the report’s claims.
“This is the same group that rolled out the report last year that was easily debunked by Mother Jones and Huffington Post. In fact, it was pretty clear the group just made the numbers up. Same can be said again this year!” Matt Dempey, a spokesman with DivestmentFacts.org, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement on Monday.
“And now with oil prices headed back up,” Dempsey said, “the case for divestment is completely left in shambles.”
The price of oil skyrocketed to around $52.04 per barrel after OPEC officials announced in November plans to slash oil production.
Other critics suggest that divesting institutions have sold off, at most, $125 billion. Additionally, that $3.4 trillion number is likely the total number of assets held by those institutions, not the actual number of fossil fuel divested assets.
If the mathematics holds constant, then the actual amount of money divested globally is likely closer to $250 billion.
Anti-fracking activist group Divest-Invest chalked up the supposed victory to actors calling on the world to create a culture of divestment.
“What the world needs now is DivestInvest Culture: A bold, collective pivot away from the old energy that no longer serves us, and toward the 100 percent renewable energy future that will let the people and the planet thrive,” said actor Adrian Grenier, who announced a campaign to force institutions to sell off assets derived from oil and coal.
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