The ‘Dirty’ Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign

The ‘Dirty’ Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign

Al Gore is for it. Student bodies are in favour. And for both the UK’s Guardian and the New York Times it’s already a cause celebre. Given such an array of entitlement culture, social engineering leftist consensus, we therefore KNOW it must be a dumb idea, right?

And sure enough, the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign (FFDC) turns out to be just the sort of myopic moral crusade that its chief end is to impoverish further the poorest in society and across the globe. Nor is it the first time that the twisted logic of eco-social engineers n pursuit of an environmental ideal resulted in catastrophic results in the real world. We might remember how in the 1950s, Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring – still today openly espoused by Al Gore – led to a campaign to ban DDT, the disinfectant singularly responsible for wiping out the world’s biggest killer, malaria And how, as a direct result of the UN’s DDT ban, malaria swept back killing an estimated 30 million people – and counting. Now the self-righteous FFDCampaign is tainted by a similar scandal over its moral ‘dirtiness’.

The Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign is the brainchild of Bill McKibben’s international climate change organization And there is no question that it has grown exponentially and gained broad influence. In February this year McKibben was lobbying New York University (NYU) to divest the multiple millions it has in investment funds away from the world’s largest 200 hydrocarbon energy companies. A number of other university administrations have already pledged their support. Other city, labor groups and public health associations across the United States have joined the campaign. In South Africa, around 300 educational organisations have signed up to divest their fossil fuel investments. In April 2013, the UK group Carbon Tracker issued a report declaring around two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves would need to “remain in the ground” if existing international carbon targets were to be met. It’s a call echoed by the bureaucracies of the EU and UN.

Within the last few months, the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at the University of Oxford issued a report investigating the whole issue of “stranded assets”. It reveals plainly how the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign has quickly become a major threat to investment in oil, gas and coal companies. The report also shows how the FFDC has gained traction much faster than previous divestment campaigns targeting the arms, tobacco and gambling industries. Much more importantly, however, it cites how the campaign’s ultimate goal, as with apartheid, is the far more potentially damaging one of moral social pariah status, or stigmatization.  And it’s right here, that those who have more intellectual and economic nous, including the energy world itself, needs to make its own moral stand – by pointing out just how morally bankrupt the core argument of the FFDC is on closer inspection. That the issue is actually one between speculative science v real world need; put another way, it pits theoretic future climate theory v the immediate relief of mass poverty. And it’s a matter all the more pressing given that global carbon emissions have just hit a new all-time high, revealing that the anti-CO2 campaigners are patently fighting a losing war.

The Oxford University report speaks of the campaign as laying the ground work for affecting “market norms” by encouraging the emergence of ‘ethical’ funding portfolios that specifically exclude fossil fuel investments. And its ever-cheap ‘dirty’ coal that bears the brunt of the green assault. As I pointed out in The Coal War, Capitalism and the World’s Poor in September 2013, it was the capitalistic industrial revolution, built on the back of coal and later gas and oil energy, that was, and still is for large parts of the world, singularly responsible for hauling much of the world’s poor out of poverty. And by what moral right do we tell the developing nations that they cannot aspire to the same standard of living we in the West enjoy?

I further pointed out how Barack Obama had personally intervened to influence the World Bank to reverse its priority to invest in new, cheaper viable coal-fired plants that would benefit millions living in grinding poverty. As a result, the Word Bank agreed a “new strategy” that would see it taking “aggressive action” against the funding of such fossil-fuelled power plants in favour of expensive, subsidized and low generation renewable energy projects. In my article, I also noted how the European Investment Bank, long targeted by divestment campaigns, had already ended loans to fossil fuel companies – with devastating consequences for local communities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. What that divestment achieved in one fell swoop was a switch away from growing much-needed food crops to growing much more lucrative subsidized crops for bio-fuels … for use in western cars. Reports by global charities and by the European Parliament itself have revealed the absolute folly of this kind of divestment and the terrible impact it has, ultimately, on the poorest and most vulnerable.

The simple fact is that it is the capital market and not politicians or leftist ideological campaigners who ultimately call the global market shots.  Precisely why, in spite of the demonization of coal use, King Coal today remains the worlds’ leading, affordable fuel of choice, especially for the developing world.  All that prioritisation of anti-carbon goals linked to theoretic climate goals has done is subvert the vastly more important and immediate need of those for whom food crops are critical.

When it comes to the stigmatization of fossil fuel investment, there is a vastly more developed intellectual and economic energy argument that needs to refocus on the needs of the world’s poorest. It really is time for the energy industry PR departments per se to come out swinging. And for those with more intellectual and economic savvy to better articulate the case for continued fossil fuel use before the FFDC’s ill-considered campaign inflicts even more misery on the world’s poor.

So if you are one of those seriously considering divesting an investment away from the hydrocarbon energy industry, consider this. Which matters more, a theoretical future apocalypse? Or putting bread into the mouths of children now? Because the vacuous morality of the FFDC case can be summed up by a simple four-word motto: “Let them eat carbon”.

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