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Tags: yale | fossilfuel | divestment

Yale Alums' Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement Overly Simplistic

solar panels and windmills

Steve Levy By Monday, 14 September 2020 08:17 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

The movement in the Yale community to divest from fossil fuels is naive, unproductive and hypocritical.

As part of a movement called, "Yale Forward," one alum is seeking election as a Yale Trustee based on this platform. She joined other woke alumni in a virtue signaling petition that seeks a carbon free campus by 2035, eliminating fuel-fired power plants on campus and minimizing air traffic for staff and students (that should go over well with students from the west coast.)

Apparently, this noble quest to change the world — in line with the school's mission statement which literally states, "Yale is committed to changing the world..." — will help defeat what activists consider the greatest existential threat to humanity — climate change.

However, one glaring omission in this Yale Forward quest is any semblance of a cost estimate associated with this colossal endeavor. "The University should be transparent about the projected cost of transitioning to a carbon neutral university..." says the Yale Forward manifesto, despite not offering any such transparency at all on its own proposals.

When Oxford students made the same pitch, their Bursar, Andrew Parker, countered coyly: "I am not able to arrange any divestment at short notice, But I can arrange for the gas central heating in college to be switched off with immediate effect. Please let me know if you support this proposal."


Generally speaking, people hate fossil fuels, but they love the coolant it provides in heat waves and the warmth it generates in winter. They like cheap gas to fill their cars, and inexpensive flights to see loved ones. For those petitioners who believe solar can totally replace gas and oil, consider this:. Despite massive government subsidies, solar still accounts for only about 1% to 3% of our energy output.

Another dilemma faced by liberals is that they profess to speak for the poverty stricken, both domestically and around the world. They can't ignore the fact that economic growth and industrialization around the world over the past 20 years — sparked primarily by that dastardly concept of free market capitalism — has resulted in the largest eradication of poverty the planet has ever seen.

A billion people now have indoor plumbing, potable water or access to needed medications to save their lives and their children's. It's mostly due to economic growth fueled primarily via carbon based products. 

When that growth is stifled, people die (up to 74 million according to a study by The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) — far more than would ever perish due to speculative fatalities related to future climate changes.

It's these very developing nations that are the biggest spewers of particulate into our atmosphere. And yet, the Paris Climate Accords, so heavily praised in leftist circles, astonishingly allows the world's biggest polluters, China and India, to continue to pollute unabated into the future.

Illogically, it seeks to crush the American economy and consumer. How many petitioners are even aware that the U.S. has been one of the leaders in actually reducing its carbon footprint — by 14% since 2005, while the rest of the world was seeing a 26% increase. 

Ironically, it has been the harvesting of cleaner natural gas via fracking innovations that's been most responsible for this decline. The same natural gas that Yale Forward would seek to ban.

The idea that more people are dying because of climate-related disasters today than in the past is empirically false. Advanced technology provides warning systems and fortified structures that have dramatically reduced the number of weather-related fatalities over the decades (by over 98% since the 1920s).

If climate change were truly an existential threat to our species, the petitioners would have a moral responsibility to promote nuclear energy, which has a zero carbon output. After all, what's a little nuclear waste compared to human extinction?

Doom and gloom predictions from the alarmists have eroded the credibility of the more serious scientists who have raised legitimate concerns.

Not only have cute cuddly polar bears not gone extinct, there are actually more of them today than existed in 2005.

Here are some other things for the petitioners to consider:

The nation of Germany and the state of California, both which have radically aggressive green programs, charge their ratepayers 300% and 60% more respectively than the average American utility customer. And that still couldn't help California prevent blackouts this summer.

Do progressives realize that making fuels more expensive is perhaps the most regressive type of tax you can impose? French elites who imposed huge gas taxes weren't much affected by their edict. It was the working class drivers who donned their Yellow Vests to protest these revenue grabs that nearly destroyed their livelihoods.

Yale Forward notes that their motivation to divest is not just for moral reasons, but also because "Fossil fuels are no longer prudent investments." But if that were the case, endowment portfolio managers would be divested on their own.

The handcuffs these proposed rules would place on the endowment managers — especially deciphering the exact definition of a fossil fuel company — would keep them stalled in a state of limbo in an industry that requires quick decision making to maximize success.

Further, as Yale Forward advocates the exit of index funds and ETFs that incorporate some fossil fuel companies, it would force Yale to exit a class of lowest cost investment vehicles that many portfolio managers rely upon to create meaningful diversification at low cost. Such an exit would inevitably raise the administrative costs of the endowment, siphoning money from support of future generations of students and potentially from other investments the University could make — such as clean energy research.

It is a shame that today's woke environment gives voice and influence to movements like Yale Forward when it is likely the case that an equal or larger swath of silent Yale alumni may also respect and care about the impacts of climate change, but would not advocate for such damaging and rash adjustments as Yale Forward seeks.

In fact, given Yale's role in the scientific and social community, there are likely very few Yalies who would deny that climate change is real and that humans are contributing to it. They'd be correct to think so.

But these members of the Yale community who support rational measures to clean the planet without shutting down air travel, needed power plants on campus or weakening university investments likely won't have a voice or a movement behind them. Let's face it, "practical" just isn't "sexy."

Making Yale an epicenter of research and development for greater solar and wind productivity makes sense.

Upgrading the Yale fleet to hybrids is a no brainer.

Ensuring new construction to incorporate greener standards is appropriate.

If you want to put solar panels on Yale's Eighteenth Century architecture, knock yourself out (after all this is an existential threat, we are told.)

There are rational steps these truly concerned alums can promote to make a legitimate contribution to preventing global warming. They can do so without resorting to an unrealistic divesting from, and elimination of, all fossil fuels, which would hurt the poor, the working classes and future students.

Steve Levy, former New York state assemblyman, Suffolk County executive, and candidate for governor, is now a distinguished political pundit. Levy's commentary has been published in such media outlets as Washington Times, Washington Examiner, New York Post, Albany Times, Long Island Business News, and City & State Magazine. He hosted "The Steve Levy Radio Show" on Long Island News Radio, and is a frequent guest on high profile television and radio outlets. Few on the political scene possess Levy's diverse background. He's been both a legislator and executive, and served on both the state and local levels — as both a Democrat and Republican. Levy published "Bias in the Media," an analysis of his own experience, after switching parties, with the media's leftward slant. Levy is currently Executive Director of the Center for Cost Effective Government, a fiscally conservative think tank. He is also President of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. To learn more about his past work and upcoming appearances, visit www.stevelevy.info. Read Steve Levy's Reports — More Here.

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The movement in the Yale community to divest from fossil fuels is naive, unproductive and hypocritical.
yale, fossilfuel, divestment
Monday, 14 September 2020 08:17 AM
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