Transition College Endowment Investments from Fossil Fuels to Clean Energy

Target: Micheal F. Adams, Senior Consultant, Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges

Goal: Urge universities to move all endowment funds currently invested in fossil fuel interests to renewable energy companies.

The university divestment movement originated with a 2011 student sit-in at tiny Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Since those humble beginnings, the movement has gained momentum to now include over 600 institutions worldwide and over $2.6 trillion in divested assets. Clean energy has been on a parallel trajectory with rapid technological advancement, decreasing production costs and increasing investment growth. This comes at a time when the fossil fuel industry has felt the impacts of a decreasing cost of oil through declining revenues and employment.

There are currently 2474 public and private universities in the United States serving almost 11 million students. Most colleges are supported by an endowment fund which manages the proceeds from private gifts and donations through an investment portfolio. The total endowment for all U.S. universities topped $516 billion in 2015, of which, $22 billion was invested in the fossil fuel industry.

Despite strong backing in Washington D.C., the fossil fuel industry in the United States is clearly in decline. This is illustrated by an 85 percent drop in the price coal stocks, and a 29 percent reduction in the overall value of oil and gas investments over the past five years. Unsurprisingly, there has been an associated drop in employment with only 187,000 working in the oil, gas and coal industries. By comparison, the renewable energy sector has surged dramatically, employing over 374,000, and an increase in investment to $45 billion in 2015. The rise in financial resources supporting alternative energy has led to a surge in large-scale wind turbine and solar projects. This includes what will become the largest wind farm in the United States. Currently being constructed in Iowa, at a projected cost of $3.6 billion, the 2,000 windmills will be able to meet 85 percent of the state’s power needs once completed in 2020.

Universities should have a vested interest in supporting emerging industries which will provide employment opportunities for their students well into the future. This can be done directly through the transition of endowment funds currently supporting fossil fuel companies to those in the alternative energy sector. Even a relatively modest 25 percent reinvestment of the $22 billion currently supporting traditional energy development, or $5.5 billion, would be enough to fund a renewable energy project on the scale of the wind farm in Iowa.

Please sign the below petition encouraging the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges to consider adopting a nationwide endowment investment transition policy supporting renewable energy.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Chairman Miles,

I am writing to encourage that the Association of Governing Boards advocate for transition of all endowment funds currently invested in fossil fuel companies to the renewable energy sector. The fossil fuel industry has experienced a sharp decline in recent years with falling stock values and a reduction in employment. In contrast, renewable energy has seen rapid technological advancement, decreasing production costs, and employment growth fueled by a significant increase in investment.

A primary example of this progress is in your home state of Iowa, where what will become the largest wind farm in the United States is currently being constructed. Once completed this facility will be able to meet 85 percent of the energy needs of you and your fellow Iowans while generating no greenhouse gas emissions.

Universities should have a vested interest in supporting emerging industries which will provide employment opportunities for their students well into the future. Please consider advocating for endowment support of renewable energy to your 1,300 member universities and colleges.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Pexels

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2 Comments

  1. For the future of this earth, safe and renewable energy is where we should be going.

  2. Drs Mary and Paul Davidson says:

    Scientists feel gagged from speaking about public policy. I have seen science blogs in which one may recognize another despite assumed usernames, and commiserate.

    Divest, universities. Be a force for science, which has been distorted and ‘fake newsed” deplorably.

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