Divesting the fossil fuel industry is a troubling new development in the push for a world-sans traditional fuel. Investing in new energy technologies and innovations certainly enables the solutions of the future. However, it is a fact that we currently do not have the infrastructure in place to eliminate the daily use of fossil fuels. Should divestments expand exponentially, losses may be much greater than expected by those initiating the movement.
Divestment first made headlines when Unity College purged their entire endowment from all companies related to the fossil fuels industry. Dr. Stephen Mulkey, President of Unity College, on October 2, 2014 in an MSNBC Originals piece, stated, “The top 200 fossil fuel companies have as their business model…the destruction of civilization.”
While differing opinions and passions make our world a dynamic and innovative environment, it is crucial to acknowledge the indispensible role fossil fuel has played throughout civilizations. How have steam engines affected us? What if the Industrial Revolution had never taken place?
I would wager most environmental activists utilize cell phones on a regular basis. Your cell phone has petroleum in it. The essential vitamins or painkillers that you take…also made with petrochemicals. How about your yoga pants or flip-flops? You get the picture.
Petroleum is a multifaceted material that is used to construct countless items we use everyday. So, is the industry’s business model really the destruction of civilization? I would argue U.S. petrochemical manufacturers produce the materials essential for products, which enable areas such as medicine, technology, defense, and entertainment. It extends our lifespan, and expands the possibilities of how we live and enjoy our lives.
The Unity College headline caused a stir within academic institutions and private investment firms alike. As of September 2014, thirteen universities have now divested from the fossil fuel industry. According to the MSNBC Originals piece referenced, “Today, there are divestment movements in more than 500 universities across the United States.”
This divestment movement found its roots in environmental activism, pushing for renewable energy dependence. By advocating for a ban of fossil fuels, environmentalists are inadvertently ensuring drastic changes in our privileged lifestyles. By forsaking fossil fuels, which sustain our economy, cars, and even the computer used to write this article, we would revert our globe back to the Stone Age. Keep in mind, many developing nations still rely upon fossil fuels for fundamental, life-changing, products, which many of us take for granted.
I believe everyone should be passionately encouraging renewable innovation, to find solutions for tomorrow. Yet, the fossil fuel industry is an essential and ever-present component of our world. Producing energy from both sources can, and should, co-exist until technology and infrastructure economics advance sufficiently.
The directives from this environmental pressure could cause a chain reaction, causing fossil fuel companies to fail or lessen production. If that were to happen, we would all feel the pain at the pump, at the grocery store, and with a myriad of standard purchases.
If you were standing at the top of a massive ravine and the only way to get to the other side was to use an old rope bridge, chances are, you would use the old rope bridge. You wouldn’t stay put if you really wanted to get to your destination. You would probably start to create a replacement for the old rope bridge so that you could retire its service. You would never cut down the rope bridge and walk off the cliff just because you didn’t like the bridge.
Destruction of the fossil fuels industry in advance of true solutions and infrastructure is premature and ultimately cuts down the bridge, crippling everyone in almost every aspect of daily life.
Solutions will arise via those passionate about innovation, not by tearing down the fossil fuel industry economically. Dr. Stephen Mulkey also stated, “We are removing the social license of these companies for business as usual.” I applaud the dedication to the cause, however we need these companies to do business as usual in order to have our lives “as usual”…at least for now.
The fight between environmentalists and pro-industrialists is more of a war than a civilized discussion. Its escalation is apparent in divestment. There is room to share funding, as well as ideas, in order to achieve new technologies and a safer environment. Let’s not cut off our nose to spite our face. We can be more efficient and more productive overall if we support current systems while together creating their replacements. We must be willing to cooperate to ensure our place as the generation of Green Energy.