Institute for Energy Research President Thomas Pyle penned the following letter to the editor for The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, VA:
The University of Virginia is facing pressure from a small but vocal group of student activists to “divest” from investments in companies associated with natural gas, oil and coal. These students are ill-informed, and their campaign will harm poor people around the world, as well as college students here at home.
Even if climate change “is the primary crisis of our generation right now,” as one student told The Daily Progress (“Student activists want UVa to divest from fossil fuel companies,” The Daily Progress online, Sept. 3), selling off investments in “fossil fuel companies” would do nothing about climate change.
The only thing this campaign would do is make life harder for the world’s poor. According to the International Energy Agency, 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity and more than 2.7 billion do not have access to clean cooking facilities. The energy companies these student activists would like to divest from are an active part of the solution to providing energy access and clean cooking facilities for the world’s poor. The student activists, however, would like to make that more difficult.
The student activists also fail to consider that natural gas, oil, and coal are essential components to many products that make modern life possible. These resources are used to make everything from cellphones to life-saving medical devices to Kevlar vests and safety equipment worn by police, firefighters and the military.
Divestment also hurts college students. University endowments are used, in part, to help students with scholarships, grants, and financial aid. However, divestment from energy companies would reduce the returns the university’s investments totaling millions of dollars are years for universities with large endowments.
The divestment movement ignores the billions of people living in poverty and all the benefits that come from using natural gas, oil and coal. The University of Virginia should reject this misguided and immoral campaign.