Fossil fuel divestment is gaining momentum … or is it?

It is looking like the fossil fuel divestment movement is gaining steam. From what started off as an effort that successfully got Australian National University to divest from the stock of companies that are involved in the production or extraction of fossil fuels has grown.

A climate action group in Bowdoin College in Maine has submitted a divestment proposal to a student committee. Stanford University has divested from coal-related stocks, University of British Columbia is being urged to undertake fossil fuel divestment, while South Africa has a fossil fuel divestment movement getting off the ground. Even AkzoNoble – a multinational painting, coating and chemical company – is jumping on the bandwagon too.

In all, hundreds of colleges, universities along with a number of churches and a number of city governments have gotten into the act. The sole purpose being to save the planet by exacting economic pressure. However, let’s consider where the the money the people who make up these high-minded entities have decided to redirect their funds. The answer lies in a New York Times article published October 15th that cites where the Church of Sweden has decided to invest it’s funds: carbon offsets (aka environmental indulgences).

To that end, the article states, the Church of Sweden invests in several sustainability-oriented funds managed by Generation Investment Management, a firm co-founded by Al Gore, the climate change campaigner and former United States vice president. In 2010, the Christian Science Monitor partnered with The New England Center for Investigative Reporting to study if carbon offsets were a safe investment and if they actually helped contribute to curbing global warming. The results are astounding but altogether not surprising.

The report found that individuals and businesses who are buying into offsets based on dubious assurances instead of the environmental benefits they had hoped for. The projects invested in were either not completed, would have been done anyway or involved immoral activities such as erecting windmills that involve kicking impoverished people out of their homes. The Vatican got burned when it gave money to a Hungarian company promised to plant hundreds of trees on the Holy See’s behalf. It didn’t happen. Furthermore, not only are carbon offsets a scam they are not worth the price paid and are literally financial derivatives.

Former Vice President Al Gore is heavily into this market in which he heads a company he co-founded and heads named Generational Investment Management. He is the primary beneficiary of carbon offsets that he personally purchases and reaped the rewards when they did well prior to the Chicago climate exchange market’s demise in 2010.

Fossil fuel divesters talk a good game when it comes to ridding the planet of fossil fuels but millions of people are improving their lives world wide by utilizing the very fuels these people reel against. They come up with feel-good schemes to make them feel better about their carbon usage. But their using electricity to light their homes or gas (petroleum or natural) to power their vehicles shows that their efforts to replace fossil fuels is an exercise in futility. Fossil fuels are the most efficient means for people to have the very conveniences they have now and that people in developing countries can only aspire to have. Carbon offsets and fossil fuel divestment schemes are only feel-good measures and the only impact they are having is the strain on on people’s wallets and transferring wealth to people like Al Gore.