Thinking Citizen Blog — Fossil Fuel Divestment: Is Maine Nuts? The Wave of the Future? A Distraction?

Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day

Today’s Topic: Fossil Fuel Divestment: Is Maine Nuts? The Wave of the Future? A Distraction?

Is fossil fuel divestment a distraction from the real solutions of a carbon tax and nuclear power development? This critical question was raised this week when the Maine legislature passed a law that “would bar the state from investing pension and annuity assets in fossil fuels.” Environmentalists hope that the Maine legislation will be a model for other states. The Maine Senate passed the bill last Tuesday. The House on Wednesday. Will Democratic Governor Janet Mills sign it? Would you? The divestment movement has both strong gut appeal and strong momentum but is it really where the focus should be? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

ENVIRONMENTALISTS ARE ECSTATIC — 350.org, Sierra Clubs of Maine and Massachusetts

1. “This action is a gift to the planet — and also to the pensioners of the Pine Tree State, freeing them from the money-losing investments in gas and oil that are are also undercutting the landscape into which they will someday retire.” (Bill McKibben, 350.org — named after the safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere — 350 parts per million in contrast to the current level of 415 and rising)

2. “With the freed up funds, the pension fund can invest in climate solutions, doing double duty of earning profits for the fund while safeguarding our future.” (David Gibson, Sierra Club of Maine)

3. “Maine legislators deserve enormous praise for this visionary and deeply responsible piece of legislation. Massachusetts should follow suit.” (Deb Pasternak, Sierra Club of Massachusetts)

IS TAKING OVER FOSSIL FUEL COMPANIES A BETTER STRATEGY?

1. In May an activist investor in Exxon, the hedge fund “Engine 1,” succeeded in ousting two Exxon directors. Engine 1 is pushing for Exxon to accelerate its diversification into renewable energy.

2. “Engine №1 holds just 0.02% of Exxon’s shares. However, the hedge fund won backing from major institutional investors, including the New York Common Retirement Fund, the Church of England, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS).”

3. “But like most proxy fights, the battle hinges on which side gets the support of the Big Three asset managers. BlackRock, State Street (STT), and Vanguard collectively owned 19% of Exxon’s shares at the end of March…”

THE OPPORTUNITY COST, FIDUCIARY RESPONSIBILITY, PRACTICALITY

1. Haste makes waste. Do politicians understand the real world risks of too-rapid shifts away from fossils fuels? What are the lessons of the recent blackouts in Texas and California?

2. Attention is limited. Should not the focus be on a carbon tax and nuclear fuel development?

3. Fiduciary duty must be considered. “When Somerville’s retirement board sought to divest several years ago, officials with the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission threw up a roadblock, saying that doing so would violate their ‘fiduciary duty by constraining investment options” of the fund.” Should non-experts dictate what experts do?

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/06/10/metro/maine-ready-divest-fossil-fuels-activists-hope-domino-effect/

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/06/09/metro/maine-legislature-votes-divest-public-funds-invested-fossil-fuels/?p1=BGSearch_Advanced_Results&p1=Article_Inline_Text_Link

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/350.org

https://somerville.wickedlocal.com/news/20180308/somerville-retirement-board-and-quest-for-fossil-fuel-divestment

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YOUR TURN

Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to climate change or the environment. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to climate change that the rest of us may have missed. Your favorite chart or table perhaps…

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.