Divesting people of better living standards

The self-righteous angst against fossil fuels for the poor is arrogant, immoral, lethal, and racist

tsetsefly“Social responsibility” activists want universities and pension funds to eliminate fossil fuel companies from their investment portfolios. They plan to spotlight their demands on “Global Divestment Day,” February 13-14. Their agenda is misguided, immoral, lethal … and racist.

A mere 200 years ago, the vast majority of humans were poor, sick and malnourished. Life expectancy in 1810 was less than 40 years, and even royal families lived under sanitation, disease, and housing standards inferior to what American welfare families enjoy today. Then a veritable revolution occurred.

The world began to enjoy a bonanza in wealth, technology, living standards, and life spans. In just two centuries, average world incomes rose eleven-fold, disease rates plummeted, and life expectancy more than doubled. Unfortunately, not everyone benefitted equally, and even today billions of people still live under conditions little better than what dominated in 1810. Bringing them from squalor, disease, and early death to modernity may be our most important economic, technological, and moral challenge.

Many factors played vital roles in this phenomenal advancement. However, as Julian SimonIndur GoklanyAlex Epstein, and the authors of this article have documented, driving all this progress were fossil fuels that provided the energy for improvements in industry, transportation, housing, healthcare, and environmental quality, and for huge declines in climate-related deaths due to storms, droughts, heat, and cold. Modern civilization is undeniably high energy – and 85% of the world’s energy today is still coal, oil, and natural gas. These fuels support $70 trillion per year in global gross domestic product, to power virtually everything we make, grow, ship, drive, eat, and do. The rest of the world deserves nothing less.

Demands that institutions eliminate hydrocarbon stocks, and society stop using fossil fuels, would reverse this progress, jeopardize people’s health and living childstandards, and prevent billions of still impoverished people worldwide from enjoying the living standards many of us take for granted.

Trains and automobiles would not run. Planes would not fly. Refrigeration, indoor plumbing, safe food and water, central heating and air conditioning, plastics, and pharmaceuticals would disappear or become luxuries for wealthy elites. We would swelter in summer and freeze in winter. We’d have electricity only when it’s available, not when we need it – to operate assembly lines, conduct classes and research, perform life-saving surgeries, and use computers, smart phones, and social media.

Divesting fossil fuels portfolios is also financially imprudent. Fossil-fuel stocks are among the best for solid, risk-adjusted returns. One analysis found that a 2.1% share in fossil fuel companies by colleges and universities generated 5.7% of all endowment gains in 2010 to 2011, to fund scholarship, building, and other programs. Teacher, police, and other public pension funds have experienced similar results.

That may be why such institutions often divest slowly, if at all, over 5 to 10 years, to maximize their profits. One is reminded of St. Augustine of Hippo’s prayer: “Please let me be chaste and celibate – but not yet.” The “ethical” institutions selling fossil fuel stocks also need to find buyers who are willing to stand up to divestment pressure group insults and harassment. They also need to deal with hard realities.

No “scalable” alternative fuels currently exist to replace fossil fuels. To avoid the economic, social, environmental, and human health catastrophes that would follow the elimination of hydrocarbons, we would need affordable, reliable options on a big enough scale to replace the fuels we rely on today. The divestment movement ignores the enormity of current and future global energy needs (met and unmet), and the fact that existing “renewable” technologies cannot possibly meet those requirements.

Fossil fuels produce far more energy per acre than biofuels, notes analyst Howard Hayden. Using biomass – instead of coal or natural gas – to generate electricity for one U.S. city of 700,000 people would require cutting down trees across an area the size of Rhode Island every year. Making corn-based ethanol to replace the gasoline in U.S. vehicles would require planting every single acre of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin in corn for fuel. Wind and solar currently provide just 3 percent of global energy consumption, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports; by 2040, as the world’s population continues to grow, hydroelectric, wicoaltrainnd, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy combined will still represent only 15% of the total, the EIA predicts.

Not using fossil fuels is tantamount to not using energy. It is economic suicide and eco-manslaughter.

Over the past three decades, fossil fuels enabled 1.3 billion people to escape debilitating energy poverty – over 830 million thanks to coal alone – and China connected 99% of its population to the grid and increased its steel production eight times over, again mostly with coal. However, 1.3 billion people are still desperate for electricity and modern living standards. In India alone, over 300 million people (the population of the entire United States) remain deprived of electricity.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, some 615 million (100 million more than in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico combined) still lack this life-saving technology, and 730 million (the population of Europe) still cook and heat with wood, charcoal, and animal dung. Millions die every year from lung and intestinal diseases, due to breathing smoke from open fires and not having the safe food and water that electricity brings.

Ending this lethal energy deprivation will require abundant, reliable, affordable energy on unprecedented scales, and more than 80% of it will have to come from fossil fuels. Coal now provides 40% of the world’s electricity, and much more than that in some countries. That is unlikely to change anytime soon.

We cannot even build wind and solar facilities without coal and petroleum: to mine, smelt, manufacture, and transport materials for turbines, panels, and transmission lines – and to build and operate backup power units that also require vast amounts of land, cement, steel, copper, rare-earth metals, and other materials.

Coal-fired power plants in China, India, and other developing countries do emit large quantities of real pollution: sulfates, nitrous oxides, mercury, and soot that can cause respiratory problems and death. However, modern pollution control systems could – and eventually will – eliminate most of that.

Divestment activists try to counter these facts by claiming that climate science is settled and the world faces a manmade global warming cataclysm. On that basis they demand that colleges and universities forego any debate and rush to judgment on hydrocarbon divestment. However, as we have pointed out here and elsewhere, the alleged “97% consensus” is a fiction, no manmade climate crisis is looming, and there is abundant evidence of massive “pHraud” in all too much climate chaos “research.”

We therefore ask: What right do divestment activists and climate change alarmists have to deny Earth’s most destitute people access to electricity and motor fuels, jobs and better lives? To tell people everywhere what level of economic development, health, and living standards they will be “permitted” to enjoy? To subject people to policies that “safeguard” families from hypothetical, exaggerated, manufactured, and illusory climate change risks 50 to 100 years from now – by imposing energy, economic, and healthcare deprivation that will perpetuate disease and could kill them tomorrow?

That is not ethical. It is intolerant and totalitarian. It is arrogant, immoral, lethal, and racist.

To these activists, we say: “You first. Divest yourselves first. Get fossil fuels out of your lives. All of them. Go live in Sub-Saharan Africa just like the natives for a few childrenmonths, drinking their parasite-infested water, breathing their polluted air, enduring their disease-ridden flies and mosquitoes – without benefit of modern drugs or malaria preventatives… and walking 20 miles to a clinic when you collapse with fever.

To colleges, universities, and pension funds, we say: Demand and ensure open, robust debate on all these issues, before you vote on divestment. Allow no noisy disruption, walk-outs, or false claims of consensus. Compel divestment advocates to defend their positions, factually and respectfully. Protect the rights and aspirations of people everywhere to reliable, affordable electricity, better living standards and improved health. And instead of “Global Divestment Day,” host and honor “Hydrocarbon Appreciation Day.”

CityLights

———–

Editor’s note: Roger Bezdek coauthored this piece. 

Categories

About the Author: Paul Driessen

Paul Driessen

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for CFACT and author of Cracking Big Green and Eco-Imperialism: Green Power - Black Death.

  • CJ

    An awful lot of people are making lots of money selling Green Quack Energy Cures to “Save the Earth” from Climate Change. Quack cures that are lethal to the lives the poor who are denied the right to low cost reliable energy from fossil fuel. Quacks who pretend green energy can replace fossil fuel to make a buck. As long as there are delusional useful idiots that follow the “Save The Earth” siren song of their Green Quack Leaders the poor will pay the price. http://wp.me/p7y4l-v3Q

  • Allen Barclay Allen

    Just when it became possible to go to the moon and back and Perhaps the Stars. Divestment Strategies Sending us back to the cave. Well I won’t Go you IDIOTS !! Money Talks Bulshit walks !! Go ahead and try that Billionaire financing your college debt and his college you’re attending he will step on you for threatening him with Stupidity. And He will no doubt SHUT DOWN THAT DAMN INSTITUTION OF STUPIDITY YOU CALL A COLLEGE !! Who do you think Finances Research you Morons in College ??? We need a National register for Employers to look at Craig before Anyone Hires these Idiots. No job for those that participated in Global Warming Agenda 21 Bulshit. Fuel Companies already practice it No job for these Lackless wonders of Buffoonery !! Fuel Companies want Fact from their Real Geologist Not Drool from the corner of their mouth !!

  • ronaldpgh

    re: Paul Driessen’s comments on the economic benefits derived from fossil fuels, especially oil, our nation quite literally won WWII by having the benefit of oil and the oil company technologies developed during the war. Catalytic cracking of the heavier distillate fractions of the oil barrel extended the yield of gasoline and catalytic reforming of the gasoline fraction greatlyincreased the octane as required for aviation engines. Oil companies also developed synthetic ruibber which was very necessary to the war effort

  • Jon Exner

    The other night there was a piece on hydro electric power.
    *
    They went around the United States and looked at all the dams and discovered that when taking into account all dams from smaller ones to larger one there is only a small percentage that actually use the dams to create hydro electric power.
    *
    They showed one smaller dam and said that if they set it up to create hydro electric power it could create enough power to serve about 500 home. This may seem like a small issue but when you take into account the number of dams there are in the country it adds up to a lot of electric power not being created.
    *
    Like the old saying goes don’t put all your eggs in one basket. We need all kinds of power producing products.

  • greggoble

    Divestment becomes an economic imperative for endowments… LENR emergent.

    Missing LENR Energy Baker Institute paper: US drop in oil prices analysis Rice University Think Tank http://gbgoble.kinja.com/missing-lenr-energy-baker-institute-paper-us-drop-in-o-1685365796

    Other studies suggest that carbon-free investing could even offer higher returns: S&P Capital IQ, a division of McGraw Hill Financial, modeled the performance over the past decade of the S&P 500 index stripped of its fossil-fuel stocks. A $1 billion endowment invested in a carbon-free S&P 500 would have yielded an additional $119 million in profit through 2013 – a divestment dividend rich enough to fund 850 four-year scholarships.

    Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-logic-of-divestment-why-we-have-to-kiss-off-big-carbon-20150114#ixzz3RuUAfbn5