Fossil fuel row: “Blowing hot air on the wrong target?”

alberta crude

Pic from the cover of the ‘Hot Air’report

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Calgary on July 12 released Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu’s research paper “Blowing Hot Air on the Wrong Target? A Critique of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement in Higher Education.”

Desrochers and Shimizu claim that by 2015, students and faculty at more than 1,000 college and university campuses had attempted to pressure trustees and administrators to sell endowment holdings held in corporations that were engaged in fossil fuel production, including extraction of coal, crude oil, bitumen, and natural gas. Rhetoric used by divestment activist students and faculty insists that carbon fuel reserves be left in the ground but doesn’t actually suggest consumer sacrifice.

Desrochers and Shimizu state that activists equate fossil fuel divestment with earlier campaigns against tobacco, arms, apartheid, and slavery. Activists who claim the moral high ground, however, don’t appear to be rushing to “divest” themselves of using products derived from fossil fuels.

Indeed, the sole focus is on corporations and CO2 emissions associated with the production stage rather than the combustion stage where, in the case of liquid fuels, tailpipe exhaust accounts for 70-80% of all greenhouse gas emissions. An unintended consequence of divestment activism might be to make carbon fuel energy more expensive and scarce. People with lower incomes and lesser means will be the main victims. hotair1

The authors conclude that even if the fossil fuel divestment campaign were successful, it would have no impact on green house gas emissions, climate change or the financial standing of carbon energy producers. It could however achieve significant price increases, lost jobs, a less reliable energy grid, and even greater levels of disease, death, and environmental degradation. People with lower incomes and lesser means would be the main victims if divestment activism made carbon fuel energy more expensive and scarce.

Pierre Desrochers is Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Toronto with an interest in economic development, technological innovation, environmental, energy and food policy. Hiroko Shimizu is a policy analyst with a special interest in energy, food, environmental, and globalization issues. She holds a Master’s of International Public Policy from Osaka University.

Derochers and Shimizu’s “Critique” can be found here: Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement – CNW

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