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The recent decline in oil prices is a boon for consumers but a bust for oil companies. Collectively, profits of the four supermajors – Royal Dutch Shell PLC; Exxon Mobil Corp.; Chevron Corp.; and BP PLC – have plummeted 70 percent in the first nine months of 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal. Despite a “precipitous drop in profits this year,” the supermajors increased stock dividends 10 percent over 2014, disbursing approximately $28 billion to shareholders.

For the time being, that’s good news for investors unless the shareholders happen to be among the universities and religious members of the fossil-fuel divestment crowd. This group includes the always headline-grabbing college and university activists (10.9 percent), philanthropic foundations (31 percent) and faith-based organizations (25 percent). These figures are culled from the National Association of Scholars’ “Inside Divestment: The Illiberal Movement to Turn a Generation Against Fossil Fuels,” which was released this week. NAS is a New York City-based nonprofit dedicated to “the promotion and preservation of high academic standards in teaching and scholarship.” From the NAS Executive Summary:

The idea of fossil fuel divestment grew out of a college student campaign at Swarthmore College., the main organization supporting divestment, emerged at Middlebury College. At least one student-run organization, the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network, supports divestment campaigns. But much of the organizational and intellectual framework comes from professional environmental activists and environmentalist organizations that train college students and put them forward as the face of the movement.


Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben

It’s been a long, cold winter. Not to mention expensive due to heating bills depleting bank balances for those fortunately possessing enough scratch to pay their utilities. For others forced to wear sweaters around the clock and sleep with three dogs to stay warm while keeping the thermostat tuned just above freezing to save money, it may take months before reaching a zero balance on the monthly propane/gas/natural gas/electricity statement.

Imagine how prohibitive those bills would be if we relied on the so-called renewable energy schemes rather than relatively cheap and plentiful fossil fuel sources to warm our igloos and power our personal vehicles and those oh-so-necessary snowplows. In a word borrowed from Thomas Hobbes, it’d be brutish.

Love it, hate it, or just plain indifferent, U.S. dependence on fossil fuel energy will remain relatively unchanged for the foreseeable future. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates our appetite for carbon-based power will hold steady more or less until 2040: “The fossil fuel share of energy consumption falls from 82% in 2012 to 80% in 2040, as consumption of petroleum-based liquid fuels declines, largely as a result of slower growth in VMT [vehicle miles traveled] and increased vehicle efficiency.” (more…)