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Majority backs divesting from fossil fuel

Rochester Business Journal
October 3, 2014

More than half of RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll respondents support the decision by some foundations, endowments and pension funds to divest fossil fuel investments, and 63 percent say they are concerned about climate change.

On the eve of the U.N. Climate Summit in New York City last week, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced its decision to divest from fossil fuels and focus more on clean energy technologies in an effort to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The fund, a nearly $900 million private foundation established in 1940 by members of the family whose wealth traces to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil fortune, said it is committed to “reducing our exposure to coal and tar sands to less than 1 percent of the total portfolio by the end of 2014.” It also will develop a strategy to divest any remaining fossil fuel investments over the next few years.

With this step the Rockefeller fund joins a movement that began a few years ago on college campuses. A number of foundations and pension funds—along with wealthy individuals, local governments and religious organizations—have vowed to divest from fossil fuels.

When Stanford University announced in May that it will not make direct investments of funds from its roughly $19 billion endowment in coal-mining companies, President John Hennessy said, “Stanford has a responsibility as a global citizen to promote sustainability for our planet.”

By contrast, the president of Harvard University, whose $36 billion endowment is the largest in the country, has said that university divestment from the fossil fuel industry is not “warranted or wise.” The funds in Harvard’s endowment, President Drew Faust said last fall, “have been given to us by generous benefactors over many years to advance academic aims, not to serve other purposes, however worthy.”

Roughly 625 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Sept. 29 and 30.

Do you support the decision by some foundations, endowments and pension funds to divest fossil fuel investments?
Yes: 55%
No: 45%

In general, are you concerned about climate change?
Very concerned: 41%
Somewhat concerned: 22%
Not very concerned: 21%
Not at all concerned: 17%


It’s a free country; people and institutions should be able to invest their money in any legal way that they choose.
—Sam Messer, Applied Measurement & Controls Inc.

Hopefully as a society we continue to find clean and more efficient ways to use energy. The sooner we all understand these resources are not endless, the better. College campuses are a good starting point to teach good habits in regard to energy use and recycling. I would love to see more use of composting, solar and wind power on campuses, along with a reduction in waste during sporting events.
—Keith Newcomer

We need to invest in no fossil fuels. Clean energy options are working well in several countries in Europe. Why are we so far behind in this? The science is there to support the change. Jobs for clean energy are there. I buy recycled metals to use in my jewelry. We all need to do our part.
—Kim Pandina, Panda Wear

There is no more important issue of our lifetime. The reporting of the truth and seriously imminent need to move away from fossil fuel reliance has been purposefully avoided by mainstream media. This is no coincidence as the same folks who own mainstream media at all levels from local to global either own directly or are otherwise closely financially connected to the oil and gas industry. Wall Street and the banking industry are complicit in this catastrophically damaging atmosphere, as well.
—Jennifer Fitzsimmons

“Global warming” did not get much traction; maybe “climate change” will. I know that it is real because the temperature increased 20 degrees from just this morning. A few more days like this and Lake Ontario will start to boil.
—Mike Gooding

I feel climate change is a very important issue that cannot wait, and I support divestment.
—David Frenzel

They can do whatever they want; it’s a free country (or still is, mostly). Very idealistic, but what is the purpose? Are they redirecting those investments into research into alternative energy sources? Better to see these individuals divest themselves of fossil fuels. Good luck.
—Richard Skanron

Unless we as a whole realize that we have a responsibility to the earth and maintaining it, we will continue to have climate change issues and unsafe land, water, etc.
—Beth Garver Beha

I may not agree with the theory of climate change, but I do believe we need to always be looking at better energy sources. Every great business must be looking ahead. Rockefeller is just investing in the future. Without capital, this area would not grow.
—Joel Stauring, Arkport

I fail to understand why this is even an issue. We all must do whatever we can to curb our carbon footprint so future generations can enjoy the world as we have known it with clean air and clean water. That means businesses, too.
—Anna Sears, AKS Apartments LLC

Let’s move ahead with more support for clean energy in the form of research grants and loans for startups.
—Lenore Youngman

Climate change is a complex subject. I can appreciate both Standford’s and Harvard’s decisions regarding divesting in fossil fuel investments, though they are contrary to each other. It is not a simple matter to decide what to do regarding climate change. I drive a hybrid and elect “green” sources for utilities and don’t feel I’m doing all I could.
—Carolyn Phinney Rankin

The months of June, July and August were the hottest on record for the globe, and 2014 is on track to break the record for the hottest year (set in 2010). We should be very concerned.
—Rick Corey, Penfield

You’re not asking the right question. If a person or legal entity wants to divest in any holdings, it’s their right to do so. Of course we should all support their right to do as they please, assuming the information is made public to current or potential investors. However, you are either asking us: 1. If we are on board with the global warming agenda; or 2. If we think this is a wise financial decision. The answer to first part of this question is obviously not. Unless we all want to give up our cars, the gift of electricity running to our homes and of course bring to bear the famine and death mostly in the Third World, but certainly everywhere that would accompany the diversion of resources to an inefficient model, then no, you shouldn’t be on board. In the case of the latter, it certainly has not proven to be a successful play for the funds that have tried to focus on green energy yet … but maybe they will be the exception to the rule. I say—have at it. “A fool and his money are soon separated.”
—Devin Michael, Chili

Scientists can’t even predict the weather more than a few days ahead. I have no confidence in the doom-and-gloom predictions, and there are plenty of other scientists who agree with me. More importantly, we have no viable energy technology ready to replace the so-called “fossil fuels” (which by the way they are not, but are in fact proved to be naturally occurring substances formed by processes occurring deep within the Earth). Global warming in my opinion is a hoax and a money grab!
—George Thomas, Ogden

Of course we should divest our interests in fossil fuels. I would also like to be as rich as Warren Buffet and look like George Clooney. But that ain’t gonna happen either.
—John Calia, Vistage International

The free market works much better than central mandates and regulations from the government. The war against coal has cost so many jobs and so much money in terms of higher energy costs. All we needed was "clean coal," not shuttered power plants. What kind of jets did those hypocrite diplomats and stars fly in on to the Climate Summit? Did they even use commercial airlines? Wouldn't it have been best to have the Climate Summit be done over the Internet? When you go outside the free market, you get executive decisions like Solyndra. When there's an oil shortage the free market will find solutions like wood alcohol and the fuel cell. Where will the electricity come from for the electric cars? New coal-powered power plants?
—Clifford Jacobson M.D.

The following are facts: According to the New York State Education Department’s publication, Geology of New York (Educational Leaflet No. 28, 1991), glaciation reached its peak in the state about 21,750 years ago. Ice sheets extended from Canada south and covered all of New York, with the exception of a small area in the Allegheny State Park region. Based on the knowledge that some modern glaciers advance a meter each day, geologists believe the Pleistocene glacier advanced at a similar speed. When the ice sheet retreated from New York about 10,000 years ago, it melted, releasing huge volumes of meltwater. It melted completely in Canada approximately 7,000 years ago. Climate change has been happening for years—even before mankind and the industrial revolution had any impact on it. Global warming formed the area we live in—making the beautiful hills and lakes. Climate change will continue—with or without the help of mankind.
—Gerald Van Strydonck

Actually I don't think that these divestments are any more than symbolic moves. The universities have already lined their pockets with fossil fuel profits. They now see profits elsewhere and can attract young students by saying, “look we're green.” Selling fossil fuel stocks simply impacts on the capital valuations of those companies, making it a little harder for them to raise money. The additional cost of money will show up at the gas pump.
—Wayne Donner, Rush

The United States needs to make a concerted effort to wean itself off big energy. Distributed green energy is how we do that and the energy companies know it. This is why they continue to press fracking—and other dirty environmental methods—to continue their control over energy sources for as long as possible. Control equals profit, and that's all they are concerned about. We should stop supplementing oil and gas based fuels with federal tax dollars by passing them and consumers discounts, and pour that money instead into green energy solutions in both production and conservation. I would like the world my children live in to be clean, unpolluted and not under water.
—Lee Drake, CEO, OS-Cubed Inc.

We are on the cusp of a spiral into a new climate regime, due principally to the start of Arctic methane hydrate beds melting. This will send into the atmosphere trillions of tons of methane, which is about 100 times as effective as CO2 as a greenhouse gas. We have little time to lose in divesting from fossil fuels and reducing our carbon emissions drastically.
—Dwain Wilder, librarian, Frack Free Genesee Library

It’s ridiculous to think we are responsible for a changing climate. In the ‘70s, everyone was warning of a new "Ice Age," next came "Global Warming" and today it’s "Climate Change.”+ When the final chapters are written, we will all realize that it has nothing to do with our environment but a great deal to do with once again fleecing America.
—Alan Baker, Henrietta

I support decisions by individuals, corporations, foundations, endowments and pension funds and the book clubs of little old ladies to do what the heck that they want to do with their own money (of course it has to be legal it cannot be to support groups on terror watch lists). This should not be about fossil fuels. It should be with doing what one wants with one's own money.
—Jay Birnbaum

Purely political considerations usually have major negative impacts to investment strategies and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Stanford and Harvard decisions to divest based on "Climate Change" concerns is the height of financial silliness. If those investments no longer made financial sense they could be viewed as sound, but to make decisions based on "unsettled" science and a sense of political correctness could be viewed as foolish mismanagement.
—Dave Coriale, Webster

Climate change, global warming, global cooling, climate instability or whatever it is being called today is a hoax as it is being presented today by pseudoscientists and plagiarists with their hands out to collect vast amounts of taxpayer funds provided by the government (state and federal) as a result of whack environmentalists bent upon seeing America fall in stature to that of some backwater, Third World nation. It’s a shame that some organizations pander to these people who want only to see our decline. Of course many of the fund managers live in the same places the tree-huggers live, large urban centers where they can only see the results of large population, buildings, concrete and asphalt. City parks as microcosms of what they believe Mother Nature should be, pure pristine and pruned. Cities will never resemble rural areas. Large concentrated population centers create their own environment. Public services are strained; management of waste almost impossible and energy requirements multiplied exponentially compared to rural areas. Thus the cities demand more energy, environmentalists blind to reality demand so-called cleaner, so-called renewable sources of energy that are either impractical or cost prohibitive and they demand that we forfeit use of our most readily available energy resources because they live in cities struggling to remain clean for its population. There is clean coal, oil is many times more efficient than solar or wind power and nuclear—oh well, we all know how the lefties feel about that. By kowtowing to the unreasonable demands and expectations of whack frauds, charlatans and environmentalists we weaken ourselves. America’s relative clean environment is the result of economic growth and resultant prosperity. We could afford to pay to clean up our act. But the unreasonable demands of a few whackos and many ill-informed and ignorant persons, who are thinking they are doing good things, drive-up costs and expenses that will drive our country down and with that, all their dreams of a pristine environment will fall on the side of the road to third world status. If you expend your wealth chasing the windmills of an impossible dream nothing will remain to fulfill reasonable steps toward maintaining a clean, sustainable environment.
 —Michael F. Kloppel

Actually, I don't care what these foundations do with their money. If it makes them feel good, they can do what they want. I don't want any of my mutual funds to base their investing decisions on discredited junk science. If coal or oil is the best investment, they should invest my money there. Also, I object to New York State putting our tax dollars into a big solar panel plant in Buffalo. Didn't Gov. Cuomo hear about Solyndra? This is a bad decision driven by politics. Solyndra left the government $500 million in the hole. We need to reduce our fossil fuel consumption so future generations have enough. This is a long-term problem, not a short-term crisis. The politicians need a crisis to get us to accept the higher taxes and increased regulations that give them so much power over the people.
—Dennis Ditch

The "climate change" movement is an orchestrated power and money grab by undeserving individuals and organizations. In the ‘70s, it was fear of an impending ice age. Then it was global warming. Now it's climate change. How much more ambiguous can a topic be? The power of the topic of climate change resides in the people, money and agenda behind it. That simple and that's all. Power and control. The media is behind it, the education system (union controlled) is behind it, the liberal progressive socialist communist (all four the same entity) movement is behind it. Climate will always be in flux. Hot one year, cold the next. Dry, then wet. Hundred-year cycles, decade cycles. It's all and only about money and power. Have we forgotten what a bitter cold, long winter we just had? Snow in Texas? The power of propaganda is on display. Guess what—it will be cold in December, followed by warmer temperatures in April! Then rain! We'll hit 90 degree days in July and then do it all over again. Climate change, what a concept.
—Lou Romano

Dumb decision. If you want to change a business, you must be part of it. The discussion is really about stopping the use of fossil fuels for burning to reduce carbon dioxide in the air. “Fossil fuel” should be preserved as a precious resource. For energy supply, use nuclear energy. No carbon dioxide! Radioactive waste is an engineering problem and should be solved like that, and not by greedy legislators milking ignoramuses.
—Ingo H. Leubner, Crystallization Consulting

The most important aspect of divesting holdings in fossil fuel is how the funds will be invested. Preferably, the funds will be invested in renewable energy development.
—Doug Flood

It would be helpful if the public knew for a fact whether or not we truly have a problem here. For every article I read proving we are ruining the planet, there is an equally convincing article that there is NOT a problem!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

The hysteria of manmade climate change is maddening. There has been climate change on Earth since the beginning when man was absent. Twelve thousand years ago, there were glaciers in the Rochester area that reportedly were 1 to 2 miles high and melted without man’s influence. The surface temperature on Mars has been increasing without man’s influence. The sun, naturally occurring methane releases from volcanos and other sources are the major culprits of climate change on earth, not man. Carbon dioxide is the “food” that sustains green plant life that produces oxygen through photosynthesis. To declare a war on carbon dioxide in the name of the planet is misguided. There are forces in the United Nations and others inside the United States who want to stymie our greatness and destroy American exceptionalism by weighing our economy down with overbearing, unnecessary environmental regulations, carbon taxes, etc. The environmental extremists like Al Gore and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have been using a Marxist-like propaganda campaign which the old Soviet Union would be proud of. These extremists, the mainstream and left wing media are being used as the useful idiots by our enemies who want to see the U.S. competitive edge eroded. I’m a proponent of solar and wind power without unreasonable tax credits and subsidies. However, let’s use the more efficient resources of natural gas, nuclear, hydropower, oil and clean coal. By intensely harvesting these traditional resources we will become a wealthy, productive, strong nation again. With our national debt nearing $18 trillion, poverty growing, our military weakening and our borders collapsing, it’s time to utilize these wealth creating resources.
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates Inc.

This is a serious challenge that will only become worse the longer we wait. The science has long been clear and accepted by all except a few fringe elements and extraction interests. It's happening faster than anyone expected it would, so a change in energy policy is already very late. Redirecting investment can only help.
—Gary Bogue, independent consultant

One volcano eruption reverses all efforts to get rid of gasses! The second Paul Revere.
—John L. Sackett Jr.

On the one hand, it makes good sense to keep our personal environmental areas clean, and to recycle in reasonable and responsible ways. On the other hand, humanity's contribution, if any, to climate change has not been proven to the scientific level of the Law of Gravity, the Speed of Light, the Speed of Sound, etc. Exhibit A is the 1970s Global Cooling hoax.
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency

10/3/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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