Fossil fuel divestment an empty gesture

Divesting from fossil fuels has real costs for colleges like Johns Hopkins — endowment costs that are transferred to students with no benefit to the environment (“Hopkins didn’t go far enough in divesting from coal,” Dec. 27).

According to a report we commissioned, the financial impacts of divestment from trading, compliance and diversification losses leads to an average 15.2 percent drop in transfers from endowment accounts to school programs, translating to increased annual tuition rates, scholarship losses and reductions in faculty spending. These costs are exactly why the Public Interest Investment Advisory Committee at Hopkins stated in September, “High-profile schools with large endowments, Harvard University being the most prominent, debated but ultimately decided against divestment.”

That committee also previously recognized that divestment does not carry a meaningful impact on the environment, stating “Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates called divestment one of the ‘false solutions’ to the energy crisis, seemingly considering it a misleading quick-fix. … Divestment advocates and critics agree that the strategy is not likely to have any direct financial impact on fossil fuel companies … nor will divestment, in and of itself, reduce the levels of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases that cause climate change.”

Expanding divestment at Hopkins will only lead to new costs for students with no environmental gains. The university should stick to solutions, not empty gestures.

Jeff Eshelman, Washington, D.C.

The writer is senior vice president for operations and public affairs at the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

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