Opinion

Macalester needs to become fossil free

As the United States shies away from the commitments outlined in the Paris Climate Accord, decisive action to combat the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels is more important than ever. Incoming students may be surprised to discover that Macalester still has significant funds invested in these destructive energy sources. Through superficial sustainability measures, Macalester has put up a front that it is committed to environmental and climate justice. It is past time for the administration to uphold this commitment through divestment. Fossil Free Mac is a student organization committed to divesting the college’s endowment from fossil fuels. Over the past five years, we have been urging the administration and the Board of Trustees to make socially responsible investments that reflect the values of the Mac community. This year, Fossil Free Mac is focusing on Macalester’s $50 million in private oil and gas partnerships, investments that directly fund pipelines like DAPL and Line 3 as well as other fossil fuel infrastructure. We ask the Board of Trustees to allow these private partnerships to expire without renewal.

The Board of Trustees is concerned that any measure of fossil fuel divestment would put financial strain on the college, potentially affecting financial aid for students. However, current trends suggest that the fossil fuel industry is unstable and, in the near future, will no longer be lucrative for investors. A recent analysis conducted by clean capitalist Toby Heaps examined the performance of the 100 largest coal and 100 largest public oil and gas reserve companies. The average value of these companies dropped significantly, by 10% over ten years. In comparison, the 200 largest clean energy companies grew 106% during this same time period. The instability of fossil fuel investments means that divestment has become a financial necessity as well as a moral one. In other words, Macalester’s administration has a responsibility to transition away from fossil fuels by ending our investments in private oil and gas partnerships.

In addition to clashing with Macalester’s values, the college’s $50 million in direct partnerships threatens our financial stability. These investments could turn into assets that lose all monetary value prior to the end of their economic life, known as stranded assets. In other words, these fossil fuel investments could damage Macalester’s endowment. The imminent threat of stranded assets is inciting a wave of divestment around the world. Individuals, schools and governments are channeling their money toward more financially stable, sustainable and socially-responsible institutions. Macalester College is way behind the curve. If we do not take action soon, Macalester could lose a significant portion of its financial base due to short-sighted investments in dirty fossil fuels.

The time to act is now. Join Fossil Free Mac every Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. on the second floor of the Campus Center to help ensure that Macalester divests from these destructive fossil fuels, starting by placing a moratorium on private oil and gas partnerships. Check us out on Facebook at Fossil Free Macalester for updates on our climate justice movement.

by Fossil Free Mac

fossilfreemac@macalester.edu

October 13, 2017

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