Key Tactic in 2013 Battle over Climate Change?
The 350org Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign
Bill McKibben and 350.org launched a fossil fuel divestment campaign that's growing. Can it succeed? Or is public recovery of resource "rents" a sine qua non? We excerpt this 2013 article from Democracy Now, Jan 3, by A. Goodman.
by Amy Goodman350.org and other groups have been doing great work that already took the fight directly to the corporations—fighting Keystone XL, etc. But by focusing on divestment, you don’t actually take the fight closer to the corporations; you take it to the board of trustees.
Divesting from fossil fuel companies isn’t going to hurt corporate bottom line. Fossil fuel companies make money by selling fossil fuel. Many of them don’t even sell stock. Koch Industries doesn’t sell stock; it’s a privately held company. Seventy percent of the oil reserves in the world are held by state-owned companies.
So, if the universities all divest, what might this do? It might lower the price of stock a little bit. That’s not going to hurt their profitability. Lowering the stock prices of fossil fuel companies, what will that do? Not much to hurt them.
There is this huge spectacle of students mobilizing. How can that be turned into real political power?
It comes down, I think, to state action. If you look at the anti-apartheid movement, you look at the tobacco campaign, ultimately what happens is that governments step in. In the anti-apartheid struggle, 25 states imposed trade sanctions on South Africa, including the U.S. Reagan tried to veto this; he was overridden by the Senate. That’s what really turned the tide, and divestment was part of that. Tobacco—when do people stop smoking? When states start banning the sale and use of tobacco. That’s when people start quitting smoking and the profits go down. So I think we have to be realistic about what the limits and also the real possibilities of divestment are.
To read more
JJS: Opponents to global climate change go up against the richest most powerful corporation on the planet without any concern over the inequality of the opponents, like a local Little League baseball team going against the New York Yankees. Can activists really leave the unearned wealth of energy corporations in their bank accounts and have a ghost of a chance of success? Or should we first recover the socially-generated value of natural resources, thereby depriving Big Oil of it? Doing so would not only whittle the fossil fuel firms down to size and allow a fair fight, it’d also generate revenue to pay citizens a dividend, a la Alaska’s oil share. Sound far-fetched? Well, Walter J. Hickel, ex Secretary of the Interior, founded The Institute of the North which in its annual Alaska Dialogue has considered this idea for over a decade. They just need to hear more voices from the public to turn it into public policy.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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