December 05, 2012

Thinking #350 — will carbon divestiture actually do much?

It sounds like a great idea, right?

Divestiture helped (theoretically) push South Africa away from apartheid. (That said, the "theoretically" is there because how much effect it had is highly debated, and not necessarily on political lines.)

So, that's why, although college presidents are wary that college boards of trustees are afraid this would affect bottom lines on endowments, the likes of Bill McKibben are pushing for colleges to divest their endowments of holdings in Big Oil and other carbon giga-generators.

Not so fast. From further to the left, there's an argument it won't really do much.

At Counterpunch, certainly, overall, even further left than McKibben, Christian Parenti says, let's get real about what divestment will and won't do.

His key counterexample is a simple one: About 70 percent or so of today's proven oil reserves is held by state-owned companies untouchable by divestiture.

His second? He references leading left-liberal economist Doug Henwood to say that stocks aren't the primary source of funding in general for most publicly traded companies.

Read the whole thing. Beyond "just criticizing," it's constructive criticism with a suggestion to tell Obama to put his outlet plug where his Department of Energy dollars are, and start buying green power massively, among other things.

Parenti's first example is obvious. And, I trust and agree with Henwood enough to accept the second answer.

So, McKibben? Instead of divesting from Big Oil? Tell those Swarthmore students to ask where their college gets its electricity.

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