Quantcast
Insights

Tapping the Power of the Purse: Divest From Fossil Fuels, Invest in Clean Energy

If you're reading this article, there is a good chance you've already taken steps to stop climate disruption. You probably ditched incandescent lightbulbs years ago. You may drive a hybrid or (even better) an EV. Some of you have installed solar panels on your homes. And a whole lot of you frequently fire off messages to elected representatives to let them know where you stand on fossil fuels.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

But there's more you can do to help the cause—two simple, related actions that President Barack Obama summed up succinctly during his climate speech last summer: "Invest. Divest."

It's potent advice, because the central challenge to achieving a fossil fuel-free economy is more financial than technological. We know how to make electricity from renewable sources, and there's enough untapped clean energy out there to power the global economy several times over. Unfortunately, our energy infrastructure and the institutions that finance it are stuck in a fossil fuel mind-set.

It's time to tap the power of the purse. The first step is to shift long-term investments away from the corporations that are doing the most damage to air, water and the climate. Private investors and anyone with ties to institutional investors can learn how to get fossil fuels out of their portfolios at gofossilfree.org.

If environmental concerns aren't reason enough to divest from the dirty energy sector, do it out of selfishness, because companies that depend on their fossil fuel reserves for future earnings are simply a bad investment these days.

Here's why: To avoid a full-blown climate catastrophe, humans must leave at least two-thirds of those untapped reserves in the ground. This "carbon bubble”—the overvaluation of fossil fuel companies based on reserves that must never be exploited and that organizations like the Sierra Club are tirelessly fighting to keep in the ground—explains why the divestment movement is spreading to foundations, pension funds and municipalities. And even analysts who don't mind profiting from pollution know that, sooner or later, all bubbles must burst. In addition to calling your stockbroker, you should look closely at your savings account, because there's a good chance it's being used to level Appalachia.

A report by the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network and BankTrack found that U.S. banks (including such behemoths as Chase and Bank of America) provided $20.8 billion in financing to "the worst of the worst" players in the coal industry in 2012. The good news: Thanks to online banking, it's simple to move your money to a credit union or a responsible institution like New Resource Bank. And credit card companies like One PacificCoast Bank (a Sierra Club partner) make it even easier to align your financial choices with your clean energy values.

Getting our money out of fossil fuels is only the beginning, however, because we also need to invest in clean energy. Traditionally, this has been done by buying green-tech mutual funds (which were up by 37 percent last year). Internet options like crowdfunding make it possible to target your investments even more precisely and to participate in projects once available only to large financial institutions. Last year, I used a company called Mosaic to invest a modest amount in a new community solar project in Oakland, CA. The return from my stake has been slightly better than the average interest from a corporate bond. But the important thing here is the cumulative impact of small investors like me. Since launching in 2010, Mosaic has channeled more than $6 million to clean energy projects with a current generating capacity of 17 megawatts.

Innovation is a powerful force, whether it's technological or financial, and our inevitable transition to clean energy is accelerating because of it.

——–

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Australians Divest From the ‘Big Four’ Banks That Fund Fossil Fuel Projects

Two New Reports, One Conclusion: Fossil Fuel Divestment Crucial to Combating Climate Change

Students Stage Day of Action As Harvard University Refuses to Divest From Fossil Fuels

——–

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Rice University marine biologist Adrienne Correa takes samples at a reef in Flower Garden Banks. Jesse Cancelmo / Rice University

Hurricane Harvey Runoff Threatens Coral Reefs

Hurricane Harvey's record rains didn't just unleash a torrent of floodwaters into the Gulf of Mexico—this freshwater could be harming coral reefs which require saltwater to live, according to new research.

After Harvey dumped more than 13 trillion gallons of rain over southeast Texas, researchers detected a 10 percent drop in salinity at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, located 100 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas.

Keep reading... Show less

Pruitt Wants to Make the EPA Less Accountable to the Public

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) breaks the law by missing deadlines, allowing polluters to violate regulations that protect our health and environment, one way the public holds it accountable is by taking the agency to court. Scott Pruitt and his corporate polluter allies see this as a problem, so Monday, the administrator moved to curtail the agency's practice of settling lawsuits with outside groups, making it easier to skirt the law.

"Pruitt's doing nothing more than posturing about a nonexistent problem and political fiction," John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate and Clean Air program said in reaction. "His targeting of legal settlements, especially where EPA has no defense to breaking the law, will just allow violations to persist, along with harms to Americans."

Keep reading... Show less
Oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Julie Dermansky

Nearly 400,000 Gallons of Oil Spews Into Gulf of Mexico, Could Be Largest Spill Since Deepwater Horizon

Last week, a pipe owned by offshore oil and gas operator LLOG Exploration Company, LLC spilled up to 393,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, reminding many observers of the Deepwater Horizon explosion seven years ago that spewed approximately 210 million gallons of crude into familiar territory.

Now, a report from Bloomberg suggests that the LLOG spill could be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 BP blowout, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Keep reading... Show less
Shutterstock

Big Food Is Worried About Millennials Avoiding Animal Products

By Nathan Runkle

Hundreds of leaders from fast-food chains, marketing agencies and poultry production companies recently gathered in North Carolina for the 2017 Chicken Marketing Summit to play golf and figure out how to make you eat more animals.

One session focused on marketing chicken to millennials. Richard Kottmeyer, a senior managing partner at Fork to Farm Advisory Services, explained to the crowd that millennials are "lost" and need to be "inspired and coached." His reasoning? Because there are now "58 ways to gender identify on Facebook." Also, because most millennial women take nude selfies, the chicken industry needs to be just as "naked" and transparent.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Strange Days: Ex-Hurricane Ophelia Batters Ireland Under Orange Skies

By Dr. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson

Ex-Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland hard with full hurricane-like fury on Monday, bringing powerful winds that caused widespread damage and power outages. At least two deaths have been reported from trees falling on cars, and The Irish Times said at least 360,000 ESB Networks customers lost power in Ireland because of the storm.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
PBouman / Shutterstock

EPA Limits Use of Problematic Herbicide Dicamba—But Is That Enough?

By Dan Nosowitz

Dicamba has been in use as a local pesticide for decades, but it's only recently that Monsanto has taken to using it in big, new ways. The past two years have seen the rollout of dicamba-resistant seed for soybean and cotton, as well as a new way to apply it: broad spraying.

But dicamba, it turns out, has a tendency to vaporize and drift with the wind, and it if lands on a farm that hasn't planted Monsanto's dicamba-resistant seed, the pesticide will stunt and kill crops in a very distinctive way, with a telltale cupping and curling of leaves, as seen above. Drift from dicamba has affected millions of acres of crops, prompting multiple states to issue temporary bans on the pesticide. Farmers have been taking sides, either pro-dicamba or anti, and at least one farmer has been killed in a dispute over its use.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Runoff from a farm field in Iowa during a rain storm. Lynn Betts / U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Drinking Water for Millions in Rural America Contaminated With Suspected Carcinogen

Drinking water supplies for millions of Americans in farm country are contaminated with a suspected cancer-causing chemical from fertilizer, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

The contaminant is nitrate, which gets into drinking water sources when chemical fertilizer or manure runs off poorly protected farm fields. Nitrate contaminates drinking water for more than 15 million people in 49 states, but the highest levels are found in small towns surrounded by row-crop agriculture. Major farm states where the most people are at risk include California, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kansas.

Keep reading... Show less
www.youtube.com

Trump's Approval Rating on Hurricane Response Sinks 20 Points After Puerto Rico

President Trump's approval rating for overseeing the federal government's response to hurricanes fell by 20 points after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, a CNN poll conducted by SSRS revealed.

Trump's approval rating for responding to hurricanes Harvey and Irma stood at 64 percent in mid-September. Just a month later, the rating dropped to 44 percent.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox