Stanford maintains investments in fossil fuels

Board of trustees says there are no competitive alternatives available.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  April 26, 2016 at 8:14 AM
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STANFORD, Calif., April 26 (UPI) -- The board of trustees at Stanford University said it was maintaining an investment portfolio of fossil fuels despite growing support for a low-carbon economy.

"We believe the long-term solution is for all of us to reduce our consumption of fossil fuel resources and develop effective alternatives," the board said in a statement. "Because achieving these goals will take time, and given how integral oil and gas are to the global economy, the trustees do not believe that a credible case can be made for divesting from the fossil fuel industry until there are competitive and readily available alternatives."

In September, Notre Dame University said it would stop relying on coal for electricity within five years and cut its carbon footprint by more than half before the end of the next decade. This year, New York City pension fund managers said they'd move away from coal and the philanthropic arm of the Rockefeller family, which amassed its fortune from oil, said the "morally reprehensible conduct" of Exxon Mobil was in part behind a decision to divest from fossil fuels.

An advisory panel on investment for Stanford advised the board to move away from oil sands, which some claim is more carbon-intensive than conventional oil. Investment managers, however, found the Stanford endowment has "no direct exposure" to that industry and the board said there was therefore no action to take.

On the fossil fuel industry as a whole, the board of trustees said the university was "deeply engaged" in developing alternative solutions, but oil and gas will remain key components of the global economy for the foreseeable future. The industry, meanwhile, is taking its own strides to reduce its environmental footprint.

"The complexity of this picture does not allow us to conclude that the conditions for divestment outlined in [a] statement on investment responsibility have been met," the board of trustees said.

Student advocacy group Fossil Free Stanford said around 800 students and faculty members have signed pledges to withhold donations to the university until it fully divests from fossil fuels.

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