WASHINGTON, June 9 (UPI) -- An industry survey of pension beneficiaries in the United States finds few told interviewers they would opt to move funds out of the oil and gas sector.
Earlier this week, the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the interests of the U.S. oil and natural gas sector, responded to word that the District of Columbia Retirement Board opted to divest from the industry by saying leaving fossil fuels behind might reduce investment returns. In its decision to stay in oil and gas, the board of trustees at Stanford University said, while cleaner alternatives were emerging, fossil fuels will remain key components of the global economy for the foreseeable future.
In a survey of nearly 800 pensioners, the Independent Petroleum Association of America said it found most would not want to leave oil and gas funds if that meant fewer returns. Jeff Eshelman, the group's director of a divestment campaign, said in a statement few surveys have actually looked at what pension beneficiaries think about dissolving fossil fuel portfolios.
"Pensioners, no matter where they live or how they vote, don't like these divestment schemes," he said.
A snapshot of 18 funds tied to the oil and gas sector from Fidelity Investments finds only one with a negative return year-to-date. None of them, however, shows a positive return on the five-year average.
Earlier this year, the Rockefeller family, which made its fortune on oil, said fossil fuels should stay in the ground for the sake of the environment. Pointing specifically to Exxon Mobil, fund managers said they were frustrated with allegations the company worked to mislead the public about the impact fossil fuels had on the global climate.
New York City is leading a national trend in divestments from fossil fuels, with pension fund managers called on to move away from coal. The New York Attorney General's office issued a subpoena to Exxon last year following a series of reports claiming the company was misleading investors decades ago about the potential impact its sector had on the environment.