2 thoughts on “The University’s Fossil Fuel Divestment FAQ

  1. Just a few points for consideration:

    1. If Cornell holds the check book, our administration has the ability to decide where our money is invested even if someone else manages it.
    2. Very importantly, if we divest 1.3% of our endowment how much money is that? ~$95 million? How much is the opportunity cost and risk of investing in the next best option? Maybe 1 or 2 million per year less at best? How much is our reputation worth and our ability to attract prospective new world leaders worth? – A lot more than 2 million per year.
    3. I don’t agree with the argument that investing in fossil fuels gives us a proxy vote thus justifying investment. The oil and gas industry makes $180 billion dollars per year just in revenue alone. The Market Cap (Net Worth / Total Valuation) of Exxon Mobil alone as a company is $318 billion. Even if Cornell has 100% of its oil and gas funding in only one major oil and gas company, which I assure you it does not, the amount of sway of a “Proxy Vote” would be likely be less than 1/1000th. I’ve never seen a company, much less a university, purchase ownership in other companies that harm the environment for the sole purpose of converting their ways to make decisions that help the world. Nobody has enough money to make this ideology work.

    With all of this said, I understand that Cornell as a University needs time to move away from the use of fossil fuels on campus. Especially as fossil fuels are used for some very specialized research that is making some phenomenal positive changes in the world.

  2. I do have a question regarding a point made in the FAQ.

    In reference to the paragraph stating that:

    “The second group of arguments focuses on the loss of influence that arises when you divest from a company. When you own shares in a company, you have the right of “proxy voting,” which helps to guide the policies and practices of that company. If Cornell were to divest from companies that currently produce fossil fuels, it would lose its proxy voting rights in those companies, and thus the ability to push those companies away from fossil fuels and into the alternative energy areas.”

    I am curious as to whether there is any information that specifies how often, or in what way the University has used its proxy voting rights to push companies away from fossil fuels in the past? If there is no evidence that the university has been willing to wield its influence as an investor for the purpose of addressing the climate crisis, or if we have tried and subsequently failed because our investments don’t rise to a level that can be leveraged for meaningful influence on particular companies, it would seem to me that the proxy-vote influence argument is moot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.