Divesting in oil will create new troubles

If you invest in a company that profits from activities harming the environment, does that mean you support the adverse effects they create?

Finding an answer to this question is one of the key concerns behind a growing movement observed across campus.

Last week, MSU Fossil Free, a relaunched student environment group, organized in front of the Hannah Administration Building to urge the university to divest the millions of dollars it has pledged to oil companies.

Editorial Board

Andrew Krietz
Katie Harrington
Greg Olsen
Derek Blalock
Omari Sankofa II
RuAnne Walworth

According to a press release produced by the group, $13.8 million of the MSU’s endowment is invested in fossil fuel companies — including BP, Canadian Oil Sands and Shell International — in the form of stocks, bonds and asset-backed securities.

Steve Riccardi, vice president of MSU Fossil Free, said the point of the movement is to force university officials into admitting to the problem these companies present to the environment and stopping their involvement. Riccardi said he ideally would like the university to act as it did in 1978, when it vowed to no longer invest with companies that did business in South Africa during the apartheid.

MSU Fossil Free’s message is radical, but it has generated support from some unlikely sources.

ASMSU, MSU’s student government, recently adopted a resolution in support of the divestment campaign.

But as earnest as the group’s intentions might be, ASMSU’s support of the campaign ultimately is not a realistic approach to the issue.

Many people would find it hard to argue against the necessity of companies, lawmakers and social groups to look for alternative methods of sustainable energy sources.

From as early as elementary school, the horrific effects of burning fossil fuels and climate change have been issues we have grown accustomed to hearing about.

The misguided views of our ancestors have left an environmental mess we now are forced to clean up. But MSU Fossil Free fails to look at both sides of the issue at hand.

For all we know, MSU likely does invest the amount of money previously mentioned, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

MSU — as with all universities — is a business and, from an economic standpoint, these investments make sense.

Although the push for sustainable energy is a movement our school embodies and supports, divesting from these companies would introduce a much different set of problems it would have to address.

Since these companies are so profitable, where would MSU find the money to compensate for the loss they would incur from this move?

Would students still fully support this divestment if, because of this move, their tuition and housing costs increased to make up for the loss?

When this side of the equation is considered, it seems questionable our university’s student government would adopt a resolution on its behalf.

Finding arguments against some of MSU Fossil Free’s ideas doesn’t mean you don’t support the group’s overall message. It merely demonstrates how despairing the overall scope of this problem is.

Until people start caring more about what they will do once all fossil fuels have been depleted, this dilemma only will worsen.

The burning of fossil fuels is a problem, but, for now, divestment in oil is not the answer.

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