The United States nergy industry kick-started a social media campaign Thursday targeting claims that fossil fuel investments are morally evil and should be purged from all college campuses.
The Independent Petroleum Association of America’s forum at the University of Denver marked the beginning of a national social media campaign against 350.org, an activist group focused on fossil fuel divestment issues founded by environmentalist Bill McKibben.
The campaign is aimed at using a viral video on social media to raise awareness of the risks and costs associated with fossil-fuel divestment on college campuses. The IPAA wants to expand the fight to the Boston and New York City regions.
“One thing we have learned regarding the divestment campaign by anti-fossil fuel activists is that a large majority of students have very little awareness of the actual issue,” Jeff Eshelman, an executive at the IPAA, said in a statement Thursday announcing the campaign.
A handful of college campuses nationwide have pledged to partially divest their fossil fuel assets. And only one Colorado college, Naropa University in Boulder, has publicly promised to sell its fuel assets.
Energy analysts call the partial divestments symbolic gestures and political stunts meant to appease some of the more rabid environmentalists.
Simon Lomax, a Colorado-based adviser to the petroleum association’s “Divestment Facts” project, told reporters that 350.org uses an army of student activists to “stigmatize the oil and gas industry.”
Analysts with Compass Lexecon, which studied divestment for the industry, believe that purging the school’s oil investments could cost DU between $68 million and $250 million over the next two decades.
Still, campus activists move forward, undaunted by reality.
“Our goal is not to stigmatize the people who ended up working in the industry,” said Lori Scott, a student member of the “Divest DU” advocacy group. “The goal is to change the climate we live in,” by pushing college administrators to vacate oil assets.
A DU task force was formed to study fossil fuel divestment has held meetings from July through October. The task force, which is expected to determine the fate of the school’s assets in January, includes three members of the school’s board of trustees.
The goal for 350.org’s crusade against oil has always been to frame the fossil fuel debate in moral terms.
“[I] would say the purpose is to restrict the social license of the fossil fuel industry, meaning to stigmatize the fossil fuel industry as more a part of social change rather than these material changes,” 350 Action organizer Michaela Mujica-Steiner said of the hearings this past spring.
Divesters are putting the screws to the school board in hopes of forcing its trustees to throw out the oil and gas industry and embrace a less consistent form of energy: wind and solar.
The task force, for its part, was formed after an April presentation by student activists — which raised the “urgency of the climate crisis, its environmental costs and the University of Denver’s moral obligation to combat it,” the task force chairman Jim Griesemer wrote in a press statement.
Griesemer stated during the meetings that the task force believes global warming is man-made, and is caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
“We begin our work by accepting the reality of global warming and the probability that the burning of fossil fuels is a significant, perhaps the major, contributor to this genuine problem,” he wrote.
Colorado’s oil production increased dramatically from 2004 to 2014. The state’s natural gas output jumped by 51 percent during that 10-year stretch, according to data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The Centennial State, in all, gathers nearly 60 percent of its electricity from coal, 22 percent from natural gas, and 18 percent from renewable energy.
Chris White is a contributer for the Daily Caller. This content was provided by the Daily Caller News Foundation