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December 14, 2016

Energy Forum to Feature Colorado Voices Concerned about Possible DU Divestment of Fossil Fuels

Note: Sign Up To Attend Here.

A forum at the Colorado History museum on Thursday, December 15, 2016, will bring together elected officials, academics, students and Coloradans employed in the state’s energy industry to share their reasons for why fossil fuel divestment is bad choice for the University of Denver (DU) and other Colorado intuitions of higher learning.

Hosted by Divestment Facts, a project of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), the forum comes ahead of a forthcoming announcement by a subcommittee of the University of Denver Board of Trustees on their recommendation as to whether the Board should divest the schools endowment from investments tied to oil, natural gas or coal.

Confirmed speakers at the event include:

  • Heidi Ganahl, University of Colorado Regent-elect
  • Tracee Bentley, Executive Director, Colorado Petroleum Council
  • Chris Fiore, Senior Economist, Compass Lexecon
  • Student from the University of Denver

The DU subcommittee has hosted a series of hearings over the course of the last year at the behest of calls from Divest DU. And while the group, a campus arm of 350.org, claims to be a student-led movement, the hearings have revealed the extent to which the campaign is being driven by of out-of-state activists who are using the hearings as an opportunity to advance their campaign to drive energy development out of the state.

Yet earlier this summer, when the opportunity arose for the state’s energy workers to address the task force, twenty five of the state’s energy workers and industry supporters attended the hearing in a sharp contrast to previous presentations from out-of-state activists supporting divestment.

The task force also heard from Simon Lomax with Divestment Facts, whose hour-long presentation offered a look at the real costs of divestment for universities, the growing list of failures of 350.org’s anti-fossil fuel campaign, and the critical role of the energy sector in Colorado’s economy. Lomax informed the task force about the divestment campaign’s singular focus on demonizing energy companies and energy workers, as well as the involvement of 350.org in a series of anti-fracking ballot measures that have been met with broad, bipartisan opposition in Colorado. Lomax also showed the task force that even climate advocates – such as Robert Stavins of Harvard and Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado – have sharply criticized the divestment campaign and the tactics of 350.org.

Now, with a decision from the school expected sometime in early 2017, the state’s energy industry and supporters are coming together again to discuss in even greater detail how divestment is the wrong move for DU. An article in the Denver Business Journal yesterday provides more background on the event:

After months of studying the issue, the University of Denver’s board of trustees in January is expected to take up the question of whether the private university should rid its $607 million endowment of fossil-fuel stocks. The DU board, which has 28 voting members, earlier this year set up a three-person task force which held seven hearings between July and October. The task forces’s report is expected to be delivered to the board at its January meeting, which hasn’t been scheduled yet, according to a university spokeswoman.

…Students at universities across the country, including the University of Colorado and Colorado College, have urged academic institutions to divest from fossil fuel stocks out of concerns over climate change. CU regents rejected the request in April 2015 after months of study. At the time, CU had about $2.7 billion in its endowment, of which 3 percent to 4 percent was invested in fossil fuel stocks. Colorado College officials said in 2013 that the private college in Colorado Springs would not divest from the sector. Boulder’s Naropa University in 2013 went the other direction, announcing that the small school had“fully divested” from companies identified by 350.org, one of the main groups backing the divestment push, as having the highest potential greenhouse gas emissions.

…Matt Dempsey, a Denver-based spokesman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s “Divestment Facts” project, called divestment efforts “a moral campaign that comes with a hefty price tag” due to the cost of untangling fossil fuel-related stocks from large endowments. Such endowments are usually invested in funds that include a wide range of individual stocks. “So to divest, you have to sell a greater portion of your investment and then buy back individual stocks, and there are fees associated with that become very high,” Dempsey said. Dempsey also noted that even if a school divests from a stock, that means someone else has bought the stocks.“It doesn’t hurt the company,” he said. “This is about trying to demonize the industry and in doing so demonizing everyone in that community: oil and gas workers, or coal workers,” Dempsey said. According to Divestment Facts’ Sept. 1 presentation to the DU task force, about 75 U.S. universities have taking a look at divesting their portfolios, which collectively represent investments of about $265 billion. Of those, universities with endowments of about $233 billion have rejected the requests, according to Divestment Facts. Universities collectively holding about $2 billion worth of investments have agreed to divest from fossil fuels, and other universities, representing investments of about $29.4 billion, have agreed to partially divest, according to Divestment Facts.

The event will take place this Thursday, Dec. 15 in the MDC/Richmond Terrace Room (4th floor) of the Colorado History Center. The event will run from 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM MST and is free and open to the public. Please click here to sign up to attend.