Thursday, September 25, 2014

Do the Rockefellers really get it?

Institutional inertia?  What else could possibly explain why energy companies are not leading the charge out of the fossil-fueled era?

Maybe it's the weather, but here in Minnesota there are substantial numbers of activists on energy issues.  In the 1970s, they organized to keep the local utility from building a third nuclear power plant.  In the end, this action saved the utility billions of dollars.  Later, many of those same activists forced the same utility into get serious about building wind farms.  As a result, some of the best people in the wind business now work for a utility that was dragged, kicking and screaming, into making a serious wind commitment.

In both instances, my reaction to the utility's resistance to accepting advice from outsiders was, "Why the hell should they care how their customers want their electricity generated?"  I mean, they are selling something everyone obviously wants, they form the definitive natural monopoly that has been subject to political / government oversight for decades, and their operating methods affect other interests like the quality of the air and water.  Instead of fighting public input, they should be courting it.  What's their problem?

Of course, I have the same feeling about the big energy companies that provide us with natgas and gasoline.  Why do they think of themselves as fossil fuel companies and not energy companies?  They should be the ones best situated to realize that at some point, they are going have to get into new forms of energy collection and generation.  Yes, I understand that there are significant differences between running an oil refinery and a wind farm.  But the similarities are overwhelming.  Both need massive amounts of real investment, the output of both is sold to the same customers, and both need dedicated professionals to operate reliably and efficiently.  In fact, most of the rest of us would be a whole lot happier if the big energy players were leading the charge into the new age.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I would rather big oil was becoming big solar on its own initiative using their obvious technological, financial, and political clout to get this done without all the mess of their dirty secondary fossil-fuel recovery techniques.

So now we see The Rockefeller Foundation is pledging to divest themselves from fossil fuels and invest in green energy.  All I can say is, "What took you so long?"  I cannot imagine old John D. passing on this opportunity for so many decades.  And now the fund's manager is quoted as saying,
“John D Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, moved America out of whale oil and into petroleum,” Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, said, saying that if John D. Rockefeller were alive today, he would invest in clean, renewable energy.
John D. spawned several generations of idiot rich kids.  David, the guy who fancies himself a visionary, was the force behind giving the deposed Shah of Iran refuge in USA in 1979—thereby queering the relationship between USA and Iran ever since.  This is far from the only instance of colossal stupidity by a Rockefeller so to have these primitives make such an enlightened decision is something that would engender hope (if it is a decision that sticks.)  And to back up their decision with such sound, historically-informed, reasoning suggests the family has grown tired of being the target of such global hate.  Now maybe, if they could could insist that the University of Chicago stop teaching such utter pre-industrial rubbish in their economics department, it would be a sign they can even feel shame.

Rockefeller oil dynasty to ‘divest’ from fossil fuels

RT September 23, 2014

In a symbol of the times, America’s biggest “oil family”, the Rockefellers, has announced it will get rid of any investments or holdings in fossil fuels from its $860 million charitable fund, and target clean energy instead.

The announcement is part of a $50 billion pledge by over 180 institutions to cut oil, natural gas, and coal from their portfolios and redirect investment into clean energy.

“Our immediate focus will be on coal and tar sands, two of the most intensive sources of carbon emissions,” the statement said, adding that investment in the two sectors will be reduced to less than 1 percent of the total portfolio by the end of 2014.

Coal and tar sands are two of the biggest carbon emitters.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund was established in 1940 from wealth acquired through the family’s company Standard Oil, once the world’s largest oil refiner.

Monday’s announcement comes ahead of today’s United Nations summit on climate change, where 120 global leaders, including US President Barack Obama, have gathered to discuss how to combat carbon emissions and global warming.

ExxonMobil, Conoco, and Chevron are the modern day successors of the original Standard Oil, which was such a big oil company the US Supreme Court said it violated antitrust laws, and it was broken up in 1911.

“John D Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, moved America out of whale oil and into petroleum,” Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, said, saying that if John D. Rockefeller were alive today, he would invest in clean, renewable energy.

About 7 percent of the fund is currently invested in dirty fossil fuels.

In 2013, the Rockefeller charity gave over $6 million in grants to sustainable development projects.

Many American universities have also cut their ties with 'Big Oil', most prominently Stanford and Harvard, which both have multi-billion dollar endowments. The University of California school system says it won’t divest from fossil fuels, an unpopular choice amongst students.

A nice gesture

The switch won’t be immediate or apply to the full $860 million in charitable funds. The “divestment” will only apply to 10 percent of the endowment, an approved commitment from the fund’s board of trustees in line with the organization's sustainable development goals.

“There may continue to be minimal investments in our portfolio in those energy sectors,” the statement said, clarifying it will be a “two-step” process.

The divestment program will be conducted with the overall organization’s finances in mind; that is they won’t divest if such a move will negatively alter the charity’s day-to-day operations. more

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