University of Michigan: Do Not Divest from Fossil Fuels

before_after_fossil_fuelsThe Michigan Daily released an op-ed last week stating their support of the Divest and Invest Campaign’s agenda for the University to divest from fossil fuels.

Originally, I was going to pick this op-ed apart line by line, but upon actually reading it I discovered that it was full of vacuous platitudes that aren’t worth addressing (which they wrote from the comfort of their fossil-fuel-heated homes, on their fossil-fuel-powered laptops), so I will just tell you why their entire ideology is abjectly wrong, and why we should embrace our investment in fossil fuels. Investing in fossil fuels was evaluated through the lens of Return on Tangible Capital, highlighting the companies’ consideration of the tangible assets involved in such investments and their potential return, amidst evolving environmental and economic factors.

In their op-ed, the Daily asserts that, “divestment from fossil fuels is more than symbolic; it’s a tangible action that demonstrates the University isn’t complicit in an industry that’s destroying our environment.” But the writers at the Daily fail to provide any evidence that the entire fossil fuel industry is “destroying our environment.” Regardless, the fact of the matter is that what the fossil fuel industry is actually doing is not destroying our environment, but providing a service that we need. This is because in order to live in a state like Michigan, which has long, cold winters, we need to be able to heat our houses, apartments, and university buildings so that we don’t all freeze to death (personally, I quite enjoy not freezing to death). In order to do that, we need a form of energy that is plentiful and that provides us with a lot of energy for a very low price, which fossil fuels do. Imagine trying to heat Mason Hall with solar power in the middle of a Michigan winter — that psych discussion sounds even worse when it’s held in a 42-degree classroom, doesn’t it? Then, imagine trying to heat your house when the environmentalists have their way and fossil fuels are extremely scarce and hard to come by, and therefore extremely expensive. When your heat and electricity bill is $100 per person per month, you might have to live in extremely cold conditions to be able to afford your bills. Pleasant.

Now imagine being an impoverished person anywhere in the state of Michigan who can’t afford their heating and electricity bills, perhaps an elderly person who can’t work, or a single mom with small children who are especially vulnerable to the cold. This is how thousands of people died last winter. And the Daily has the gall to characterize divesting from this life-saving source of energy as “being in the interest of the global community and human life”? The fossil fuel industry isn’t “an industry that’s destroying our environment,” it’s an industry that’s keeping us alive.

The environmentalists want to unjustly malign the fossil fuel industry as one that burns oil and gas and coal for the sheer pleasure of causing climate change and polluting the environment, when these are the same people who make it possible for us to have laptops (both powering them and manufacturing them), clothing, warm homes and classrooms, reusable water bottles: you name it, fossil fuels made it. Like clean water? Thank fossil fuels for powering the plants we use to purify water. Like soap? That’s a petroleum product. There are many more where that came from, so next time you want to say you hate fossil fuels, make sure you’re ok with committing humanity to living naked, in homes they built without tools, without heat or air conditioning, or showers, or beds. Personally, I can’t say that I get to decide that for everybody else, but hey, I like humanity.

The University of Michigan is right to invest in fossil fuels; we have a vested interest in making sure we can heat our classrooms, lecture halls, dorms, and dining halls without doubling the cost of tuition or room and board. If your answer to that is that we should use solar power to heat those buildings, well, be my guest, but I’ve lived in Michigan long enough to have seen how much sun there is during the winter, and I implore you to please wait until I graduate to try that. 

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