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Fossil Fuels

Published on December 18th, 2015 | by Joshua S Hill

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NYU Divest Sit-in Has Immediate Response

December 18th, 2015 by  


The New York University Divest campaign has secured a meeting with the school’s Board of Trustees after a sit-in demonstration in the administrative offices.

On Wednesday, the NYU Divest campaign, made up of a coalition of students, faculty, and alumni, who are all calling on the New York University (NYU) to divest from fossil fuels, held a sit-in at the administrative offices of the school’s Elmer Holmes Bobst Library in response to what they described as “delayed action on the issue of fossil fuel divestment.”

12360088_1002455229817816_7422026103489001082_nOn Thursday, the campaign announced via its Facebook page that “the administration rapidly met our demands for a scheduled Board of Trustees meeting and to be put in contact with a Board liaison.”

“Given the urgency of climate change, it is unacceptable that the administration has taken so long to deliver on these promises,” said Robert Flanagan, a core member of NYU Divest. “That is why we were forced to sit in. We are heartened that this process is now moving forward with transparency and accountability and expect for it to continue that way.”

The primary “win” for the campaigners was the promise of a meeting with, and an opportunity to present to, the Board Subcommittee on Fossil Fuel Divestment as soon as possible at the start of the Spring 2016 semester — which is currently scheduled to take place before the end of January, and no later than some time during February.

The campaign similarly has its own expectations for the process before the school’s Board of Trustees, including:

  1. We expect that the composition of the subcommittee be diverse in opinion, background, and experience so that NYU Divest is given a fair and unbiased hearing.
  2. We expect that members of NYU Divest will be included in all meetings of the subcommittee for the purpose of transparency and fairness.
  3. We expect that the issue of fossil fuel divestment be on the full Board’s agenda to discuss and consider by the end of the Spring of 2016. Given the pressing and urgent nature of climate change, as well as the time already spent investigating this issue by the University Senate, which passed a resolution in favor, this is a reasonable timeframe.
  4. We request that members of NYU Divest be present for the duration of the discussion of fossil fuel divestment at the full Board meeting for the purpose of transparency and accountability.

“From violence in Syria worsened by drought to flooding in India, the effects of climate change are already being felt,” said Olivia Rich, another core member of NYU Divest. “We are running out of time. This crisis is disproportionately impacting communities of color and the world’s poor, while wealthy governments and institutions are complicit in the fossil fuel industry’s actions. This is about justice. NYU has to divest and has to keep its promises. That’s why I chose to sit in.”





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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.



  • Dragon

    Go NYU students!

    University of California, my alma mater, is also dragging its feet and pulling crap like telling students they can speak at the next meeting and then canceling at the last moment (insiders told students the cancellation was done purposely to delay their cause). I think I need to write the university another letter and they’re certainly not going to see any donations from this graduate till they change their tune.

    • neroden

      It’s worth pointing out that investments in coal are worthless at this point and that it is a *violation of their financial duties as trustees* to waste the endowment in sure-to-go-to-zero stocks. Get a good scare in them; no trustee wants to be sued for violation of duty as a trustee.

  • funcheon

    Waste of talent & time. Instead of focusing on Divestment, which will happen anyway, they should be getting the University to invest in renewables on the school buildings & requiring off-campus housing to use renewables. You know creating an instant market for what matters now, the immediate deployment of renewables.

    • Harry Johnson

      They should do both. A large part of the fossil fuel industry is run by corrupt dictators who fund terrorists, including ISIS. The leaders of NYU shouldn’t have to be told by their students what is the right thing to do. But for their sins, approving rooftop solar panels and green energy power contracts will go a long way to proving their relevance.

      • Andy

        Agreed. No reason why they can’t push for both. Focusing on internal sustainably while remaining invested in fossil fuels looks an awful lot like green washing. Even if it isn’t, it sends the wrong message.

      • Otis11

        The problem is schools typically have a reduced rate for electricity. I tried to make the case that solar should go on out local schools… Only to find out they were paying ~4c/kwh… In Texas, rooftop solar can’t quite hit that, much less beat it.

    • funcheon

      They are focusing their efforts on the wrong side of the equation. Getting a portfolio divestment wont get renewables on the campus buildings; getting renewables onto campus buildings, brings renewables onto campus buildings and a faster divestment from fossil fuel companies into the stocks of renewable energy companies.
      They should focus completely on getting renewables onto campus buildings this year and every subsequent year, aim high, 60% in the next two years. Off campus housing 40% in the next 4, with increases in both for the next 10 years. Forget about divestment, it’s already begun, happening now already and going to increase tomorrow. Honestly wgaf what percentage of companies are held in the Universities portfollio, until renewables are the largest percentage of energy used on campus buildings; you’re losing the battle and the war!

      • Bob_Wallace

        Dumping stocks that are fairly sure to crash helps with maintaining capital.
        Installing renewables and improving efficiency is a different topic.

        I’m sure these two issues are dealt with by two entirely separate committees.

    • neroden

      If the university doesn’t divest from money-losing coal companies which are headed for bankruptcy, the university will have a giant hole in their endowment and won’t be able to invest in anything.

      Divestment will happen anyway once the coal companies go bankrupt — but the trustees really are obligated financially to divest while their investments can still be sold for money.

  • Frank

    Hope they weren’t invested in Peabody, cause then they are a year late, though I suppose they can get out before it becomes completely worthless.

    • Ross

      As the likes of Peabody tend to zero I wonder if they could be bought up and any coal fields they own put beyond use instead of letting a vice fund get them.

      • Andy

        Yes. It would be amazing to see sustainability groups buy up these fossil fuel assets for pennies on the dollar and donate them to the state with preconditions that prevent them from ever being developed or sold to private interests.

        • John Moore

          Isn’t the fear that Boss Koch comes in and scoops them up for next to nothing?
          Because I can suggest, with great confidence, that if we were to couple a Republican President with a Republican Congress, that coal will make a roaring comeback. I know it sounds unlikely, but just what would Marco Rubio be willing to do after $900 million in campaign donations from the Kochs?

          • Bob_Wallace

            In order to build a new coal plant you would first have to line up massive subsidies. NG and wind are closing down existing plants. No way a new plant could cover its capex and finex costs.

          • John Moore

            Well, I hope you are right. And I’m not suggesting that the scenario I described is likely. I don’t think it is. Certainly there is no logical financial basis for fearing the reemergence of coal.
            But……………..
            I’m not even suggesting that new coal capacity would have to come on line. Maybe wind and solar are made less viable by legislation hostile to clean energy.
            What I’m suggesting is that economic reality might be suspended in the world that I described. I honestly don’t think that massive coal subsidies of various types would be difficult to obtain for big coal in the hands of Boss Koch. On the contrary, I would expect them. Who would stop them? The public? And you know how it would work. They would call it “The Balanced Energy Initiative” or some such.
            Remember, the Koch Brothers would have just bought an entire Presidency for, say, Marco Rubio, and you have a Republican House, Senate and Supreme Court. Why would we have any right to suspect that pro-coal legislation wouldn’t happen? I just watched Glass-Steagal repealed, and Citizens United enacted. Right now, as we speak, 100,000 residents of Flint, Michigan have been poisoned by lead in the water supply. The children of the city all have irreversible elevated lead levels in their brains. All thanks to the ongoing willful actions of the Republican governor there. There just seem to be zero consequences for any of these actions. My fear is that an entirely unfettered Republican government would feel free to enact whatever laws they wanted to.
            And $900 million is a lot of campaign contributions…… “Marco, you owe me…..”

          • neroden

            More than half the cost of coal now is, typically, the cost of transporting it, and that price is going *up*.

            There is no way coal will come back. Natural gas, wind, and solar are *all* typically cheaper than a new-build coal plant. Wind is already cheaper than an old-build coal plant, and the price of wind and solar are dropping, while the price of coal keeps going up due to transportation costs.

          • John Moore

            Please see response to Bob, directly below. I’m not yet ready to concede that we shouldn’t fear a coal comeback.

      • hhl

        Why put them beyond use, cover them in panels. Cheap land for cheap solar.

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