Another New England university considers symbolic fossil fuel divestment

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A Dartmouth College presidential committee report suggests divesting fossil fuels would be relatively easy since only a sliver of the school’s overall endowment is sunk in oil.

The Dartmouth Presidential Committee report, issued by President Philip Hanlon, detailed the pitfalls and supposed benefits of selling the school’s oil and coal assets, and also laid out a diverse analysis of divestment in general.

“Dartmouth supports vigorous open debate of ideas within a community marked by mutual respect, as well as a culture of integrity, self-reliance, collegiality and a sense of responsibility for each other and for the broader world,” the members of the school’s Board of Trustees said about divestment in 2014. “The use and management of Dartmouth’s resources are to advance this mission and these values.”

Professor of engineering and the report’s author, Mark Borsuk, explained the study’s findings — warts and all. He essentially said the school had so few assets sunk in fossil fuels that divesting would result minimal consequences.

“Of more direct relevance to Dartmouth is the fact that, while Dartmouth directly holds approximately $43M in fossil fuel related assets, the vast majority (>95 percent) of that amount is held in working capital pools, with only about $2M held in the endowment,” Borsuk said. “Thus, even with full divestment of direct endowment holdings, the potential financial impact of any reasonable estimate of the diversity penalty would be minimal.”

Still, the mostly symbolic gesture was met with applause from members of the schools divestment crowd.

“The Divest Dartmouth campaign expects the College to react swiftly to this report,” Maanav Jalan, a member of the Class of 2019, said in a press statement. “We eagerly await a response from the administration, and plan to take action if the administration does not.”

Divest Dartmouth organizer Ariel Wertheim mirrored Jalan’s point entirely, adding that if global warming is real, then maybe the university should work on getting rid of its supposed cause.

“It seems strange to talk so much about climate change and its drastic consequences without talking about a way for Dartmouth to ameliorate that. In fact, it almost undermines our learning when the professor says one thing but the institution does another,” Wertheim said.

The report comes on the heels of a May 2 rally by Divest Dartmouth, when protesters warned the university to purge assets from “the dirtiest fossil fuel companies” or risk ushering in the next global warming-induced apocalypse.

The New Hampshire Union Leader later criticized the protesters in an editorial, calling them a misguided “ignorant mob.”

“Climate alarmism aside, these radical groups ignore the role fossil fuels have had in lifting human civilization over the past two centuries,” the editorial read.

Purging fossil fuel assets from the electric grid, the editorial added, would ultimately destroy economic growth across the entire world, and “rob underdeveloped nations of their chance at prosperity.”

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