Stanford University decision to keep fossil fuels holdings triggers uproar

Stanford University's announcement on Monday that it will not divest its $22.2 billion endowment from fossil-fuel companies has campus activists and environmental groups up in arms.

The decision by the Stanford’s board of trustees comes almost two years after they announced the university was giving up investing in coal companies. But student and environmentalists have been pressing the university to extend that decision to other fossil fuels, including companies that specialize in producing crude from oil sands.

Stanford said it did not believe that a credible case can be made for divesting from the fossil fuel industry until there are competitive and readily available alternatives.

"We believe the long-term solution is for all of us to reduce our consumption of fossil fuel resources and develop effective alternatives," Stanford’s board said in a statement. "Because achieving these goals will take time, and given how integral oil and gas are to the global economy, the trustees do not believe that a credible case can be made for divesting from the fossil fuel industry until there are competitive and readily available alternatives."

They will, however, set up a climate task force to gather ideas from across the Stanford community to address climate change.

The board also said the university has taken steps to reduce energy use on campus and make use of more renewables.

Student advocacy group Fossil Free Stanford said around 800 students and faculty members have signed pledges to withhold donations to the university until it fully divests from fossil fuels.

It also announced that over 100 students will protest a scheduled speech on Wednesday by Stanford President John Hennessy.

Popular among students

The topic of divesting from fossil fuels has been a popular one in recent years among college students, who have protested at campuses around the US and beyond. This week the University of Ottawa became the first university in Canada to agree to shift all its holdings away from fossil fuel companies.

Earlier this month, Yale University became the first Ivy League school to partially do the same, by announcing it had divested less than $10 million of its $25.6 billion endowment from three unnamed fossil fuel producers.

Other institutions that have divested their holdings in recent years include the University of California, Hampshire College, Pitzer College, and College of the Atlantic.

Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University are among those that have rejected demands to divest.