Desrochers: Six quotes about what’s wrong with fossil fuel divestment campaigns

Source: European University at St. Petersburg

Pierre Desrochers, associate professor of geography at the University of Toronto Mississauga, isn’t fond of the oil and gas divestiture movement at Canada’s universities. He recently co-authored a newly released Frontier Centre for Public Policy paper that sheds some much-needed light on the follies of post-secondary institutions ridding their investment portfolios of fossil fuels and perhaps encourages well-meaning campaigners to direct their energies toward more worthy causes. Our writer Carter Haydu recently interviewed Desrochers. Here are some choice quotes.

“Someone needs to remind activists and my colleagues that fossil fuels actually benefit. It is one thing to decry their impacts, but it is like vaccines: some vaccines might have negative side effects, but overall they are beneficial, which is why we use them.”

“I believe the world is a better place because of fossil fuels than if we had to revert to energy completely derived from stuff that grows on the surface of the planet as opposed to digging up the stuff that comes from beneath.”

“Divestment campaigners say that if we keep subsidizing education through investment in fossil fuels, the students will not have much of a planet to live on, but the point I try to make is that most of these kids would not even be alive without fossil fuels to begin with. If you look at what life on earth was for human beings until fossil fuels came along two centuries ago, it was basically at most a billion people, and many were miserable. Of course not everything is due to fossil fuels, but there is no way there would be seven billion people alive today with the current standard of living without carbon fuels.”

“I have yet to see a website or run into a student who would say, ‘I am limiting my cellphone usage to one hour a day.’ Or else ‘I am not using the drying machine.’ Or else ‘I am not travelling to that conference or demonstration because I cannot walk or bike there.’ Basically, this is a demonization of corporations that only exist because of consumer demand. The consumer, in this case the activist, does not seem willing to take any personal sacrifices.”

“I believe most people mean well, but they are simply uninformed and lack a historical perspective on the fossil fuel topic, and they also don’t see the broader picture of energy poverty in the world and what life without electricity is really like.”

“It is one thing to worry about fuel emissions, and I am not denying them, but at the same time, the fact is we use this stuff from underground to replace stuff grown and killed on surface, and this has had a tremendous environmental and economic benefit. These people seem completely unaware of this, and so I’m trying to tell them a bit about it.”