Fossil fuel divestment is a world-wide moral movement. It is a wake-up call to the fossil fuel industry that their present business model is hurting the planet and all of humanity.
Divestment is not an effort to put fossil fuel companies out of business, but rather to build public pressure on these companies to transform themselves into energy companies, and lead
the way in the creation of jobs and technologies for renewable energy. This will be essential to mitigating future climate change, which currently threatens human lives and livelihoods, and
the ecosystems on which all life depends.
Divestment does NOT mean that we abandon those communities that currently depend on the extraction and sale of fossil fuels for their livelihoods. Divestment DOES mean that we want to invest in a clean energy economy instead. Our aim is to encourage the PC(USA) to reinvest the funds currently invested in fossil fuel entities into more sustainable investments, including companies focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Studies show that investing in renewables creates more, and safer, jobs than investing in fossil fuels, as a 2010 report by Bread for the World highlighted (see: http://files.bread.org/institute/hr10/2010-hunger-report.pdf, pp. 20 and 33-46).
There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about renewable energy because with it will come new jobs and sustainable economic growth on a very large scale. “The Solutions Project” report, prepared by Mark Jacobson at Stanford University and others, indicates that all fifty states can transition to renewable energy starting NOW, creating 5.1 million construction jobs over 40 years in wind, water and solar and 2.6 million operation jobs over a 40 year period. We can generate enough renewable energy and along with improved efficiencies to meet 100% of our energy needs. To read more about this go to www.thesolutionsproject.org or see our piece on renewable energy.
Even though divestment won't cause the direct loss of jobs, when the world shifts to renewable energy and the fossil fuel industry follows, fossil fuel workers will be displaced. We can already see this trend in the coal industry today, even without divestment. As the industry transitions it is their responsibility to invest in the retraining and retention of their workforce. The wealth accumulated by fossil fuel companies could be used to finance retraining of workers for renewable projects, reclamation of extraction sites and re-working our nations energy grid to accommodate the vast array of renewable energy sources now possible.
As Christians it will be our responsibility to provide compassion and support to displaced workers as they transition to energy and economic security. It will also be our responsibility to keep pressure on the industry to insist that they take care of their workers. We must use the full power and influence of our denomination to insist that industry prioritize social responsibility for their workers. Through our church’s investing and policy advocacy, we can urge industry and government to support communities in transition, in part by developing renewable energy industries that provide 'green jobs.'" We must all take this responsibility very seriously. This won’t be the first massive jobs transition in this country nor will it be the last, but hopefully with God’s guidance and the support of the faith community and the fossil fuel industry the costs and difficulties to workers and their families can be reduced.
Ultimately, without a massive and rapid shift toward renewable energy, our planet and all of humanity will suffer negative impacts on agriculture and food security, water supplies, public health, and vulnerability to disasters. Climate change will affect fossil fuel workers and others alike. The hopeful alternative is for our global society to make a rapid transition toward energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions, while providing support and transition assistance for communities that currently depend on fossil fuel extraction for their livelihoods. We can limit future climate change, but only by transitioning rapidly away from fossil fuel use. By divesting from fossil fuels and RE-investing in renewables, our denomination can encourage industry to invest in a clean energy economy that allows people and the Earth to flourish together. We divest for all people and for creation!
Renewable energy comes from resources which are constantly and sustainably replenished. They will always be available and are clean, cheap and abundant. In 2012, renewable energy in the U.S.
accounted for 13.2% of domestically produced electricity, as compared to Germany and China which each generate about 30% of their energy from renewables.
Types of Renewable Energy Sources
Wind energy: It costs about the same as electricity from new coal and gas-fired power plants and is pollution free.
Solar energy: It is inexhaustible and cheaper than ever. It now powers a wide variety of things from homes to gadgets. It can go on roof tops or be part of a centralized power facility.
Biomass and cellulosic ethanol: Plant materials, wood, corn and soy account for nearly half the renewable energy in the U.S., but it is not always sustainable and energy costs may exceed energy input.
Biogas energy: Farmers can reduce pollution and generate their own heat and electricity by converting animal waste into a clean-burning gas. Municipalities can capture biogas from landfills to generate power instead of pollution.
Geothermal energy: Reservoirs of steam and hot water beneath the earth’s surface hold enormous potential as a renewable energy resource. Ground source heat pumps can be much more efficient than air-to-air heat exchangers.
Hydropower energy: Energy from moving water is the largest source of renewable electricity in the U.S., although damning of rivers is detrimental to both the up and downstream ecosystems.
Offshore wind, wave and tidal energy: Offshore renewable energy holds great promise and can be developed in a way that protects our ocean resources.
Benefits to Renewable Energy
There are multiple benefits to our economy, our health, the environment and to our climate if we switch to renewable energy.
There is a Viable Renewable Energy Plan for the U.S.
Here is the really good news about renewables. A report released in 2013, entitled “The Solutions Project” prepared by Mark Jacobson at Stanford University and others indicates that we can generate enough renewable energy along with improved efficiencies to meet 100% of our energy needs starting today. In other words, we can switch to renewables NOW, using current technology as well as create millions of jobs. Their plans contemplate all new energy powered with wind, water or solar by 2020, about 80-85% of existing energy replaced by 2030, and 100% replaced by 2050.
We Need Leadership
There are two things The Solutions Project can’t supply – the “will” and leadership to implement the plan. One would think figuring out how to transition quickly to 100% renewable energy would be the difficult problem, but the hardest problem is convincing leadership that we have a way forward that is better than the past. This isn’t easy because the fossil fuel industry has no intention to drop its lucrative business plan and is fighting movement towards renewables. But we can help make this happen, if we -- churches, universities, foundations and cities unite; divest our fossil fuel holdings; and demand that our leaders lead us to a safe, clean and sustainable future with renewables.