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Stanford Takes Billions from Coal Companies

DJ Tanner has another reason to want to go to Stanford after the esteemed university decided to divest billions of dollars from coal-mining companies. On Tuesday, May 6, Stanford announced it will divest $18.7 billion from coal companies thanks to the student-formed group Fossil Free Stanford. Since last year, the group has been petitioning, educating students and faculty, and organizing rallies to encourage schools, states, religious institutions, and colleges to stop investing in dangerous fossil fuels in an effort to slow climate change and improve the environment.

One Huge Victory

Stanford’s announcement is a huge victory for the group, making it the first major university to divest. The university president, John Hennessy, said of the decision, “Moving away from coal in the investment context is a small but constructive step while work continues at Stanford and elsewhere to develop broadly viable sustainable energy solutions for the future.”

Divestment is not a new concept and was a major contributor to the dismantling of South Africa’s apartheid in the 1990s. Those campaigns managed to enforce US sanctions against South Africa, putting serious economic pressure on the country to eradicate the system of racial segregation.  Now students across the US are using a similar tactic to try to eliminate the use of fossil fuels.

The strategy seems to be working. So far, nine colleges, 22 municipalities, two counties, more than 20 religious groups, and 19 foundations have committed to divestiture.  Fossil Free Stanford said in a statement,

In communities across America, local communities have stopped more than 150 coal-fired power plants and numerous mountaintop removal mining projects. Their relentless efforts have set the stage for divestment at Stanford and elsewhere. Together, the courageous organizers on the ground and the growing student movement against fossil fuels can guarantee coal’s necessary demise.

How it Helps the Environment

There are a number of ways this divestment could help with climate change; the most obvious result is the downsizing of coal operations. With less money being invested in the power source, it will be much more difficult for companies to continue to function. And fewer coal operations means less pollution, which means a reduction in environmental issues. The divestment and other such measures can also allocate the money to invest in sustainable energy, helping further develop environmentally-friendly energy.

One of the most unexpected ways Stanford’s choice can help with climate change and the elimination of fossil fuels is through marketing. Now that a very well-respected university has chosen to no longer invest in coal, it could prompt other similar institutions to follow suit. It also brings the strategy to the eyes of more people and more students who may wish to engage in the matter.

Furthermore, it could also be used as a selling point for people choosing to support a company or college. When high school students are visiting colleges, they may now look at what a school invests in and use it as a factor in their decision. Other businesses could advertise that they don’t invest in coal, which could gain more customers depending on what their products entail (support could most likely come from the hipster crowd, so maybe fedora companies?).

No matter what the outcomes from Stanford University’s divestment may be, it’s clear the decision will make a big impact on coal and hopefully all fossil fuels. Stanford has not yet confirmed whether it will divest from other fossil fuel sources, but this is a big move for the acclaimed university. Although there is still much to be done to make the environment healthier, Fossil Free Stanford is very happy with its recent success and plans to continue working to eliminate dangerous energy sources. “While we celebrate Stanford’s decision to divest, we recognize that the battle to protect our climate is far from over. Fossil Free Stanford, along with over 400 student campaigns across the country, maintains the goal of divesting from all fossil fuels. Stanford’s coal divestment alone will not be enough to turn the tide on climate change.”

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