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Guest Post: Stanford divests from coal – good choice or bad call?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Stanford University will stop investing in coal companies after its Board of Trustees voted in support of eliminating direct investments in publically traded companies that mine coal for electricity generation. In response to yesterday’s vote, Stanford’s President John Hennessy stated “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.”

Decisions like Stanford’s are a bad financial decision for most universities. At the same time, in most cases, university holdings of private fossil fuel developers is a small part of the portfolio – so perhaps it doesn’t matter to that bottom line.

The bigger issue is the message that this action, part of a larger Fossil Free campaign, conveys. Campaigns like this one tinker at the margins, have no real impact, often distract from what is important, and can actually make things worse.

What do I mean? Well, first, here’s a bit of background.

Yesterday’s decision follows a student ballot initiative vote last month, where Stanford undergraduates voted in support of fossil fuel divestment. The initiative passed with 78% support.  In 2012, Harvard Undergraduate Council passed a similar referendum with 72% support and Yale has also passed one with 83% support. These movements are largely motivated by the Fossil Free organization, and according to their public statements, “Investment in the fossil fuel industry is socially irresponsible.” According to the Fossil Free website, “We want institutions to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies, and divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years.”

My response to this comes in three parts –

First, investment in fossil fuel companies is not socially irresponsible – what is socially irresponsible is using fossil fuels. It is the use of fossil fuels that results in pollution, not the investment in them. Our actions, our demand for fossil fuels on enormous scales is to blame. Now, Fossil Free does concede that we are partially to blame. But, their caveat makes their statement untrue: “We’re all complicit in fossil fuel consumption, and we should do all that we can to reduce our own use, but the real culprits — the ones who are rigging the system — are the fossil fuel companies.”

This is just not true. Fossil fuel companies are struggling to keep up with an obscenely high demand for fossil fuels and fossil fuel derived products. These businesses are not inherently evil, and it is not their objective to destroy the planet. The real culprit is us, consumers. We are the ones demanding fossil fuels and these companies are just giving us what we demand. The only way to cause meaningful reductions in fossil fuel carbon emissions is for us to stop buying fossil fuels, as I have outlined in my previous post It’s Not About Tar Sands – It’s About Us.

Second, it is clear is that fossil fuels have been great for human development, but their use has resulted in widespread environmental damage. While we need to transition away from fossil fuels, immediate divestment by universities would not really help. In fact, it might hurt. University partnerships with the energy industry are actually a good thing for the environment – I’ll get to that shortly.

But first, why do we need fossil fuels at all?

Fossil Fuels are Great

With the number of miles covered in a car or a plane by the average American these days, perhaps the most salient benefit of fossil fuel use is transportation. However, the thousands of miles we each travel in a given year is a new phenomenon for the human race. If you lived in America 150 years ago, you probably never travelled farther than 50 miles from the place where you were born. You probably worked and lived on a farm, sustaining your existence from what you could harvest and hunt. Work was backbreaking, and you labored from dawn till dusk, every day over your 40 year life expectancy. Then, something big happened that changed the world. We discovered oil.

Because of fossil fuels, we are living longer, travelling farther, working less, and having more fun than at any time in history. The way we live our lives today is literally the stuff of Greek legends. Not long ago, crossing a continent would take 3 months, and there is a good chance you would not survive the journey. Today, we can fly across the continents in just a few hours. Fossil fuels have completely revolutionized the human condition, and have arguably enabled most major advancements in technology since its discovery.

Fossil fuels are so important that we literally need them to survive. Today, for every calorie of food that you eat, about 10 hydrocarbon calories went into producing that food. Additionally, without petroleum derived fixated nitrogen (fertilizer) enabled by the Haber-Bosch process, and the help of fossil fuels in other ways along the food production pathway, the Earth could only grow enough food to feed about 3 billion people, less than half the current world population.

Fossil Fuels are the Worst

Because the world’s food systems depend on fossil fuels so heavily, you could argue that half the people in the world have food to eat because of them. Unfortunately, the explosion of the human population enabled by fossil fuels has resulted in a catch-22. That is – the burning and use of fossil fuels themselves to support this population has done significant damage to the Earth’s ecosystems. The ocean is more acidic, a large fraction of Earth’s species have gone extinct in the last century, and the climate is changing (mostly for the worse). I could go on, but the point is, to prevent this environmental deterioration, we need to shift away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

But how do we do that?

The truth is, the world’s economy deeply relies on fossil fuels, demanding nearly 600 Quadrillion BTUs of energy per year, only a small fraction of which comes from renewables. If the world were to truly ‘divest’ from fossil fuels – meaning we immediately stopped using them – for most people there would be no more driving, no more consumer products, significantly reduced access to electricity, and much, much less food (to the point of starvation for more than half of us).

Clearly this is not a good solution. But, we need to start a transition, supported by fossil fuels initially, and gradually reducing our dependence going forward. This brings me to the third part of my response to groups like Fossil Free…

Fossil fuel money going to universities is the best choice

Those who want universities to divest from fossil fuels want to make a powerful statement, which is good. On one hand, it is productive to send the message that we support sustainability and renewables. But this is a slippery slope. If it is unethical to profit from fossil fuel investments, does that also mean that universities should not receive profits from fossil fuels? Profits that are currently paying for research into sustainable energy? If oil money is dirty, and we can’t take it, then what will pay for this much needed research?

Ultimately, the best possible choice to support an energy transition away from fossil fuels is for profits from fossil-related activities to fund renewable energy research. Fortunately, this is happening already. For instance, BP made a $500 million deal with The University of California – Berkeley and The University of Illinois to fund the Energy Biosciences Institute, which is devoted to biofuels research. Additionally, in 2002 Stanford University received $225 million to fund the Global Climate and Energy Project, much of which came directly from ExxonMobil.

If we divest from fossil fuels, does this mean we also divest from the research that oil money is paying for? If we divest, this means a great deal of research will no longer be funded, leading to the questions:

  1. Should we continue to fund energy research but cut other research programs instead? Should we fund less research on cancer, autism or depression?
  2. Should we cut funding for the arts?
  3. Should we give out fewer scholarships, or accept fewer students and educate fewer young people?

Campaigns like Fossil convey good messages. But, their actions are not productive. They tinker at the margins, have no real impact, often distract from what is important, and can actually make things worse. It would be a mistake to not utilize money made with fossil fuels to develop renewable energy resources. If anything diverting more money from fossil fuel investments to renewables would be better.

I for one, support more renewable energy research. What do you think?

Photo Credit: Photo of coal pile at Ulan by Max Phillips (Jeremy Buckingham MLC) via Creative Commons.

About the author:

Scott McNally is a frequent guest blogger on Plugged In. He is a research assistant at both Stanford University and Harvard University, where he focuses on energy systems optimization and environmental policy. Scott has previously worked at the U.S. Department of Energy (ARPA-E), the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Shell Oil Company, and Austin Energy. He holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and is currently completing a Master’s degree in Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford University, and a Master’s degree in Public Policy at Harvard University. You can reach Scott via e-mail at scottmcnally at gmail dot com.

H/T to D.K. for his title comments.

About the Author: Plugged In Guest Author - An energy research engineer who has worked in oil and gas, environmental engineering, renewable energy, and energy and environmental policy for the Obama Administration.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. SAULT18 4:33 pm 05/7/2014

    First of all, divesting from fossil fuels is actually a good decision to preserve a university’s bottom line. The fossil fuel companies cannot fool the people into thinking climate change does not exist for much longer and tighter regulation is coming sooner or later. When that happens, and it looks increasingly like it will be in response to one or more “climate pearl harbors”, it will be swift and disruptive to the fossil fuel industry. This means that these companies will have a lot of “stranded assets” and will see their own bottom lines gouged out, thereby making them a risky investment to anybody who knows how people and governments respond to crises. In addition, a large portion of the valuation of these companies lies in the fossil fuel reserves they have yet to extract. Since most of these reserves will have to stay in the ground to keep our climate stable, these companies’ balance sheets are overinflated by the “value” of fossil fuels that will never be used.

    Coal specifically presents several economic and ethical problems for universities looking at long-term financial security and making sure their money follows their morals. Coal pollution causes between $100B and $500B in damages to the U.S. economy every year:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05890.x/full

    The only reason why it is considered “cheap” and why it is able to generate returns currently is because it is ALLOWED to be so dirty. All the external costs it generates because of its filth get offloaded onto society as a whole. At best, these damages cancel out basically all of the “value added” that coal power plants provide by turning the dirty fossil fuel into electricity. At worst, the coal industry is just a huge drain on our economy, causing untold suffering for millions only because government inaction acts as a huge subsidy to keep coal electricity artificially cheap.

    We can do better. Students at Stanford and many other universities know this. It’s about time our institutions of higher learning follow through on what the scientific and economic data tells us is the best course of action from an ethical and financial standpoint.

    Contrary to what you claim, fossil fuel companies bear part of the responsibility for our climate and pollution problems. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year lobbying government to give them special treatment, from direct subsidies to fighting pollution control regulation so the fossil fuel companies can continue to spew pollution into our environment and force the rest of us to deal with all the problems it causes. Fossil fuel companies also spend hundreds of millions more in a deliberate attempt to mislead the public about climate change and the problems their pollution causes. While scientists are united that fossil fuel burning is changing the climate in dangerous ways, the fossil fuel company spinmeisters would have the public believe that there is still some sort of scientific debate and that we should wait and see how it turns out. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel companies themselves get to keep their trillion-dollar gravy train running a bit longer and get to dump pollution into our air and free of charge for a bit longer too. History will not look kindly on these folks…

    Having fossil fuel companies invest directly in universities like you claim leads to huge conflicts of interest. Just like how news coverage of climate issues has reached abysmal levels partially because fossil fuel companies by so many ads on the nightly news, having an oil company fund a significant portion of a university’s budget will lead to the fossil fuel party line becoming a stronger force in academia. And do you honestly think a fossil fuel company will finance the development of a technology that will ultimately make their industry less and less relevant? Do you think that, given the fact that their paid shills lie about renewable energy on a constant basis already, that they are interested in disrupting their trillion-dollar revenues even just a little bit? No, the best way to fund these universities and development efforts is to institute a carbon tax and distribute some of the funds to clean energy technology development efforts to keep the fossil fuel companies from unduly influencing how things are done on university campuses.

    Divesting send a message. It builds the movement. And it lowers the risk of long-term losses to these universities and other organizations as the possibility of severe carbon legislation becomes ever more assured. It would be silly to expect whale oil companies to have helped support Thomas Edison in his effort to develop a lightbulb and it is silly to expect that fossil fuel companies will act in anything besides their own best interests in regards to development of alternative energy.

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  2. 2. scottmcnally 4:55 pm 05/7/2014

    Sault18 (if that is your real name ;)

    Thanks for the comment.
    Most energy companies now acknowledge climate change and impending climate legislation. See here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/05/business/energy-environment/large-companies-prepared-to-pay-price-on-carbon.html?_r=0

    I certainly support carbon pricing, and using those revenues for research. It is an excellent idea – two birds with one stone.
    Most universities that accept money from companies have contractual agreements that do not allow the companies to influence the research. I have personally done research regarding integrating solar and wind into the grid with money that ultimately came from an oil company. And guess what the results were: solar and wind can be cheaper than gas and coal!

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  3. 3. jerryd 11:43 pm 05/7/2014

    What a bunch of misinformation.

    Starting with the first fuels for cars were mostly ethanol, other bio HC’s. Ford made the Model T came standard on ethanol so farmers could make their own. Diesels were designed with peanut oil as powered coal just didn’t work well.

    It wasn’t until later Standard Oil Trusts bought near everything and shut down most but oil products is what started oil use, a Monoploy that later had to be broken up for rigging the market.

    Facts are from the start big oil, coal has been rigging the market, saying others ignore so much history. for instance bog energy, utilities have again kept it illegal to sell electricity in Fla so other sources can’t compete.

    Later big oil along with GM bought most of the trolley lines, trashed the rails, cars, etc and replaced them with buses.

    Big oil, coal corporate welfare costs $600B/yr in cleaning up their mess, oil wars, Persian gulf military, etc. No rigging there!!

    Big oil stations won’t sell E-85 or pure biodiesel.

    And your 10cal to grow corn for every 1 cal out is a rigged number in many ways. First you assume you only get ethanol yet you get the dried mash, sold as Vegamite in UK, etc is a far better food than the corn was.

    Next all the corn protein, oil and added yeast are sellable products. Now add 50% of the stalks, cobs to these and the ethanol only uses 30% of the cals used to raise corn. Plus now far less energy to both grow the corn and distill it than just 3 yrs ago. We grow 2x’s the corn on half the input now.

    So the byproducts are worth as much or more than the ethanol they pay or close to pay for the corn!!

    And let’s not forget if not ethanol the corn is used as cattle feed where 10 lbs of corn make 1 pound of cow fat. The Ethanol makes far more food as a byproduct of it’s production, over 5 lbs of much better food than the feed/field corn it uses.

    Next we waste most of our energy. Just cutting waste cuts demand by 25%.

    It’s been proved that ethical investing does better than just investing in several studies. Likely because risks/losses are much lower .

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  4. 4. sethdiyal 12:50 am 05/8/2014

    “I have personally done research regarding integrating solar and wind into the grid with money that ultimately came from an oil company. And guess what the results were: solar and wind can be cheaper than gas and coal!”

    Actually that proves the point that Big Oil’s purchases university research departments to turning out disinformation in its efforts to increase gas sales. Every wind/solar plant has to be backed up to 100% nameplate with inefficient fossil plant run inefficiently using more gas spewing more ghg’s than if the entire wind/solar/gas backup scam was replaced with efficient fossil plant run efficiently. With the all in cost of wind and solar at 45 and 80 cents a kwh, with surplus dumping, gas backup, and 7 times sized transmission facilities included; all economies of scale already achieved; and current pricing based on Chinese dumping, outside of subsidy there is no prospect for price decreases anywhere near the single digit nuclear, gas or coal areas.

    This kind of disinformation, a lot of it emanating from Big Oil’s shills at Stanford, fools folks into believing something is being done about AGW, when in fact we’re slip sliding away. The German Energiewende, Big Oil’s Stanford professors dream, is case in point with rising GHG’s emission three years in row and that while grossly understating the worse than coal GHG effect of copious production to delivery methane leaks.

    The incredibly stupid blather antinuclear and otherwise emanating from the likes of Big Oil’s media darling Stanford professor who seems to think he has EE qualifications while in reality being engineering professionally qualified only to design footings for windmills, does enormous to the battle against the fast approaching AGW precipice – just the stuff Big Oil pays to see.

    France was able to go from zero to 80% nuke in 10 years a few decades ago while German engineers joke about achieving the same standard 40 years from now using wind and solar. The more than a 200 million that will die from air pollution while we wait seems a high price to pay except in seems to Big Oil’s sellouts at Stanford.

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  5. 5. SAULT18 2:56 am 05/8/2014

    LOL, sethy once again spreads his pro-nuclear propaganda without a shred of evidence to back it up. Classy…

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  6. 6. HarmlessQuestion 6:17 am 05/8/2014

    jerryd – My guess is that the principle reason for the migration away from the fuels that didn’t work as well/were more expensive to use was that they didn’t work as well/were more expensive to use.

    Just hunch, of course, but it’s less fanciful than some “vast conservative plot”.

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  7. 7. SAULT18 11:10 am 05/8/2014

    Scott,

    While fossil fuel companies are acknowledging climate change on the surface to keep from looking completely out of touch, it is just a PR stunt similar to when cigarette companies tried to look like they were dealing with the problems inherent in their products by lowering the “tar” content in some of them them. Climate change denial is almost exclusively financed by fossil fuel companies and firms heavily-dependent on their products. Scientific American recently showed that almost $1B in “Dark Money” each year gets laundered through a vast network of front-groups so the fossil fuel majors can look like they’re acting in good faith while their paid shills “catapult the propaganda” for them:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/dark-money-funds-climate-change-denial-effort/

    Meanwhile, the fossil fuel companies have NO plan to keep any extractable fossil fuels in the ground as the best climate science is telling us we have to do. And while their investments in alternative energy are laudable, they are a tiny fraction of the investment they throw at climate nightmares like the Tar Sands, oil shale, coal-to-liquids and other seemingly suicidal energy development efforts.

    No, the fossil fuel companies are rigidly adhering to the concept of “get while the gettin’s good” and to hell with the consequences.

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  8. 8. SJCrum 5:24 pm 05/8/2014

    As far as coal, and getting power from it, I hate to ring your bells overly, but coal is about as practical now as using caveman types of science. And, the global warming issue was actually better in what would be described as, tada!, … the time when cavemen were on earth. So, in real science the world and weather would be far better if a significant global warming did occur, an as I will prove in the following.
    The point about coal is that there are at least two major ways to develop more energy than the world has ever known, an which would be virtually free of cost. And, no, I am not exaggerating even in the slightest.
    As for the first type of total success in creating endless power, a permanent magnet generator can easily be made that just spins on its own, and without even the slightest input of fuel of any type, and then just endlessly powers virtually anything on the planet.
    The point of this is that electrical generators that have power cords attached to them that cause the magnets in them to magnetize, a permanent magnet type doesn’t need power for that at all. And, real science instead, causes the continual spinning of the armature.
    In the end, all that is needed is the science information that can accomplish this. Just think of every automobile in the world having this type of generator, and then running for decades without any fuel at all. Also, every home, business building and all other types as well.
    A second type of endless power is that, since all atoms and matter are made with just energy, and all of that formation energy is packed into the atoms, the truth is that all of that energy can be taken out of the atoms by changing the atoms back into just energy.
    An example of this is that an automobile can run continually for fifty years with nothing more than a teaspoon of dirt to power it. Better than that, all garbage that is dumped in landfills and into oceans, can be changed back into its energy also.
    Also, just the garbage in the world can provide more energy than all of the nuclear power plants in the world.
    And, this even recycles garbage better than any other way in the entire world.
    This one also just needs to very simple science knowledge to accomplish it also.
    By the way, both of these methods also have another very great advantage to them. And, that is that each home, or building, for example, can have power constantly available during all of the time when other systems are broken down with power failures during extremely bad weather. In homes even, and if a generator breaks down after fifty, or so, years it is totally affordable to have a spare generator in every basement and other such room to keep the endless power going constantly. All that is needed is to flip the “on” switch of the spare.
    In the end, investing in coal isn’t exactly the “sharpest tack in the sack” type of thing now. And, both coal and oil would be worth about ten cents a lump or barrel. Actually, there is asphalt, so maybe a dollar a barrel.
    By the way, did you know that gold in the very beginning of its existence in the world was factually dinosaur manure. No kidding. The science is that during the enormous heat event that killed the dinosaurs, and which actually turned their bodies into oil also, as seen easily by their bones being in the LaBrea Tar pits, the manure fell down into the liquid soil that covered the western United States, and the wheat atoms,in their manure, changed into gold atoms. On the ornery side, not how gold has that goldish wheat color, and it is also a very soft metal. (Hee, hee, and you think I am kidding. NOPE. Not even a smidgeon.
    In the end, coal is worth about the same as gopher patuoie.

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  9. 9. SJCrum 6:02 pm 05/8/2014

    As for global warming, that isn’t a negative issue at all, and the world would be far better off with all of the polar cap ice melting completely. The only bad thing about the warming is air pollution, and nothing more. The water coming from the ice melting wouldn’t raise the ocean levels at all, and that fact can easily be proven.
    I have even proven it myself by putting salt in a glass of water, and then adding ice to it. And then place a strip of scotch tape with the top edge at the top of the water, and then just let the ice melt. The end result, because of the salt will be no higher water at all.
    As for having no polar cap ice, there would never be a single hurricane or tornado occurring on earth ever again, and instead, very mild weather and temperatures everywhere.
    So, the global warming thing has been blown way out of proportion. There would even be far better growing seasons, and much longer ones. So, there would be very great benefits for everyone.

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  10. 10. stu64bit14nm4k7in 7:22 pm 05/8/2014

    Of course they ought to divest from carbon, they don’t want to lose money after all, in the battle of big carbon verses big silicon, obviously big silicon is going to win. Have you seen how cheap coal is these days, imagine if you had invested in coal mining, you’d have lost your shirt. I know what your thinking, things can’t change, the US couldn’t shift half it’s energy consumption from imports to fracking in just a few years. It couldn’t be headed towards 1/3 energy imports in 2016, but it is happening, the energy base has already changed, here in Australia, 1.3 million people get there electricity from wind. Solar will soon be cheaper than coal, big silicon is already worth trillions in the IT industry, soon it’ll be worth trillions in the energy industry, ET. Manganese batteries are getting cheaper and cheaper, mass manufacturing is taking off, we have now made more energy from solar than we’ve put in. The bootstrapping process has already begun, big carbon is a bad investment, unless you want to deliberately lose money for a tax rite off. Speaking of tax, taxes on solar have increased to protect big carbon’s subsidies, eg. Texas, bad investment big carbon, good investment big silicon. You might be thinking we might run out of silicon, what with most deserts, sandstone being SiO, every beach, thin film solar cells. Solar is only 50 times more efficient than bio fuels, needing no water, no fertilizer, no pesticides, no herbicides, no fungicides. Sorry, but big carbon is just a good way of losing shareholder money, if you want to lose your retirement benefits, kids college funds, go for big carbon. On the other hand if you want to make huge, introduction of new technology money, like the steam engine, internal combustion engine, TV, radio, washing machine, clothes dryer, microwave, smartphone, tablet, computer, then invest in big silicon, it’s a no brainer.

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  11. 11. vebiltdervan 7:46 pm 05/8/2014

    Actually, the primary point that I took home from Stanford’s divestiture is all but glossed over in this blog lumping all fossil fuels together. The point is that some fossil fuels are worse contributers to climate change than others, & coal is among the worst. The Stanford student body voted to divest from all fossil fuel companies, but the Stanford administration elected to divest only from coal companies.

    As a political/economic statement, I like the Stanford administration’s decision & publicizing of it. Pretty much all of us agree that we need to begin transitioning away from fossil fuels, & it just makes sense that one transitional step in that direction is away from coal, using cheap natural gas as the least deleterious choice wherever it is not possible to shift away from fossil fuels entirely.

    There are distinctions to be made & national energy policies that should reflect those distinctions, & Stanford is pointing a very public finger in the proper direction

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  12. 12. Eric SA 8:22 pm 05/8/2014

    THoughtful but your main argument is flimsy. As you stated, more money should be funneled from fossil fuel profits to the development of renewable energy. If I’m not mistaken, Stanford has chosen to divest from any holdings within its endowment (http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/may/divest-coal-trustees-050714.html). I’ve not seen anything about not accepting research funding from fossil fuels (correct me if mistaken).

    This is certainly a bold decision in the context of American universities. It reflects the views and values of students and professors alike. I imagine other universities will follow suit. If such action continues to cascade and the coal industry shrinks, this decision and others like it will certainly be viewed as business savvy decisions as well.

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  13. 13. Dr. Strangelove 10:12 pm 05/8/2014

    Scott

    I think these students of Harvard, Stanford and Yale lack common sense. If they want to be fossil-free, start in their own campuses. Cut off their power supply from the grid and put up solar panels and wind turbines in their school. Students should ride bicycles going to school. That will make real impact. Divesting from fossil fuel companies has no impact except the feel-good effect of self-righteous students. These companies don’t need funds from universities. They can easily raise funds from capital markets worldwide.

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  14. 14. rkipling 7:51 am 05/9/2014

    Mr. McNally,

    Your views are informed by understanding science, math, economics, and inevitably by politics. I’m also a chemical engineer, so I understand exactly what you are saying. The pushback you are getting in comments is, I suspect, from those who only rely on political understanding. I don’t know if younger generations have read Douglas Adams, but if you have, you will recognize a similarity between some of these commenters and the Bugblatter Beast of Traal.

    When they say, “The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.”, they really mean that. Apparently the blogs are still allowed some autonomy in expression. You won’t see articles with your perspective in posts directly controlled by SciAm online. At least I haven’t in a very long time.

    I’m all for research. I started to say it has been an important part of my career, but saying it’s been an important part of my life is more accurate. I’ve been working on a sustainable, renewable energy manufacturing process for the last several years. As a chemical engineer, you understand research doesn’t mean magic. Energy innovations must be plausibly economical to be implemented. And there is likely some practical limit to useful spending on energy research beyond which money is wasted. Setting an arbitrary schedule to eliminate use of fossil fuels is futile.

    Best of luck in educating people about energy issues. That is sorely needed without a doubt. I have long since personally despaired of educating people in favor of working on specific projects which have the potential to make a difference.

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  15. 15. stu64bit14nm4k7in 10:01 am 05/9/2014

    I can remember that solar power prices fell like a stone from 1977 to 1989, then only halved between 1989 and 2007, then prices began to plummet again. It’s now 100 th of the price per kWh of what it was in 1977, as we go to parity with coal prices and below, economy of scale, mass production will kick in. With that will come huge research dollars, for quantum, thin film, infra red (heat, underneath top light layer,) focus coating, solar power. My country is mostly a huge unused desert, it’s continental in size, Australia, we could smelt metals, pump water, and do all manner of energy intensive industry.

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  16. 16. SJCrum 4:37 pm 05/9/2014

    As far as real SCIENCE, since all matter is made entirely of energy, how do you suppose matter, like dirt, or garbage, could be changed back into energy? And, by doing so, that energy could be used to power every single thing on this planet.
    The answer to that question is that a teaspoon of dirt can be used for a test, and then a magnet powered by electrical current can then cause a slow change of the atoms into dirt going back to energy.
    The process involves causing a slow disassembly of the mixture of protons and electrons ion each of the atom cores. To cause the core to be disassemble, the negative end of the magnet can be increased to the very high power amount that would then pull each of the positively-charged protons out of the core. And, as each one comes out, a large amount of energy is released.
    A very important part is that the magnet’s charge needs to be very carefully increased because doing it too rapidly can cause an enormous explosion because of too much being released too quickly. So, a slowly increased electric magnet can accomplish this as slowly as needed.
    The next stage is to find the exact magnetic charge that causes the energy to be released at the best amount.
    Once that perfect charge is found, the next step is to make a permanent magnet that has that exact charge also. By using the permanent magnet from this point on, the release of energy in the atoms is continued endlessly, and without any electric power used to power the magnet at all.
    So, in the end, this type of energy release from atoms of dirt, garbage or anything else can be accomplish endlessly, and without any energy input, or cost, at all.
    This REAL SCIENCE will not only factually prove all matter is made with energy, and it can be retrieved, but it also proves how totally pointless it is to have nuclear power plants, coal types, or any other power sources at all.

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  17. 17. SJCrum 4:43 pm 05/9/2014

    An item related to the above energy retrieving system is that the first part that involves using an electrical magnet to find the perfect magnetic charge, involves a very high amount of power to get the protons to come out of the atom cores. So, to help with this matter, the electrical current needed to accomplish it is 1000 volts.
    The end point of this though is that once that perfect magnetic charge is found, then a permanent magnet is easily made, and far earlier in how easily they can be used for endless energy release.
    So, it is important to know of the first part’s high electrical voltage.

    Link to this
  18. 18. Chryses 9:36 am 05/10/2014

    SJCrum,

    “This REAL SCIENCE will not only factually prove all matter is made with energy, and it can be retrieved, but it also proves how totally pointless it is to have nuclear power plants, coal types, or any other power sources at all.”

    Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.

    Link to this
  19. 19. SJCrum 6:27 pm 05/10/2014

    By the way also, don’t touch either end of a permanent magnet that has that magnetic pull. It will dissolve your finger, and just like it will do with all atoms. So, it needs to be handled with extreme care.

    Link to this
  20. 20. jerryd 11:23 pm 05/11/2014

    SJC rum did you put a magnet to your head as your posts shows you brain has likely devolved into quackery.

    please no more free energy scam posts.

    BTW I use very, very powerful magnets I touched the ends on yet I didn’t melt!! Now don’t get your fingers between it and other magnetic metal or fun ensues ;^P

    Link to this
  21. 21. Dr. Strangelove 9:35 pm 05/12/2014

    “By using the permanent magnet from this point on, the release of energy in the atoms is continued endlessly, and without any electric power used to power the magnet at all.”

    sjcrum

    We do this all the time. It’s called an electric generator. But you need kinetic energy to move a conductor across the magnetic field to generate electric current. So it’s not a free energy. You put in more kinetic energy than the electrical energy output. This is known since the time of Faraday in 1830s.

    Link to this
  22. 22. hkraznodar 2:35 pm 05/22/2014

    @Dr. Strangelove: Thanks for the rational comment after all of the spastic nutjobbery I had to scroll past. Indeed, these students should have to live under existing renewables only, for a week. It should be limited to a week because they need to be able to use modern technology to get an education and renewables are not reliable enough to do that.

    As for SJCrum, don’t bother replying to that person. Previous posts by this person show a total absence of educated thinking. At the very least, Sault, rkipling and Sethdiyal all try to use real research. SJCrum doesn’t seem to do that.

    Link to this

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