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Monday, October 5, 2015

Big Soda takes a hit. Let's make Big Oil next.

Occasionally I run across articles pooh-poohing the idea of divestment in fossil fuels for one reason or another.  It's happened often enough that I have a stock comment/response:

"Why divestment is useful:

"1) Fossil fuel companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on image advertising. Divestment demonstrations and social media are a very inexpensive way to blow a hole in the positive images created.

"2) If you sell your shares in a fossil fuel company, yes, someone else buys them, but the price goes down. Falling prices are not what most intelligent investors are looking for in their investments.

"3) Divestment campaigns help to raise awareness of the risk of investing in companies that depend for their livelihood on wrecking the habitability of our planet. The handwriting is on the wall, and at some point, there will be a race to the exits by investors. We can see some of that happening now with coal. Jim Cramer, host of a popular daily show on investing (CNBC's "Mad Money"), has been telling callers for a while now, 'I don't want you to invest in coal. Bad idea.'

"4) Campus divestment campaigns draw attention to the complicity of otherwise respected institutions like Harvard and Brown universities in the burning of fossil fuels and give young people a way to directly play a role in combating climate disruption."

Sunday's edition of the New York Times has an excellent article about what has happened in recent years to an entirely different industry, the sweetened soft drink industry, entitled "The Decline of 'Big Soda.'" I recommend that you pass it along to anyone who doesn't understand the logic behind the fossil fuel divestment movement. It's a lengthy article, and well worth the time to read in its entirety, but the first few paragraphs are a good summary:

"Five years ago, Mayor Michael A. Nutter proposed a tax on soda in Philadelphia, and the industry rose up to beat it back.
"Soda lobbyists made campaign contributions to local politicians and staged rallies, with help from allies like the Teamsters union and local bottling companies. To burnish its image, the industry donated $10 million to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

"It worked: The soda tax proposal never got out of a City Council committee.

"It’s a familiar story. Soda taxes have also flopped in New York State and San Francisco. So far, only superliberal Berkeley, Calif., has succeeded in adopting such a measure over industry objections.

"The obvious lesson from Philadelphia is that the soda industry is winning the policy battles over the future of its product. But the bigger picture is that soda companies are losing the war.
"Even as anti-obesity campaigners like Mr. Nutter have failed to pass taxes, they have accomplished something larger. In the course of the fight, they have reminded people that soda is not a very healthy product. They have echoed similar messages coming from public health researchers and others — and fundamentally changed the way Americans think about soda." [added emphasis mine]

The article goes on to add that "The drop in soda consumption represents the single largest change in the American diet in the last decade ... "  Wow.

So, that's my thesis. The divestment movement is about de-legitimizing the fossil fuels industry. Once that is accomplished, these dirty, polluting fuels that threaten the habitability of our planet can be relegated to the slag heap of history where they belong.

[NOTE: I try very hard to tweet several times daily on key news articles about global warming. I also post the items tweeted and then archive them, by topical thread, in a Facebook group called Climate Change-Global Warming Info. If you'd like to see more information on this vital issue, you can join the group here.]

1 comment:

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