(MintPress) – The pressure on the fossil fuel industry increased markedly this week after the Seattle City Employees’ Retirement System announced that it would consider divesting all $2 billion dollars from oil companies that pollute the environment and directly contribute to global warming.
The large pension fund discussed the request from Mike McGinn, the city’s mayor, to cash out holdings in companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron, a move that could become one of the biggest single divestment from oil companies in U.S. history.
The divestment movement grows
The burgeoning divestment movement has been spearheaded by the international environmental advocacy organization 350.org. Thus far there are more than 234 resolutions underway, mostly at universities and colleges including Hampshire College, Michigan State University, Tufts and University of Texas-Austin, among others.
Similar resolutions are gaining support with the United Church of Christ, the State of Vermont
Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, urges universities, governments and churches to divest from what he calls “outlaw companies,” whose coal, gas and oil cannot be safely burnt if the world is to avoid potentially catastrophic global warming.
“These are no longer normal companies,” McKibben said in an interview. “There is no flaw in their business plans. The flaw is their business plans.” This point is confirmed by the vast majority of climate scientists who use an incontrovertible set of data showing that the earth’s temperature is rising mostly due to human carbon emissions.
Although leaders in Washington continue to support fossil fuel companies through more than $10 billion in annual subsidies, a de-facto carte blanche to destroy the environment, a few leaders appear willing to discuss cutting these damaging subsidies.
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) proposed cutting more than $4 billion in tax subsidies to oil companies this week as a means to overcome budget shortfalls. Similar proposals have been put forth previously by Senate Democrats. However, the public pressure seen in growing divestment movements, like the one organized by 350.org, may be enough to translate into national cuts to oil subsidies in the future.
The movement has not yet made a significant impact in the profits of oil companies, but organizing efforts continue to grow by leaps and bounds, driven largely by college and university campaigns.
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