ExxonMobil blasted fossil fuel divestment advocates as “out of step with reality,” in a recent blog post. Activists, who want nonprofit institutions such as universities and churches to dump their stock in fossil fuel companies, celebrated in response by interpreting Exxon’s criticism as a sign that recent divestment victories are troubling energy companies.
Exxon’s blog post published last week came amid a successful month for the divestment movement, with the Swedish city of Orebro divesting from fossil fuels along with the University of Glasgow. Stanford announced its divestment from coal in May.
But ExxonMobil thinks the movement is misguided.
In the post on the ExxonMobil website, Vice President of Public and Government Affairs Ken Cohen writes that the drive to divest is a distraction from the real challenges of finding energy alternatives.
He says the 25% rise in natural gas production since 2008 has replaced a “significant amount” of coal as an energy source, leading to reduced emissions. Noting that global energy consumption is predicted to grow by 35% by 2040, he argues there are no scalable alternatives to fossil fuels.
“I expect those who advocate divestment themselves continue to use fossil fuels” for transport, plastics and pharmaceuticals, he writes. “Energy is modern life.”
Divestment advocates argue, though, their cause is pragmatic. Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of divestment advocacy group GreenFaith told the National Journal in an email that “divestment is a highly appropriate debate, and highly reality-based.” He explained that divestment campaigns question the social legitimacy of the energy industry as a whole.
Some organizations took heart that ExxonMobil appears threatened by the divestment movement.